University of Virginia

A Virginia court has affirmed the University of Virginia’s right to withhold confidential scholarly communications, thus ruling against the global warming denialist American Tradition Institute’s demand to make public climate scientist Michael Mann’s documents and email correspondence with dozens of other scientists during his time at UVa. This is an important victory in a case that threatened to send a chilling message to university scholars that they could no longer  expect to engage in personal communications without having the whole world reading over their shoulders.

From Michael Mann, on  his Facebook page:

Breaking: A victory for science! ATI loses ATI/UVa FOIA case. Judge issues final order. Affirms the university’s right to withhold scholarly communications and finds that the documents & personal emails of mine demanded by ATI were indeed  protected as the university had contended. I am gratified for the hard work and vigorous defense provided by the university to protect scholarly communications and raw materials of scholarship. Fortunately Virginia has a strong exemption in the public records act that protects research and scholarly endeavors.

The judge ruled that the exemption under Virginia’s public records protecting information in furtherance of research on scientific and scholarly issues applies to faculty communications in furtherance of their work. This finding is a potentially important precedent, as ATI and other industry-backed front groups continue to press their attacks on climate scientists through the abuse of public records and FOIA laws and  the issuing of frivolous and vexatious demands for internal scholarly deliberations and personal correspondences.

More background on the case is available at climscifoi.blogspot.

E-mail is 21st century conversation. Generally speaking, you should expect to have no more right to read a professor’s e-mail with colleagues and students than you would have to demand to sit at the table with them if they were having the same interaction over coffee or a beer. Granted there are public freedom of information concerns that must be taken into consideration, but we would start from the premise that we do not want to chill intellectual life by killing e-mail confidentiality.

And any day the people who initiated this inquisition lose one is a good day.

Support the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

Earlier posts:

Letter calling on Univ. of Virginia to prevent inappropriate open records disclosure of climate scientists’ exempt emails and documents [Union of Concerned Scientists, American Association of University Professors, American Geophysical Union, Climate Science Watch]

In defense of academic freedom against denialist FOIA inquisition tactics [Letter to University of Virginia President Sullivan from American Association of University professors, Virginia ACLU, Union of Concerned Scientists, and nine other groups, including Climate Science Watch]

Virginia Supreme Court tosses out AG Cuccinelli inquisition on Michael Mann

Michael Mann-Bill Blakemore ABC News interview on climate change and the global warming disinformation campaign

Popular Science reviews denialists’ war on climate scientists