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VA Supreme Court: Michael Mann Needn't Turn Over All His Email

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the what-did-you-have-for-lunch-when-you-wrote-those-papers dept.

Earth 348

RoccamOccam sends news that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that Michael Mann, a climate scientist notable for his work on the "hockey stick" graph, does not have to turn over the entirety of his papers and emails under Freedom of Information laws. Roughly 1,000 documents were turned over in response to the request, but another 12,000 remain, which lawyers for the University of Virginia say are "of a proprietary nature," and thus entitled to an exemption. The VA Supreme Court ruled (PDF), "the higher education research exemption's desired effect is to avoid competitive harm not limited to financial matters," and said the application of "proprietary" was correct in this case. Mann said he hopes the ruling "can serve as a precedent in other states confronting this same assault on public universities and their faculty."

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So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789865)

You also don't have to rely on papers based on data that cannot be verified. This isn't a surprise to me (university/govt funded or not).

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789995)

Just remember what Neil Degrasse Tyson said in Cosmos, "Question Everything".

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 7 months ago | (#46790077)

Just remember what Neil Degrasse Tyson said in Cosmos, "Question Everything".

Why should we?

Re:So what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790147)

I was going to praise you, but is that the proper response?

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46790695)

Probably not. My thinking is that this is a precedent that states that any information that is used to guide public policy (read: laws that affect you and me) can be hidden from the public, skirting the intent of FOIA laws, by having that data be produced and/or curated by a private entity or person. This has further implications than just global warming squabbles; this could give groups like the NSA incentive to privatize spying, among other things.

An easy fix for this IMO is that nothing can be used to guide public policy or legislative actions unless the information used to glean them is already public. That would allow people like Michael Mann to keep their data private if they want, but stuff they produce can't be used to guide government decisions and/or actions unless he publishes it into the public domain before that process even begins. That would also satisfy climate skeptics IMO.

And really, why shouldn't it be this way? I mean I really don't like the idea that some derp could in theory dictate laws by claiming the world is about to end if we don't do it his way, meanwhile being able to hide his source of information and claim we just have to trust his work.

Re:So what? (2)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 7 months ago | (#46790659)

Just remember what Neil Degrasse Tyson said in Cosmos, "Question Everything".

Why should we?

I see what you did there, but your punny play aside we really should. Some people might miss the humor of your remark.

Re:So what? (-1, Troll)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46790439)

Just remember what Neil Degrasse Tyson said in Cosmos, "Question Everything" (except Global Warming WHICH IS TRUE AND YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO QUESTION)

FTFY

Re:So what? (1)

kenaaker (774785) | about 7 months ago | (#46790447)

There's an enormous difference between "Question Everything" and "Only acknowledge what seems to agree with preconceptions".

I'll leave it for others to work out which behavior is theirs.

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

bigwheel (2238516) | about 7 months ago | (#46790143)

What seems to be missing from this article: Mark Steyn, a conservative talk show host, called Mann a fraud. So, Mann is suing Steyn for defamation. As his defense, Steyn is trying to prove that the data was manipulated and cherry picked. Therefore, proving that Steyn's comments were justified. So, Steyn requested the data under the FIOA, since Mann's work was publicly funded.

But Mann - the scientist who warns us that global warming is real and dangerous based on a computer model - refuses to give out the computer code and data that he used to form his assertions. To me, this doesn't sound very scientific or very honest.

Re:So what? (0, Flamebait)

HBI (604924) | about 7 months ago | (#46790193)

Because he knows that the data is cherry picked and manipulated. Everyone knows that, otherwise there would be no hockey stick. The defamation suit would fail. So concealing the maximum amount of information benefits his very weak case.

He'll probably lose the defamation case, in any event. Regardless of what data ultimately is clawed away from him.

Re:So what? (1)

DaHat (247651) | about 7 months ago | (#46790511)

Does that mean that President Obama was actually a secret Kenyan born Muslim socialist until he finally produced his birth certificate to the public?

Be careful when you get into the "what are the hiding" line of thinking... because while sometimes you are right... other times you can be wrong... and in the case of the birth certificate, it was played quite well... not producing it made the birthers look rather crazy.

Re:So what? (1, Troll)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#46790655)

I could really care less about the whole thing, but to quibble, he did not release his birth certificate to the public.

It's a Brave New World. (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 7 months ago | (#46790251)

Mann via the courts proves that Secrecy is Science.
Congratulations.

How many other 'scientists' get away with pleading the fifth?

Re:So what? (2)

Holmwood (899130) | about 7 months ago | (#46790351)

This is slightly inaccurate: the case is not directly connected with Steyn. True, Steyn's case might be helped (or hurt) by some of the undisclosed data and documents, but this is an earlier FOIA case that has been dragging on for a long time.

I do find it troubling that publicly funded research now seems to have giant carve-outs rendering it substantially not subject to FOIA. Increasing the power and secrecy around already-powerful politicians and bureaucrats, even those in a state-funded university, is troubling.

This will likely go to the Supreme Court. Were I a betting man, I'd bet that four of the conservative wing would overrule, the liberal wing would vote to uphold, and the deciding vote would be the Chief Justice who might surprise everyone and side with the liberals, as he did in the Affordable Care Act decision. But who knows.

Re:So what? (3, Interesting)

Spazmania (174582) | about 7 months ago | (#46790425)

So why hasn't Steyn demanded the data under ordinary discovery rules? FOIA is an odd way to go about getting data you're supposedly entitled to in order to defend yourself in court.

Re:So what? (1)

Terry Pearson (935552) | about 7 months ago | (#46790575)

So why hasn't Steyn demanded the data under ordinary discovery rules? FOIA is an odd way to go about getting data you're supposedly entitled to in order to defend yourself in court.

I was wondering the same thing. However, it appears (based on other comments) that the FOIA request was not directly related to the defamation case. I would assume Steyn will still be able to use the discovery process for this.

If I were betting on this, I would say Steyn's lawyers may have put up the FOIA so that Mann's legal team would have to fight a fire on another front and possible redirect some resources to that request. The FOIA is probably much easier to file than it is to fight against it. But that is just my speculation.

And my opinion on the matter... If you research with public dollars, your source code, research, etc, should be open and free to use. We all payed for it, so why does only the one getting paid get to use it. If you want to keep your data private, research through a privately funded organization.

Re:So what? (1)

towermac (752159) | about 7 months ago | (#46790597)

He has, and it remains to be seen what Steyn will get in his case.

A favorable ruling here would have helped him a bit in his case, and of course the data itself may or may not be a help to his defense. Couldn't have hurt him though.

Why do these people always have something to hide? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789887)

If the "science" is so proved and plain, why hide the research?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 7 months ago | (#46789935)

If your point is so proved and plain, why hide as AC?

Do you want all your email and documents published to the public? If not, what do you have to hide?

"Why do these people always have something to hide" may not be the very stupidest question to ask in this situation, but it's certainly high on the list. Scientific transparency does not require laying your entire online life open to muckrakers.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

sideslash (1865434) | about 7 months ago | (#46789997)

Do you want all your email and documents published to the public? If not, what do you have to hide?

It's not clear to me how the FOIA would apply to the AC's posts. And scientific transparency is a desirable aim, but not the basis of the legal case here. The FOIA is about getting access to stuff the public paid for. Odd to see someone arguing on Slashdot in favor of publicly funded academic research being kept from the public.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46790053)

Odd to see someone arguing on Slashdot in favor of publicly funded academic research being kept from the public.

Nobody is arguing for that. His private emails are not "publicly funded academic research". Publicly funded researchers should be required to publish their data and research results. They should not have to give up their private lives.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Kernel Kurtz (182424) | about 7 months ago | (#46790161)

Using your company email for your "private life" is profoundly stupid.

I know a lot of people do it, but it is still stupid.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Insightful)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 7 months ago | (#46790533)

Even if you use your email only for work, there's still a lot of stuff in there which needs to be kept confidential for one reason or another. Payroll matters, student grades, personnel issues for example.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | about 7 months ago | (#46790203)

1000 vs. 12000? So this "scientist" spends 1/13th of his time writing personal emails? Wow.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | about 7 months ago | (#46790275)

Asking for vacation, sending in sick leave requests etc.pp. is all business, and none of them belongs to the public.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790277)

You mean 12/13?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46790207)

His private emails are not "publicly funded academic research".

The issue is not his private email, but email sent and received as a public employee working at a public institution. Were this about his private email, UVA would have no standing in the case and could not claim an exemption.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Sique (173459) | about 7 months ago | (#46790297)

There is lots of administrative stuff, human resources details, meeting arrangements and much more in daily mails, which all belong to your work, and none of them belongs into the public.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46790405)

There is lots of administrative stuff, human resources details, meeting arrangements and much more in daily mails, which all belong to your work, and none of them belongs into the public.

Yes, you've said that before, and your example is why there are HR exemptions to FOIA. That's why open meetings laws also exempt some kinds of meetings. But discussing the interpretation and use of data is not an HR issue and does not merit an exemption, and the fact still remains that his private email is not the issue at all. (And "meeting arrangements" don't merit HR exemptions, either. Nor do the nebulous "much more" which is part of your argument.)

