Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

BP and the Attack on Academic Freedom

Energy
BP and the Attack on Academic Freedom

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

Two leading oceanographers who worked on the impact of BP’s devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill have accused BP of attacking academic freedom after the oil giant successfully subpoenaed thousands of confidential emails related to their research.

The two scientists, Richard Camilli and Christopher Reddy, from the respected Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have had to give BP 3,000 private emails.

The scientists were subpoenaed by BP due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster lawsuit brought by the U.S. government, even though the scientists were not even part of the lawsuit or involved in any way.

Writing in the Boston Globe newspaper they argue: “We are accused of no crimes, nor are we party to the lawsuit. We are two scientists at an academic research institution who responded to requests for help from BP and government officials at a time of crisis.”

BP has been able to use the federal courts to bully the scientists into gaining access to their private information. This is after the scientists had already produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports and algorithms.

But BP still demanded access to their private communications. They write: “Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.”

They continued: “Deliberation is an integral part of the scientific method that has existed for more than 2,000 years; e-mail is the 21st century medium by which these deliberations now often occur. During this process, researchers challenge each other and hone ideas.”

By gaining access to these private emails BP will force other researchers to be careful about what they write in emails. They will squash and undermine the scientific process. Indeed, the two scientists argue that BP’s actions cast “a chill over the scientific process."

Another by-product of the action is that, the scientists warn, “BP now has access to the intellectual property attached to the e-mails, including advanced robotic navigation tools and sub-sea surveillance technologies that have required substantial research investment by our laboratories and have great economic value to marine industries such as offshore energy production.”

What this means is that the next time there is a serious oil spill, researchers will be less inclined to help or get involved for fear of their research being accessed by Big Oil.

As the scientists write: “Ultimately this is not about BP. Our experience highlights that virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitation … In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don’t possess.”

That can only be a bad thing for the environment, especially when the next disaster happens.

Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists adds simply: “The Woods Hole scientists saw a country in need and tried to do the right thing, and in the process got burned by a system that does not protect them.”

And that can only be a bad thing for science and our understanding of the world.

Visit EcoWatch's GULF OIL SPILL page for more related news on this topic.

 

U.S. returns create about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. manonallard / Getty Images

Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Envoy John Kerry (L) and President-elect Joseph (R) are seen during Kerry's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State on February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian

John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Scientific integrity is key for protecting the field against attacks. sanjeri / Getty Images

By Maria Caffrey

As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.

Read More Show Less
A pair of bears perch atop Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park, about 100 miles from the proposed Pebble Mine site. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.

Read More Show Less

OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Gwen Ranniger

In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.

Read More Show Less