The American Association of University Professors has filed an amicus brief arguing professors at a public university should be exempt from public records act requests from a conservative think tank seeking to review the scholars’ unpublished climate change research.
The brief, filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, argues that professors at public universities should be able to keep their unpublished research records private, according to a press release from the AAUP last Friday.
In the email announcing the amicus brief, the association argued the public records requests “targeted” professors and amounted to “harassment.” The association did not respond to requests for comment from The College Fix for access to the amicus brief in full.
The association’s email states the brief argues the research should remain private “to maintain a free and vital university system, which depends on the protection of academic freedom to engage in the free and open scientific debate necessary to create high quality academic research.”
“Where the requests seek prepublication communications and other unpublished academic research materials, as in the case at bar, compelled disclosure would have a severe chilling effect on intellectual debate among researchers and scientists.”
In 2011, the American Tradition Institute, which has since changed its name to the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, filed an extensive Freedom of Information Act request seeking to compel the University of Arizona to produce documents related to a professor’s unpublished research on climate science.
The professor, Jonathan Overpeck, has allegedly been involved with the promotion of the global warming Hockey Stick theory, which purports to show that temperatures on Earth have declined steadily throughout history, until the 20th century when there was a sudden drastic rise.
Professor Overpeck told The College Fix that he has worked on many climate science papers published before and after the Hockey Stick theory, which explored similar themes of rising global temperatures, but he didn’t actually coin the term.
While Overpeck did not create the theory, the institute has alleged Overpeck was involved in the promotion of it. They made that claim in a press release from 2013, when they announced they had filed suit to compel the production of the documents they sought by the records request in 2011.
Chris Horner, who managed the initial request, said in 2013 that the Hockey Stick theory was part of an “agenda” coming from the climate scientists.
“The public are increasingly aware that they have funded the effort to impose an all-pain, no-gain energy-scarcity agenda on them, from activists in federal bureaucracies and the green pressure groups they love, down to activists ensconced in state universities,” he wrote.
He added the University of Arizona should hand over their records in the name of transparency, especially since taxpayer funds helped support the research.
“As such, we continue to seek copies of records the public paid for, to help bring about the oft-promised, yet rarely voluntary governmental transparency. Too often public institutions require that we engage in protracted battles under open records laws to allow the public a glimpse at the enormous apparatus they are underwriting,” he added.
University of Arizona spokesperson Chris Sigurdson told The College Fix in an email this week that the school supports the right of the professors’ unpublished research to be free from Freedom of Information Act inquisitions.
“The University of Arizona supports the public’s right to know how we do business and to the documents that support those activities. We receive and fulfill numerous public records requests on a weekly basis,” Sigurdson said.
“Some documents, though, are protected from disclosure for various reasons, including the fact that they reflect activities related to unpublished research or future research projects. That is the crux of our appeal.”
The Energy and Environment Legal Institute did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The College Fix.