Open Access to Your Emails: Tensions Between Academic Freedom and Open Records Laws

Friday, 13 February 2015: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM
Room 210AB (San Jose Convention Center)
Just as technology has made scientific collaboration across institutions more feasible, the use of open records laws to access the email correspondence of scientists and other researchers is becoming more common. While these laws are important for public accountability, excessive disclosure can chill scientific speech and make collaboration among researchers considerably more difficult. Further, laws vary significantly by state and nation, leading to competitive advantages for researchers employed in different locations and at private institutions and unanticipated consequences for both public and private institution researchers. In April 2014, the Virginia Supreme Court found the University of Virginia correctly exempted deliberative research materials from disclosure in a case that pitted climate change researchers against those who do not accept mainstream climate science. But similar requests have been made elsewhere, and lawsuits are pending. Scientists are lawyering up, and universities and government agencies are grappling with how to apply open records laws to scientific research. Panelists will discuss the consequences that open records laws can have for academic freedom, the importance of citizens’ right to know, and the role of research institutions and scientific societies in defending universities and individual scientists. The symposium will explore solutions that both preserve academic freedom and recognize the public’s right to know how taxpayer funds are used.
Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists
Lauren Kurtz , Climate Science Legal Defense Fund
Michael E. Mann, Pennsylvania State University
On the Front Lines in the Legal Battles Over Climate Change
Emily Grannis, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Importance of Transparency to Journalism and Democracy
Alan Morrison, George Washington University School of Law
Setting Disclosure Standards Through the Grant Funding Process
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