In response to reports of personal attacks on climate scientists worldwide, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has published an open letter saying that such threats only serve to create a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings, subsequently making it extremely difficult for scientific findings to be made available to policymakers and the public.
“Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public,” said the AAAS Board said in letter, which was approved on 28 June. “This both impedes the progress of science and interferes with the application of science to the solution of global problems.”
“The progress of science and protection of its integrity depend on both full transparency about the details of scientific methodology and the freedom to follow the pursuit of knowledge. The sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and intimidate scientists. The latter serve only as a distraction and make no constructive contribution to the public discourse.”
The AAAS Board letter comes in response to numerous incidents over the past few months of climate scientists the world over being targeted for their research work.
On June 21, The Australian newspaper reported that Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies executive director Anna-Maria Arabia received an email saying that she would be “strung up by the neck” and killed for her promotion of mainstream climate science.
This comes after months of abusive phone calls and threats to several of Australia’s top scientists at the Australian National University, which has forced them to improve security and even shift climate scientists to more secure work locations.
This death threat went “a step to far,” according to Ms Arabia, who added that members of the science community had received more than a thousand emails a day as part of the anti-climate change campaign.
“It was very unpleasant, and this one was just to me as opposed to a whole chain like they normally are,” Ms Arabia said. “No person, whatever they do, should have to put up with that. It’s completely unacceptable.”
Similarly, in America, the American Tradition Institute (ATI) has pressed the University of Virginia to turn over thousands of emails and documents written by Michael E. Mann, a former professor at the University of Virginia and a prominent climate scientist in the country. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a climate change sceptic has waded in as well, demanding many of the same documents last year in an effort to work out whether Mann had somehow defrauded taxpayers in obtaining research grants.
The ATI has also sued NASA to disclose records detailing climate scientist James Hansen’s compliance with federal ethics and disclosure rules in an effort to find some morsel to discredit him.
“While we fully understand that policymakers must integrate the best available scientific data with other factors when developing policies, we think it would be unfortunate if policymakers became the arbiters of scientific information and circumvented the peer-review process,” the AAAS Board concluded in their letter. “Moreover, we are concerned that establishing a practice of aggressive inquiry into the professional histories of scientists whose findings may bear on policy in ways that some find unpalatable could well have a chilling effect on the willingness of scientists to conduct research that intersects with policy-relevant scientific questions.”
The full AAAS Board letter can be read in PDF form here.