U.Va. Seeks Options for Response to Attorney General’s Investigation of Faculty Research

May 14, 2010 — University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III today announced that the Board of Visitors has engaged the law firm Hogan Lovells and its premier education practice group to represent and advise the University on responding to the Virginia attorney general's Civil Investigative Demand (CID).   

The CID seeks to investigate the research activities of Michael Mann, a former professor of environmental sciences at U.Va. Mann, who left the University in 2005 and has since been at Pennsylvania State University, is known for his research on global warming.

"The University and its Board of Visitors believe it is important to respond to this CID," said John O. Wynne, University rector. "Research universities must defend the privilege of academic freedom in the creation of new knowledge. Hogan Lovells will help us to explore the appropriate options for a response."

Casteen said that he has heard the many concerns and apprehensions raised about the attorney general's investigation into scientific debate.  "Leading scientists and others have expressed concern that the issuance of a CID in this situation may be as much a political gesture as a search for scientific truth," he said.
 
Earlier this month, U.Va.'s Faculty Senate issued a statement  regarding the CID, reflecting the organization's concern that this investigation would have a "chilling effect" on scientific inquiry worldwide. Faculty members, Casteen said, see this as a threat to academic freedom and the ability for researchers to work in a neutral environment.

The Faculty Senate statement points out that any kind of academic wrongdoing on the part of a research scientist would be uncovered long before publication. The funding Mann received "resulted from impartial, stringent peer review by respected independent scientists under the auspices of national scientific research organizations," the statement reads. "His research findings, including many of those involved in this investigation, have been reported in leading scientific journals, which are themselves subject to additional exacting review by the scientific community prior to publication."

The CID, which has the legal force of a subpoena and generally is subject to the same rules for discovery as civil cases in Virginia courts, is extremely broad and far-reaching. It requests information and documents in connection with five grants, including correspondence between Mann and more than 40 scientists and other individuals over a 10-year period.

The deadline for the University to respond to the CID is May 27.