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about 7 months ago | (#46790543)

People have an expectation of privacy in email. It is as simple as that. In addition, they have some duty to not release certain information to the public, for instance, anything involving students' work or the work of others (who also have an expectation of privacy), anything regarding privileged information (such as medical) or of a purely personal nature.

Does the public have a right to email that directly involves publicly-funded research? Possibly. They certainly do not have a right to ask an individual to turn over all his personal corresponance anymore than they have a right to tap the phone in his office.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1, Insightful)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 7 months ago | (#46790319)

Nobody is arguing for that. His private emails are not "publicly funded academic research". Publicly funded researchers should be required to publish their data and research results. They should not have to give up their private lives.

Emails are only one part of it, according to TFA there are other research documents and data too. Emails are one thing, it is communication with an expectation of privacy (and the ruling of being proprietary shouldn't apply to that anyway), documentation and research data is another thing entirely. A fundamental concept of science is that documentation and research are meant to be shared.

Here is the Virginia Freedom of Information Act section at the crux of the case, one of the law’s exemptions from disclosure:
“Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher learningin the conduct of or as a result of study or research on medical, scientific, technical or scholarly issueswhere such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.” ...
In a decision written by Justice Donald W. Lemons, the court ruled that “the higher education research exemption’s desired effect is to avoid competitive harm not limited to financial matters.

And now here's the part that really bugs me:

Mann said after the ruling, “This is a victory for science...

No, it's not! Our high schools really need to do a better job teacher students what science is and not just memorizing the first 6 steps in the first week of class and then memorizing facts that were found using science (biology, chemistry etc). Just because in this case the other side who is trying to get your data has even less understanding of what science is (and will no doubt intentionally misconstrue your data) does not mean this is a victory for science. There is no concept of proprietary knowledge in science, quite the opposite in fact.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

sideslash (1865434) | about 7 months ago | (#46790529)

And now here's the part that really bugs me:

Mann said after the ruling, “This is a victory for science...

No, it's not! Our high schools really need to do a better job teacher students what science is and not just memorizing the first 6 steps in the first week of class and then memorizing facts that were found using science (biology, chemistry etc). Just because in this case the other side who is trying to get your data has even less understanding of what science is (and will no doubt intentionally misconstrue your data) does not mean this is a victory for science. There is no concept of proprietary knowledge in science, quite the opposite in fact.

This. Thank you. Only cargo cult science [columbia.edu] finds victory in hiding its underlying thought processes and justifications from public view. Not saying that Mann's beliefs about AGW are wrong, but that his behavior at various points has demonstrated a profound lack of and disregard for scientific openness.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about 7 months ago | (#46790329)

His private emails were not private. They were public. Just like a governor's text messages are public record - another ruling from today. If you are on a project the public paid for, writing an email with time the public paid for, IT'S PUBLIC. Judge is wrong. Case law supporting this ruling is wrong.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 7 months ago | (#46790493)

Your point is correct if and only if all emails are used for the project only. However, I doubt that they create multiple email addresses for him to use in different project! In other words, there would be other emails that are used for other projects and other stuff as well. Even though 1/13 is not that much, it is still a possible number of emails used for the project communication. Just my two cents...

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790733)

If you are on a project the public paid for, writing an email with time the public paid for, IT'S PUBLIC.

Which time was paid for by the public though? If I work after hours, and take various breaks, that 8-12 hours a day might not be in a contiguous blocks of time. My funding comes from multiple sources too, so I have to divide that time up between which funding is which, not to mention volunteer outreach work. Figuring out what time and tasks were paid for at the granulation of individual emails isn't necessarily straightforward.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790517)

His private emails are not "publicly funded academic research"

They also wouldn't have anything to do with "competitive harm not limited to financial matters", so that's not what the court is protecting here.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 7 months ago | (#46790585)

You have a weird definition of "private life". This was his work, it's what he was paid public money to do. Why do you consider that his "private life"? Do you really think these are emails about [grand]childcare, restaurant reservations, and romantic interests, or are you just trolling?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#46790685)

Some of his email accounts are publicly funded. Those email accounts should be available to the public. He should keep his private communications on private accounts.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790085)

Odd to see someone arguing on Slashdot in favor of publicly funded academic research being kept from the public.

I'm sorry, is the research somehow being hidden from the public? The public funding argument applies to papers, software, and not hiding them behind a paywall. It does not mean the public gets to see EVERY freaking email ever sent by someone who happens to get grant money through a government organization. You're just being ridiculous now. Should every private company who received ARRA funds have to lay down all their private emails for the entire public?

(Though note that the public does fund classified work they can't ever see as well, we can ignore that for the sake of argument.)

