27 September 2012
AGU Science Policy Alert 12-38
With increasing legal pressure and scrutiny in recent years, climate scientists and other researchers need to be equipped to navigate the complexities of their legal obligations and protections. In the first of a three part legal education webinar series sponsored by AGU and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, discussed what documents, from emails to datasets, scientists must preserve and disclose and under what circumstances such action may be required.
Applicable laws, Gerrard cautioned, vary by state, institution and circumstance. A researcher at a private institution receiving public funding, for instance, has somewhat different requirements for retaining and disclosing documents than scientists at public institutions, who have broader obligations to preserve and release documents and correspondence upon request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Gerrard warned scientists not to destroy any documents if litigation is pending, and noted that producing even private correspondence, including personal emails and social media content, can be required in some cases. Consulting with lawyers, who sometimes work pro bono on behalf of climate scientists, may be the best first step for researchers if any disclosure issues arise.
An archived recording of this webinar may be found on the AGU Science Policy Events page. Interested in future events in the AGU/CSLDF Legal Education for Scientists series? Check out the following events scheduled for AGU Fall Meeting 2012: