Training Attorneys to Provide Legal Education for Scientists

On Friday, April 28, 2017, we hosted a workshop at Columbia Law School for the 17 law professors participating in our new Campus Reps Program. Motivated by a shared desire to defend climate science, these attorneys have volunteered to help scientists on their campuses understand how to protect themselves against harassment and legal attacks.

The Campus Reps Program furthers our mission by creating a network of lawyers at public and private universities across the United States to serve as the first point of contact for scientists with questions about the legal issues surrounding their work. Campus Reps will also proactively educate researchers about their rights and responsibilities, and direct scientists to us as needed.

At the workshop, morning presentations by our staff covered the history of legal attacks against scientists and how these threaten the scientific endeavor. Campus Reps were introduced to tactics used to attack and harass climate scientists, from the abuse of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open records law equivalents, to the use of Congressional and state-level investigations and third-party subpoenas.

The afternoon session was devoted to an energetic discussion about how Campus Reps can engage with scientists on their campus and help them understand — and protect themselves from — the risks they face as a result of their research. This conversation will inform the development of the program and related resources. We’ll continue work on these in the coming months, with input from our Campus Reps; they’ll begin their campus activities during the fall 2017 semester.

This program is a significant step forward in our efforts to connect more deeply with the legal community and equip an increasing number of scientists with basic legal knowledge. We’re thrilled to be working with this dynamic group of attorneys toward the goal of preserving the rights of scientists to pursue and publicize knowledge.

Visit the Campus Reps Program page to learn more about the program and read about it in The New York Times. We’ll share information about our Campus Reps and how to contact them soon.

Please contact us if you missed the call for Campus Reps and would like to participate in the program.

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