Andrew Revkin reports today on the engagement of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund created by Professor Scott Mandia, aka “Supermandia” as he sees himself in the photo below.
From Scott Mandia’s blog-he captions this photo at left: The Caped Climate Crusader: Battling the evil forces of global warming deniers. “Faster than global T rise, more powerful than a stranded polar bear, able to leap over rising seas in a single bound.”
I was really rather surprised that Revkin covered this nonsense, particularly since the “fund” is primarily about Mandia’s adoration of Dr. Michael Mann, and his desire that his public emails from the University of Virgina not be exposed to scrutiny by the State Attorney General of Virginia to determine if he used research funds properly or not. PEER has made a number of public pronouncements defending Mann and claims that scientific integrity would be damaged if the attorney general is allowed to view those emails written on the public dime.
This probably explains why Mandia needs to wear hip waders as part of his costume.
The University of Virginia reportedly has spent upwards of a million dollars keeping those emails on double secret probation, so it would seem the old adage of “where there’s smoke there’s fire” might truly apply here.
In Revkin’s Q&A e-mail interview with Jeff Ruch (video interview), the longtime executive director of PEER, it emerges that they have some pretty odd thinking on FOI as it applies to universities:
Q: Finally, when the issue is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there’s a murky line between what is fishing and what isn’t. Many FOIA requests of green groups over the years could be cast as such. This is one reason the Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, has walked a fine line in its statements on abuse of FOIA. Should a researcher using a state university e-mail address and working under federal grants be entitled to presume his/her correspondence is “private” (as described below)?A: The central issue is whether the subject of the inquiry is public business. Generally, scientific articles submitted in the author’s name with a disclaimer that the work does not represent the institution falls outside what is official business. Our main concern is that industry-funded groups and law firms are seeking to criminalize the peer review process by obtaining internal editorial comments of reviewers as a means to impeach or impugn scientists.
The grants themselves and the grant reports are public but a federal grant does not transform a university lab into an executive branch agency – which is the ambit of FOIA.
By the way, as an adjunct to our whistleblower practice, PEER makes extensive use of FOIA to force disclosure of matters other wise buried in agency cubicles. A good example of one our science-based FOIA [requesets] is this.
Bishop Hill writes of this passage:
“…seeking to criminalize the peer review process by obtaining internal editorial comments of reviewers as a means to impeach or impugn scientists”? Huh?
It can’t be said often enough. If you want public money you have to accept public oversight.
I agree. It seems the issue here is simple; they want the money, but they don’t want to answer any questions about how that money is used.
This is part of the “entitlement mindset” that has pervaded public employees in recent years, and it is becoming tiresome. Sunlight on the process is the only way accountability can be maintained.