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Informative)

Old97 (1341297) | about 7 months ago | (#46790115)

If you read the article, it what was denied was unpublished research. The research the plaintiff's are challenging is available to them. He doesn't have to defend arguments that he hasn't made.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 7 months ago | (#46790621)

If you read the article, it what was denied was unpublished research. The research the plaintiff's are challenging is available to them. He doesn't have to defend arguments that he hasn't made.

That makes perfect sense to you, because you're looking at it in terms of the AGW denier versus alarmist debate. But that really has nothing to do with the question of whether the FOIA should apply to unpublished research performed using public funds.

But of course the AGW debate is a fun way to look at it, too, and it cuts both ways. "Hide the decline" and all that. That email dump was a convenient (if unwilling) compliance with a bunch of unfulfilled FOIA requests.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Kernel Kurtz (182424) | about 7 months ago | (#46790075)

I work in the public sector, not a publicly funded university, but absolutely I assume that all of my company email is potentially subject to FOI requests and govern myself accordingly.

If it was my personal email I would feel differently, but you should not use your companies account for personal business either. That is dumb.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 7 months ago | (#46790173)

Do you want all your email and documents published to the public?

I agree that there should be an exemption for documents of a personal nature. Documents of a proprietary nature could include documents that disagree with the published findings.

Scientific transparency does not require laying your entire online life open to muckrakers.

Agreed but it does mean giving access to all the documents and emails that are the basis of published findings. Documents of a proprietary nature would fall into that category.

This looks too much like "don't look at the documents behind the curtain. Just watch the show we are presenting".

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790269)

Did you not get your nap?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 7 months ago | (#46790669)

Do you want all your email and documents published to the public? If not, what do you have to hide?

If your a public servant sending and receiving Emails via a publicly owned servers, while on publicly paid for time, you had better be prepared for the eventuality that everything will be made public. Sooner or later these Emails will be leaked, all it takes is one FOIA, Manning or Snowden and all your secrets are public!

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 7 months ago | (#46790729)

If your point is so proved and plain, why hide as AC?

Not the A/C, but this is why [pbs.org] , on top of the point that you've utterly failed to disprove his point.

Do you want all your email and documents published to the public? If not, what do you have to hide?

Point of order: No one is asking Mann to lay out his entire life - just the portion of it that we the taxpayers paid for, and the portion that actual science (at least should) demand. ...got any other arguments?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#46789977)

Why hide the decline?

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 7 months ago | (#46790023)

This is the problem at the heart of climate science. The key details for models are not published, and (despite being largely paid for by our money), not even available apparently under FOIA to "avoid competitive harm".

That sounds very much like commercial software development and very little like reproducible science, or even open source! WTF, guys? You wonder why so much of the public has a hard time taking climate science seriously? This shit is why.

Good science defeats skeptics through openness. "Look, here's the experiment, do it yourself if you don't trust me." Heck, even experiments on vastly expensive particle accelerators eventually become reproducible through cleverness or technological advance at other universities.

Openness, and beyond openness: the willingness to explain clearly, in detail, and in layman's terms led to the talk.origins FAQ, [talkorigins.org] which takes seriously and answers seriously every common popular question and dispute about evolution, and likely led to the shift from old-school creationism to ID (which at least is progress). This is severely lacking in climate science.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (5, Insightful)

dlenmn (145080) | about 7 months ago | (#46790197)

The key details for models are not published

Citation Needed

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (1)

lgw (121541) | about 7 months ago | (#46790213)

By providing one, I would refute myself. :p

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46790041)

I am almost certain their reasons were clearly fucking stated in the summary, your deceitful piece of shit.

Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 7 months ago | (#46790657)

Depends on what you consider "hiding the research". A fishing expedition through a scientist's personal correspondence is an invitation to judge his work on *political* grounds.

In science your personal beliefs, relationships, and biography are irrelevant. There are evangelical Christian climate scientists who believe climate won't change because that would contradict God's will as expressed in the Bible. These scientists may be regarded as religious crackpots by their peers, but that hasn't prevented them from publishing in the same peer-reviewed journals as everyone else. Since their papers invariably are climate-change skeptic, clearly they are publishing work which supports their religious beliefs. But their motivations don't matter. What matters is in their scientific publications.

In 1988, Gary Hart's presidential bid and political career were ruined when he was photographed cavorting on a yacht named "Monkey Business" with a woman that wasn't his wife. Now I didn't care how many bimbos he was boinking, but a lot of people *did*, which made it a political issue (albeit a stupid one in my opinion). Do we really want to use the coercive power of the state to dig through the private lives of controversial scientists?

It's a pretense that that would serve any scientific purpose. Maybe Mann is intent on overthrowing capitalism and creating a socialist utopia. That would be relevant if he were running for dogcatcher, but it's irrelevant to what's in his scientific papers. Scientists publish papers all the time with ulterior motives, not the least of which is that they're being paid to do research that makes corporate sponsors happy. As long as what's in the paper passes muster, it's still science.

An interesting exemption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789925)

Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher learning ... in the conduct of or as a result of study or research on medical, scientific, technical or scholarly issues ... where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.

Another attempt to fish for talking points without having to go through the trouble of doing the research themselves.

It's TOP SECRET. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789953)

It's a secret cupcake recipe that the court must not be allowed to know.

I think AGW is largely a scam (0)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#46789975)

...but I agree with the interpretation of the law.

IANAL, but if there is indeed an exemption section to the VA FOIA that states:
"Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher learningâ¦in the conduct of or as a result of study or research on medical, scientific, technical or scholarly issuesâ¦where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented." ...then pretty clearly this data is very specifically exactly that, exempt from the FOIA.

*PERSONALLY* if the research was funded by public funds, I find such an exemption execrable, but it's the law and its authors that are at fault, nor Mann at all.

PS and tangential to the point of the OP: Slashdot, it's fucking 2014. Perhaps we could invest in modern posting tech that lets us paste things like biased quotes without getting crap codes like âoe ?
Or maybe convert all postings to monotype courier, so we're reminded that slashdot's still only a handsbreath above a BBS?

Re:I think AGW is largely a scam (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 7 months ago | (#46790521)

Or maybe convert all postings to monotype courier, so we're reminded that slashdot's still only a handsbreath above a BBS?

above?

The last BBS I used supported extended ascii just fine so accented e's and such were fully supported. :p

Re:I think AGW is largely a scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790531)

They're too busy adding auto-play advertisements that pop up all over the place to bother.

All publicly funded research needs public release (2, Insightful)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 7 months ago | (#46789989)

If the public pays for it, the public should receive it in its entirety.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (2)

Yew2 (1560829) | about 7 months ago | (#46790027)

whoa! the public pays tuition in Virginia! Im so there...

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 months ago | (#46790155)

Public schools in virginia receive public funding, public grants, and staff performing research get public funding for it. And yes, the public pays the tuition for most students at most universities in the form of student loans.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790645)

Im so there

You and thousands of other Pell Grantees and government loan financed students. UVA is a public university which gets a large portion of its funding from the public.

If Mann or any other publicly funded climatologist so much as sends a work related text message on the public's dime it should be public information. Ordinarily there is no difficulty [slashdot.org] understanding this concept around here, but let a warmist hide his work and suddenly "proprietary" has lots of friends.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (4, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790119)

This wasn't a request to release research. This was a request to release emails between colleagues.

As was seen with the hacking into the East Anglia university mails, the objective of which is to find phrases to misrepresent.

Scientists publish their completed research in scientific journals. There is no genuine reason for publishing emails that were exchanged whilst the research was still in progress. Only in-genuine and dishonest reasons.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46790163)

Legislators publish their completed regulations in the federal register. There is no genuine reason for publishing emails that were exchanged whilst the creation of regulations was still in progress. Only in-genuine and dishonest reasons.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46790261)

There is no genuine reason for publishing emails that were exchanged whilst the creation of regulations was still in progress.

Hmm, wouldn't you want to see an email by a Senator saying "Bloomberg really wants this, and he's promising all of us on the Committee $3 million for our campaign warchests if we make it so"?

Or if you think Bloomberg walks on water, replace "Bloomberg with "Koch Bros" or whoever your favorite bogeyman is....

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46790349)

Whoosh

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790399)

Set a precedent of publishing emails between colleagues and the result is they just move any such incriminating conversations to other media, or to face to face meetings.

You ruin the use of a valuable communications medium fishing for something that's unlikely to be there anyway.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46790421)

Set a precedent of publishing emails between legislators and the result is they just move any such incriminating conversations to other media, or to face to face meetings.

You ruin the use of a valuable communications medium fishing for something that's unlikely to be there anyway. It's not very likely that anyone would offer a senate seat vacancy appointment to someone as a payback, so why bother looking?

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790477)

Set a precedent of publishing emails between legislators and the result is they just move any such incriminating conversations to other media, or to face to face meetings.
You ruin the use of a valuable communications medium fishing for something that's unlikely to be there anyway.

Yes, I agree. Just as I did with your last attempt at sarcasm. It's a pointless waste of time rooting through the detritus of the preparation of a project. Even when it's politicians.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790359)

Indeed.

Compare and contrast the achievement of today's congress over the last few months with the achievement of the disparate representatives that drafted the US Constitution in 4 months at the Philadelphia convention.

The difference? With the lack of daily scrutiny from the news media and the resulting posturing from representatives, they could be more honest with each other about those things on which they stood firm, and those things on which they were negotiable.

The US constitution stands on it's own merits. The daily tos and fros of negotiating the thing over those 4 months are irrelevant.

Professionals need time to work collaboratively. To explore what might be wrong, as well as what's right before finally publishing the results of their labours. Intrusion into the process by the media, and even more so by those with malicious intent, to misrepresent things that never became part of the publication is only detrimental.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 7 months ago | (#46790727)

The US constitution stands on it's own merits. The daily tos and fros of negotiating the thing over those 4 months are irrelevant.

And yet, for decades after that original publishing of the US Constitution, those very tos and fros of negotiating were slowly trickled out, leading to some of the most foundational Supreme Court rulings which have preserved our country's freedoms.

Dismissing the process for the results is like missing the trees for the forest. Just as in politics, in the scientific method, the ends do not always justify the means, and pretending otherwise can lead to atrocities like eugenics. Apologies for invoking Godwin's law, but it does sufficiently demonstrate the point.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 7 months ago | (#46790229)

The thought processes behind the research can often give insight to new data that arises later. Many of Einstein's theories would not be as well understood if not for his correspondence with other notable scientists of his day.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (0)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790515)

The thought processes behind the research can often give insight to new data that arises later. Many of Einstein's theories would not be as well understood if not for his correspondence with other notable scientists of his day.

Funny you should mention that. Einstein's theory of relativity was also subject to these dirty tricks by right wingers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

The right wing propagandists were just as wrong and just as dirty back then as they are now.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 7 months ago | (#46790395)

Scientists publish their completed research in scientific journals. There is no genuine reason for publishing emails that were exchanged whilst the research was still in progress. Only in-genuine and dishonest reasons.

"Police offers present their completed incident and arrest reports in court. There is no genuine reason for publicly releasing recordings of what the officers do whilst the incident and arrests were still in progress. Only in-genuine and dishonest reasons."

Just saying. Seems to me if you're going to have public employees, you need to hold them all to the same standards of transparency.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790589)

"Police offers present their completed incident and arrest reports in court. There is no genuine reason for publicly releasing recordings of what the officers do whilst the incident and arrests were still in progress. Only in-genuine and dishonest reasons."

And indeed there is no such reason, even for police officers. Certainly having video surveillance of police officers is a welcome step forward. But these never will and never should be published on the internet in their entirety. Suppose the police come and arrest you and your wife early one morning whilst you were still in bed and they then do a search of your house. For a crime you didn't commit. Clearly that shouldn't be published on the internet for all to see. It would only add the injury of public viewing of private aspects of your life to the injury of being wrongly arrested and searched.

We can do these analogies all day if you like. If it's a true analogy, the result is the same.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790389)

If the public pays for it, the public should receive it in its entirety.

Mann's emails are not his research.

You. Stupid. Fuck.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 7 months ago | (#46790643)

<sarcasm>Your exemplary use of the English language astounds, and it most certainly elevates your point to the level of attention gathering.</sarcasm>

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790537)

If the public pays for it, the public should receive it in its entirety.

Does that include e-mails about planning the department Christmas party? How about Sally-in-Accounting's baby shower?

There's a lot of e-mail that's generated between humans that has no bearing to climate change research that is probably in the guy's e-mail account. The rule (AFAICT) is about the superfluous stuff.

If an FOIA deals with official functions and budgeting, I agree. But every, single, e-mail, is a bit much.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (2)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 7 months ago | (#46790623)

In my government place of business we have a warning before login that we are required to accept which states that all our activities are subject to monitoring. Business email is for business use. Personal email is for personal use. It's not difficult for me to understand that and I'm a mere Computer Engineer. Certainly a respectable climate scientist of doctoral status should be able to understand such a social limitation.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

whit3 (318913) | about 7 months ago | (#46790571)

If the public pays for it, the public should receive it in its entirety.

But, this was 'freedom of information act' request, and that act refers only to
the records of government civil agencies.

The researcher had a teaching job, and acted as an independent
contractor in pursuing a research topic.

The researcher's phone calls, e-mails, piles of scratchings and musings,
aren't the proper product of his funded research at all. Only the finished report,
and/or any publishable papers (in peer-reviewed, edited journals) are
the concern of the research funding agency (probably National Science
Foundation). The NSF isn't a party to the request, they and the researcher
are presumably satisfied that the research findings WERE published.

Neither the editors of peer-reviewed journals, nor the authors, want undue
attention paid to unclear, misspelled, poorly-supported or otherwise unpublishable
debris from the research process. The researcher (and the University of Virginia)
acted properly in not handing over every tatter of e-mail that could be found. The
supreme court of the state just agreed with that.

Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (1)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about 7 months ago | (#46790581)

So do I have a right to access the university email records of good looking undergraduates at public universities?

Public Work should not be "proprietary" (0, Troll)

HighOrbit (631451) | about 7 months ago | (#46790043)

If he works at a state university, he is a public employee. Public employees working for hire on public research paid for by the public should have no "proprietary" exemption to FOIA for papers related to the public work for hire. Asking for their work under FOIA is not an "assault on public universities and their faculty"; it is accountability for public officials.

Another question is about the scientific integrity here. If the data is true and supportive of his assertions, he should WANT to publish it. There is no legitimate reason to want to hide scientific data.

Show the papers and the data, unless of course you have something to hide.

Re:Public Work should not be "proprietary" (0)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 months ago | (#46790201)

Exactly, if the data is proprietary it belongs to the entity that paid for it's collection, namely the public. If that entity were a private one there might be an advantage to hindering competition by keeping such data secret but it is in the public's interest to speed up every project, both public and private that might make use of it.

Otherwise the public might well be paying for the same research and collecting more or less the same data over and over again.

Re:Public Work should not be "proprietary" (4, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46790211)

Public employees working for hire on public research paid for by the public should have no "proprietary" exemption to FOIA for papers related to the public work for hire.

It's not papers. Papers are available in scientific journals. This is an attempt to root in the trash looking for something to misrepresent.

Another question is about the scientific integrity here. If the data is true and supportive of his assertions, he should WANT to publish it.

What wasn't published? His work WAS published.

Show the papers and the data, unless of course you have something to hide.

Ah yes. The age old excuse of the surveillance state. Please post the web site where your own work emails are published, HighOrbit. Unless of course you have something to hide.

Is this all "Public Work"? (1)

dlenmn (145080) | about 7 months ago | (#46790365)

Hold the phone. You're assuming all of this is public work. There are 12k somethings that haven't been released. What are they? Papers? Emails? Datasets? TFA doesn't say, and you don't know what they are either.

If they're his emails, then they are not public work and should not be released. Full Stop.

If they're papers, then a case can be made that they should be released. That said, all researches have work that isn't for public consumption. I'm a researcher at a public university. Do I have to publish my notebooks? How about every little piece of test code I write? What about works in progress? Some of the "papers" mentioned probably fall into these categories.

Without more information on what hasn't been released, we can't yet draw conclusions .

Re:Public Work should not be "proprietary" (4, Insightful)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | about 7 months ago | (#46790463)

My understanding of the idea and purpose of an academic research paper is to lay out a hypothesis, method to collect data to test the hypothesis, data (results), statistical analysis of data, and conclusions. A properly written research paper will not be published in a peer reviewed journal unless the method of data collection is clear. This makes the research reproducible. The publication of reproducible research is a crux of the scientific process.

What the proponents of the FOIA request are doing is trying to cheat. If you want to disprove research, you may:
- Show that the method of data collection produces biased data
- Show that using the same method of data collection produces different data than that shown in the original research
- Show that statistical analysis was not done properly
- Etc.

All of this is done by hiring experts to analyze the methodology and statistical analysis and by commissioning a study to reproduce the original research. If the research is not reproducable, then there is something wrong.

That is how science works--you make reproducible research and then other people reproduce it. When they can't, the scientific community tries to figure out what went wrong. Maybe the underlying scientist made an error, maybe s/he made up data, maybe there is no explanation.

But this idea that you can cheat by looking at the researcher's emails? That's new. And not useful. If the study was not done properly, then reproducing it will catch that. If the research was done properly, then it needs to be reproduced anyway in order to determine the strength of the conclusions. So, don't try to cheat the system, just do this the old fashioned way--reproduce the research.

Re:Public Work should not be "proprietary" (2)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about 7 months ago | (#46790603)

So if your daughter works at a student job at the university, can I request access to all of her university email? How about any records of her internet activity, like the websites she visited using university networks? After all, she is a public employee using government resources and as a creepy stalker, I certainly have a right to know what classes she is taking, where she hangs out, what websites she visits, and any other information I might be able to learn through a FOIA request.

A bit of background for slashdotters (3, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 7 months ago | (#46790215)

This is a case insisted upon by a conservative group and a delegate from the state of virginia. The idea is the same as the polar researcher Charles Monett who faced formal misconduct charges for his research into climate change.

these are personal attacks of a political nature designed to destroy the career of a scientist attempting to validate or research climate change. If neoconservative corporate shills cant deny funding then they'll shit-coat your career and personal life as a reminder to shut the fuck up about climate change and focus more on Benghazi and anchor babies. If you're a scientist like me, crap like virginia just makes you want to dedicate your life to researching the subject more fervently.

Re:A bit of background for slashdotters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790363)

This isn't a case "insisted upon by a conservative group". This is Mann suing a journalist for libel, and the journalist requesting info from the university under FOIA to prove his case.

Re:A bit of background for slashdotters (2)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#46790667)

Yep. Mann was also investigated by former North Carolina AG and failed gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, basically for political reasons - Cooch wanted to punish Mann for daring to question Republican orthodoxy on AGW. The case was thrown out for lack of evidence.

Re:A bit of background for slashdotters (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#46790675)

Dah, sorry, s/North Carolina/Virginia/ .

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790227)

Mann said he hopes the ruling "can serve as a precedent in other states confronting this same assault on public universities and their faculty."

What? Mann is the one doing the assaulting, by suing a journalist for libel. In the US, the truth is an absolute defense against libel. Mann accused the journalist of libel, and when the journalist wanted access to the documents so he could prove his case, the SC denied him. If Mann didn't want to be "assaulted" he could have simply not sued the journalist.

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

professionalfurryele (877225) | about 7 months ago | (#46790401)

The tradition is you make an accusation after you have evidence, not before so you get sued and can go hunting through someones correspondences looking for muck to rake. If there is evidence that the emails not being released here are relevant to some ongoing legal action then you might have a point, but there is precisely no evidence Mann has done anything other than do a PCA in a way which might have introduced some ambiguity. This was corrected in numerous later publications which validated his findings. If you suggest I'm a murderer with no evidence then you may find yourself with a lawsuit and you can be sure I'm not going to let someone who throws around frivilous accusations have access to my correspondences without a court mandate.

Re:Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790423)

The journalist made his statements about Mann without access to any of Mann's emails. Why can't he defend himself with just the data he used to make those statements?

Intimidation (-1, Troll)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 7 months ago | (#46790235)

I love this quote;

Michael Halpern, a program manager for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which also filed an amicus brief in the case, said that the state Supreme Court “ was right to protect scientists’ ability to pursue tough research questions free from threats or intimidation..."

As if a scientist has never been threatened or intimidated by other scientists in heated email conversations about hot topics like global warming. What if there were conversations in those emails about how certain figure do not match and those figures were suppressed to make the paper show more of an issue. Climate scientists are not paragons of virtue.

Paragons of virtue. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790417)

They are not sciencists, either.

AND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790311)

And what of individual rights? If I am an inventor, my intelectual is no less important.

As usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46790385)

Nobody bothers to RTFA

UVA is not withholding any data for papers that have been published. The ruling applies to research that is unpublished. Mann's emails and any unpublished data are of course none of the public's business until they are released for publication. Do you really want academic researchers to have the entire work be privy to their data and work before it's finalized? That's the exact opposite of "independent research".

This is not your father's "proprietary" (1)

SlaveToTheGrind (546262) | about 7 months ago | (#46790431)

Here's the definition of "proprietary" the VA Supreme Court upheld:

"a right customarily associated with ownership, title, and possession. It is an interest or a right of one who exercises dominion over a thing or property, of one who manages and controls."

That seems incredibly broad for a situation like this -- in fact, it's hard to imagine a whole lot of meaningful exceptions (likely the reason UVA ultimately produced the 7% of the emails they did was because those emails failed one of the other six factors of the exclusion test). But for better or for worse, the court essentially had to reach that result because there was a precedent on the books defining "proprietary" that broadly, and the statute in question didn't provide its own definition.

The concurring opinion at the end is interesting -- it practically begs the VA Legislature to provide more guidance (e.g., add their own definition for "proprietary" to make their intent clear, particularly for the sake of other parallel statutes where the context strongly suggests that "proprietary" doesn't have nearly as expansive of a meaning as the one the court used here). We'll see.

Someone is hiding something.. (0, Flamebait)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 7 months ago | (#46790577)

I hope the pressure continues.

Schnare said he wants to dig into Mann’s research. “You want to know what are the assumptions? What are the records? We have ‘Climategate’ e-mails to show he can’t even find the data.” He said U-Va. had already spent more than $750,000 in legal costs to keep the e-mails secret.

No one spends three quarters of a million dollars unless there's something very very interesting they don't want seen. The more they fight FOI, the more I want to see what they're hiding.

Creepy Stalkers of the World Unite (4, Insightful)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about 7 months ago | (#46790635)

Does your daughter work an on-campus job? Does she ever use a university email account? Does she use university networks?

These all are public resources, and as a creepy stalker, I demand to be allowed full access to the email and browsing history of all attractive undergraduate students. I want to know who their professors are, which websites they visit using university networks, and any other private information that I can find out.

I demand full access! The government should not be able to hide the information from me. We don't want to be forced to go back to the dark days of rooting through trash and peeking through windows!

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