Peter Wood has an even-handed piece about the Virginia attorney general’s demand for University of Virginia records about Michael Mann’s research. Mann, now at Penn State, was a pivotal figure in the Climategate scandal, which centered on a series of leaked e-mails from the University of Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. In those e-mails, prominent climate-change scientists revealed that they had manipulated temperature data and blocked the publication of scientific papers that disagreed with them, while also fulminating against global-warming skeptics.
In my view, the leaked e-mails are one of the most important scientific news events of the past decade — maybe the past two decades (as I implied in an article on positive changes in the academy awhile ago). I don’t like the way they surfaced, but they were almost surely public information; indeed, the scientists’ efforts to block freedom-of-information requests are another key element of the Climategate scandal. In any case, the e-mails showed the arrogant dishonesty of a group of scientists, shocking the public, which normally reveres scientists.
Revealing publicly how these individuals are corrupting science was the important thing. And while there may be some legal justification to what Attorney General Cuccinelli is doing, I think that it smacks of a witch-hunt (Mann’s term), especially since Cuccinelli, like a lot of other attorneys general, probably has too much power. So I’m against it — but, as Peter noted, there are two sides to the issue.
For his careful remarks, Peter Wood lost a National Association of Scholars chapter president, who resigned in the “Comments” section of the story.