AMS and UCAR urge U.Va. to support climate scientist, defend academic freedom

May 14, 2010

The following letter was sent today to the University of Virginia from the American Meteorological Society (an organization of approximately 14,000 members serving the atmospheric and related sciences) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (a nonprofit consortium of North American universities that grant doctoral degrees in the atmospheric and related sciences).

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To John T. Casteen III, President
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear President Casteen:

The American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research are strongly committed to academic freedom and free scientific debate and expression of scientific ideas. We are also deeply committed to transparency in science and the free availability of scientific data and academic research products. We are extremely concerned by the recent actions of Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, who has placed a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) on documentation of Dr. Michael Mann’s research during his tenure at the University of Virginia, citing the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA).

We concur with the 5 May 2010 statement from the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council:

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.

We feel strongly that the actions of the Virginia Attorney General represent an inappropriate use of government authority, and urge you to do everything within your power to uphold the tenets of academic freedom.


Keith L. Seitter, Executive Director
American Meteorological Society

Richard A. Anthes, President
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research


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The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.