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Policy

Virginia Supreme Court Protects Climate Researcher's E-mails

University of Virginia will not release Michael Mann's e-mails relating to the once-contested "hockey stick" global temperature graph

by Cheryl Hogue
April 17, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 16

The University of Virginia may protect the e-mails of a climate researcher from public disclosure, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled last week.

The state high court found that UVA, a public university, does not have to release e-mails of researcher Michael E. Mann under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Mann developed the once-contested “hockey stick” graph describing how global temperatures have changed over the past millennium. He worked for UVA from 1999 to 2005 and is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Mann’s e-mails, the high court ruled, are exempt from disclosure because their release would put the state’s universities and colleges at a competitive disadvantage with private institutions of higher learning.

“This is a victory for science, public university faculty, and academic freedom,” Mann tells C&EN.

Seeking Mann’s e-mails was the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, a libertarian group dismissive of human-caused climate change, which recently changed its name from the American Tradition Institute.

The institute had maintained that protections should apply only if release of Mann’s records would harm the university’s competitive advantage. Consequently, the institute says it is grateful the court adopted this part of its arguments.

UVA calls the decision “consistent with the public nature of science” as well as with its public mission.

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