Academic Freedom of Information

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Oddly, those academics who most cherish their academic freedom seem just as intent on exercising it secretly.

Climatologists such as Michael Mann, formerly of the University of Virginia, offer a textbook study of this dichotomy. Currently at Penn State, Mann has worked aggressively to avoid showing the research that supports the theory of global warming he has been actively promoting.

“Mann strenuously claims to have been investigated and exonerated by numerous inquiries; left-wing groups call him the ‘much-vindicated Michael Mann,’” Christopher C. Horner points out in his book, The Liberal War On Transparency. “This is a spectacular invention, as the supposed inquiries were on their face no such thing.”

“For example, no one has ever been able to review the evidence the entire academic and scientific establishments are fighting to keep private—the supposed ‘context’ that would set everything straight.”

Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has sought such documentation of global warming, and the research methods used to calculate it, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He argues that FOIA requests apply with a vengeance to research conducted on the public dime, as Mann’s, first at UVA, now at Penn State, was, if only by virtue of his having pursued it while on the payroll of two state universities.

Interestingly, few on Mann’s side argue that the material should not be made public. They just don’t want people like Horner, a global warming skeptic, to get it.

“Other outbursts included an unintentionally hilarious letter to the president of the University of Virginia by the American Association of University Professors, the American Geophysical Union, and the Union of Concerned Scientists calling on the university to back out of a court-approved agreement and protective order to turn e-mails over to me and my colleague Dr. David Schnare, both bound to abide by the order as officers of the court,” Horner remembers. “Here we see more projection, as they argued we could not be trusted to keep with professional standards.”

“The agitated academics referred to UVa’s efforts to fight release of ‘personal email correspondence and other documents from Dr. Michael Mann and more than thirty other scientists.’ So addled by a need for special treatment, the faculty temporarily lost possession of their logical faculties. These were of course by definition not personal e-mails, which the authors implicitly acknowledge by also asserting the correspondence was among scientific peers, about science. Going after others personally doesn’t make such efforts ‘personal.’”


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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