Brief Supports Climate Researchers in Public Records Request Case

On July 12, the AAUP submitted an amicus brief in support of faculty members who have been subjected to intrusive public records requests for e-mails related to their climate-science research. The AAUP brief, filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, argues that the academic freedom to conduct research is essential to a vital university system and to the common good, and that this warrants protecting certain research records from disclosure.

The case arose from an extensive public records request that was made by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, which uses public records requests in a campaign against climate science. In this case, E & E submitted public records requests that targeted two University of Arizona faculty members, climate researchers Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck. E & E counsel said the suit was intended to “put false science on trial” and E & E vowed to “keep peppering universities around the country with similar requests under state open records laws.”

The current brief urges courts to "consider the best interests of the state to maintain a free and vital university system, which depends on the protection of academic freedom to engage in the free and open scientific debate necessary to create high quality academic research. Where the requests seek prepublication communications and other unpublished academic research materials, as in the case at bar, compelled disclosure would have a severe chilling effect on intellectual debate among researchers and scientists.” 

Publication Date: 
Monday, July 17, 2017