Two years ago, VA Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan ruled that the University of Virginia (UVA) doesn’t have to release the private emails of climate scientists like Michael Mann to the anti-science American Tradition Institute (ATI).
Now, the Virginia Supreme Court has unanimously upheld Sheridan’s finding in favor of UVA. Prof. Mann, one of the country’s most distinguished climate scientists, writes on his Facebook page, “This is a victory for science, public university faculty, and academic freedom.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists explains the legal finding in detail here. They sum it up this way: “The Court’s decision signals to scientists at public universities that the pursuit of scientific knowledge will be protected in Virginia, no matter how their research results might be received.”
Significantly, the VA Supreme Court found that the legal justifications for exemption from disclosure in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act include preventing “impairment of free thought and expression.” As the UCS notes:
It’s a big deal that the Court recognized the fact that excessive disclosure can have a significant chilling effect on researchers’ ability to communicate frankly with each other…. [D]emanding private email correspondence among scientists is the 21st Century equivalent to eavesdropping on conversations around the water cooler. All of us need safe space to develop ideas and open them up to scrutiny so that we can make them better.
The high court quotes at length a brief submitted by UVA Provost John Simon: “For faculty at public institutions such as the University of Virginia, compelled disclosure of their unpublished thoughts, data, and personal scholarly communications would mean a fundamental disruption of the norms and expectations which have enabled research to flourish at the great public institutions for over a century.”
The anti-science crowd knows that they can’t win on the science, as I’ve said many times. Indeed they apparently have written off smart people entirely. But like someone addicted to cigarettes, they have been trying to reproduce the high from the massive Climategate exercise in smoke blowing.
To do that, the deniers need fresh emails to dazzle the gullible so they won’t see the climate change that is all around them.
How extreme is ATI? Three years ago they were singled out for criticism by the traditionally staid American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS Board issued a statement on “Personal Attacks on Climate Scientists” that said, “We are deeply concerned by the extent and nature of personal attacks on climate scientists. Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public.” The accompanying AAAS news release made clear the Board was talking about ATI.
Anyone who wishes can help climate scientists in their quest to provide humanity the information we need to save ourselves by supporting the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.