University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council condemns Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli’s investigation into Michael Mann, and warns of the the potential chilling effect:
Dr. Mann is an internationally respected and highly cited climate scientist. The funding he received for his research resulted from impartial, stringent peer review by respected independent scientists under the auspices of national scientific research organizations. His research findings, including many of those involved in this investigation, have been reported in leading scientific journals, which are themselves subject to additional exacting review by the scientific community prior to publication. Dr. Mann’s research findings were reported in the 2007 assessment by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, posted at http://www.ipcc.ch/). Prior to publication, this comprehensive assessment was reviewed by hundreds of the world’s leading climate researchers representing a broad range of scientific opinion. Before its release, the assessment was also reviewed and approved by all UN member nations, including the United States.
We maintain that peer review by the scientific community is the appropriate means by which to identify error in the generation, presentation and interpretation of scientific data. The Attorney General’s use of his power to issue a CID under the provisions of Virginia’s FATA is an inappropriate way to engage with the process of scientific inquiry. His action and the potential threat of legal prosecution of scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer-review standards send a chilling message to scientists engaged in basic research involving Earth’s climate and indeed to scholars in any discipline. Such actions directly threaten academic freedom and, thus, our ability to generate the knowledge upon which informed public policy relies.
And Ken Caldeira reminds us where we have seen such prosecution of scientists before:
It is one thing to say that Michael Mann is wrong, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. It is another thing entirely to accuse him of fraud when there is absolutely no evidence of fraud.
There is a historical example where politicians went after scientists because the politicians didn’t like their scientific results. The example is Lysenkoism. The country was the Soviet Union.
Are American politicians following in the footsteps of Stalin?
If the science is used to direct public policy, it is the Attorney General’s business.
The worst that can be said about Mann’s work is that it is wrong, but not obviously wrong. And scientists should never be punished for being wrong. Being wrong it is an important aspect of science. If scientists begin to worry about legal repercussions for being wrong scientific inquiry will slow, making us all worse off.
That is the bottom line, and that is why Cuccinelli’s actions need to be condemned.