Tuesday is the anniversary of the death of legendary folk singer and rabble-rouser Pete Seeger, and over the weekend I pulled out my banjo to go over some of the lesser-known songs he once sang. Pete Seeger’s half sister Peggy is a folk musician in her own right, and one of her gems looks at what discourages women from becoming scientists and engineers. Read More
January 26th, 2015
December 11th, 2014
Have you or your university or government colleagues been targeted with intrusive federal or state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests? If so, I’d like to hear from you. Read More
June 10th, 2014
The University of Virginia is facing another high-profile open records request, this time from LGBT rights organizers on the political left. Fortunately, UVa has set a highly visible precedent in terms of how it should respond to a Freedom of Information Act request, and has a Virginia Supreme Court decision to back it up. Read More
April 17th, 2014
The Supreme Court of Virginia today found unanimously in favor of the University of Virginia in its attempt to protect its employees from unwarranted intrusions into their privacy through the commonwealth’s Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA). In doing so, the Court rebuffed efforts by the American Tradition Institute (ATI) to gain access to the private correspondence of UVa researchers. The Court’s decision signals to scientists at public universities that the pursuit of scientific knowledge will be protected in Virginia, no matter how their research results might be received. Read More
A Conspiracy Theory Researcher Falls Victim to Conspiracy Theories: Intimidated Journal to Retract Lewandowsky Paper
March 21st, 2014
A social science journal will soon retract a paper not because the research is flawed but because the journal fears being exposed to legal risks under antiquated (and since corrected) British libel law, according to Desmogblog and the paper’s lead author. Such a retraction would reflect badly on the journal and may set a terrible precedent. Papers should be withdrawn based on significant concerns with the quality of the research, not based on threats.
January 9th, 2014
Emblazoned on the facade of the Virginia State Library, and steps from the commonwealth’s capitol and Supreme Court are the following words of the state’s most prominent former resident, Thomas Jefferson: “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. They are the natural enemies of error and of error only.” This was the setting for the second trip in as many years by the University of Virginia and climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann to the commonwealth’s highest court. Read More
Preview of Thursday’s VA Supreme Court Hearing: University of Virginia v. American Tradition Institute
January 7th, 2014
UPDATE: I have now posted a recap of the January 9 hearing.
On Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the American Tradition Institute’s lawsuit seeking the private correspondence of climate scientist Michael Mann and dozens of other scientists. UCS and several other scientific and educational organizations argue that granting this access would damage scientists’ ability to communicate frankly and openly with their peers, and to explore new ideas free from harassment. Read More
November 6th, 2013
Politicians attack scientists to score points with voters and their backers, whether it’s members of Congress attacking individual government grantees or belittling scientists whose research undermines their legislative priorities. It got so bad that UCS put out a guide for scientists who find their work under an unusual amount of scrutiny (still a good idea to take a look before you’re in that situation). But yesterday’s election in Virginia may showcase how these sorts of attacks can backfire, making a candidate look extreme and out of touch. Read More
October 29th, 2012
There’s been a lot in the news and a considerable amount of discussion since my post last week about the Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to jail in connection with the April 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people in the Italian city of L’Aquila. And like many situations with extraordinary complexity, some of the reporting has been incomplete.
I’d like to share what we’ve learned in the interim that casts additional light on the situation, and some lessons that we may take away from this tragedy when it comes to ensuring that scientists continue to share their expertise with the public and that governments are able to effectively communicate about and manage low-probability, high-risk situations. Read More
October 22nd, 2012
In a decision that is sending shockwaves through the earth sciences community, an Italian court has sentenced six scientists to six years in jail for failing to accurately predict an earthquake. This is an absurd and dangerous decision that U.S. officials should rebuke, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano should overturn. Read More