Court Should Reject VA Attorney General’s Subpoena for UVA Climate Scientist’s Documents

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Court Should Reject VA Attorney General’s Subpoena for UVA Climate Scientist’s Documents

WASHINGTON - 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."

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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