The ongoing controversy involving a former University of Virginia professor and his work on climate change has reached an interesting, if temporary, conclusion. A Virginia judge ruled earlier this week that Michael E. Mann’s email correspondence regarding global warming was exempt from the Virginia FOIA. The American Tradition Institute has been trying to gain access to Mann’s discussions with other climatologists that occurred while he was working at UVa between 1999 and 2005.
Mann is quoted as saying that ATI and other similar groups are attacking climate research “through the abuse of public records and FOIA laws.” Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan ruled that the emails did qualify as public records, but are exempt under a specific clause that states “data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher education…where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented” may be excluded from public records request fulfillment.
This exemption is designed to protect the creative process; this data may be exempted while research is in progress, but once research has been published, it qualifies as public record. It is expected that ATI will appeal the case and continue their pursuit of challenging Mann and his research.
Did Judge Sheridan go “too far” and prevent “all transparency,” as ATI lawyer David Schnare stated, or should Mann’s emails regarding data and research not yet published indeed be protected from public disclosure?
You can read more about the decision here.