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Court Should Reject VA Attorney General’s Subpoena for UVA Climate Scientist’s Documents
WASHINGTON - August 18 - An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge will hear arguments on Friday regarding Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's request for University of Virginia (UVA) documents related to government grants climate scientist Michael Mann received when he was on its faculty.
Cuccinelli subpoenaed the documents, which include private email correspondence, as part of his investigation of whether Mann, now a professor at Penn State University, defrauded Virginia taxpayers about climate change to receive government grants. Cuccinelli's lawyers argued in a court brief that climate scientists are biased toward concluding that human-caused global warming is a serious threat in order to attract funding. (See an August 2 UCS backgrounder for a detailed breakdown of Cuccinelli's flawed arguments.)
UVA has asked the court to set aside Cuccinelli's subpoena, technically called a "civil investigative demand," on the grounds that it would compromise free inquiry at the university. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), American Association of University Professors, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression jointly filed an amicus brief supporting UVA's effort to protect academic freedom.
Below is a statement by Francesca Grifo, director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program:
"Attorney General Cuccinelli has targeted Dr. Mann because he doesn't accept his research results.
"Whether or not Mr. Cuccinelli appreciates Mann's conclusions, calling controversial scientific findings 'fraudulent' is dangerous. Vigorous debate and exchange of differing ideas are at the very core of the scientific method. In a very real sense, the scientific community is self-policing.
"Reputable scientists, including Dr. Mann, publish their work in peer-reviewed journals, which provide one level of scientific review. Another level of review occurs when other scientists analyze published research and try to replicate it. Scientists are a wonderfully critical and demanding bunch, so if a study doesn't hold up, the findings die with it. In this way, scientists move slowly toward a better understanding of our world.
"To subject any step in that process to criminal prosecution produces a chilling effect in the scientific community.
"The bottom line is Cuccinelli has no case. He's using his office to launch a fishing expedition for private emails and other documents to try to undermine well-established scientific findings. Science institutions around the world—including the National Academy of Sciences here in the United States—have concluded that climate change is indeed happening and is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests."