Sunday, April 1st 2012, 5:14 AM EDT
Recently the Virginia Supreme Court put the kibosh on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s quest for information relating to former University of Virginia (UVA) climate scientist Michael Mann. Mr. Cuccinelli sought this information under Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act after questionable comments by Dr. Mann surfaced in what became known as “Climategate.”
The court’s ruling is a sad development for Virginia taxpayers, but is even more disturbing for science.
No real reason exists for withholding this information from the public, save perhaps to protect Dr. Mann or UVA from potential embarrassment. Dr. Mann sought public money, both state and federal, to conduct research at a public university, and thus the taxpayers should have every right to scrutinize those grants and the resulting work. After all, this is not national security, releasing this information would reveal no state secrets — but it may reveal secrets or perhaps errors.
Recipients of public grants should never be allowed the “just trust me” defense when asked to show their work. This truism is particularly vital in the area of climate-science policy, where the stakes are so high.