Kennneth T. Cucinelli, Attorney General of the State of Virginia, required the University of Virginia to turn over data and scientific documents related to Dr. Mann’s climate change research between 1999 and 2005, to ascertain whether he committed fraud against Virginia’s taxpayers under state grants. There seems to be no basis to suspect any fraud, instead the move appears motivated entirely by political disagreements with his conclusions concerning climate change.
Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act is not a useful tool to assess the validity of scientific research findings, which are debated and criticized publicly through peer-reviewed processes. Such a request is, however, a powerful tool to intimidate scientists and independent scientific research. Your action was characterized as a “witch hunt” by 250 of the nation’s most distinguished scientists, members of the National Academies of Science, in a letter they signed in protest in the publication Science. We urged Mr. Cucinelli to withdraw his demand.