[asa] Legal Impact of CRU

From: John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu Nov 26 2009 - 22:08:24 EST

As opposed to the previous legal advice that was offered on the reading of the CRU emails, this is likely a much more accurate assessment of the legal ramifications submitted by a real lawyer.


Tortious interference. For researchers and academicians, publication in peer-reviewed journals is important to advancement, raises, grant funding, etc. Wrongful interference with the ability to publish has monetary and reputational damages. If that interference is based not on editorial judgment of worthiness for publication, but rather on protecting reputations, scientific positions, political goals or "places in history" (as mentioned in one email), then it could give rise to liability in tort for the individual scientist and possibly for the university or organization for which he works.
Breach of faculty ethics standards or contracts. Most universities and research organizations have ethics clauses in their faculty/employee manuals and in their contracts with faculty/researchers. If (as suggested by the purloined emails) these individuals cooked data or manipulated assumptions to achieve preferred outcomes, or denied others access to data essential for replication of result that is essential to the scientific method, they could have violated university or organizational ethics standards.
State-chartered universities. Some of these individuals appear to work for state-chartered and state-funded institutions, and might well be classified as state employees (and thereby eligible for generous state benefits). The conduct suggested by the purloined emails might violate state ethics or funding policies. State governments and legislatures therefore might have a basis for inquiry and oversight.
Federal grants. Federal grants typically have ethics/integrity clauses to assure that the research funded by the grant is credible and reliable (and to assure that the agency can avoid accountability if it isn't). As noted, the purloined emails suggest that data might have been cooked and assumptions might have been manipulated to generate a predetermined outcome. If true, and if the work in question was funded by federal grant, the researchers in question might well have violated their federal grant contracts--for which there are legal consequences. Inspectors general of the grant agencies should be in position to make inquiry if the data/assumptions in question could be linked in time and topic to a contemporaneous federal grant to the researchers in question.



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Received on Thu Nov 26 22:08:53 2009

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