This week’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco will feature a novel publication for participants. It’s called Handling Political Harassment and Legal Intimidation: A Pocket Guide for Scientists.
The guide is the latest product of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. The Fund has been in operation since 2011. Production of the guide began on November 9, 2016.
“There is a lot of fear among scientists that they will become targets of people who are interested in science as politics, rather than progress,” CSLDF co-founder Joshua Wolfe told The New Yorker. “With each passing day,” adds veteran correspondent and Pulitzer-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert, “that fear appears to be more well founded. The one quality that all of Trump’s picks for his cabinet and his transition team seem to share is an expertise in the dark art of disinformation.”
In a guest commentary on the RealClimate blog—including contact information for anyone who’s at risk—CSLDF Executive Director Lauren Kurtz lists some of the key pieces of advice to climate scientists.
“First,” she advises, “remember that other scientists have been through this before and come out the other side. And while being the target of an attack is frustrating and intimidating, you are not alone. Groups like CSLDF exist to help defend, connect scientists under attack to other researchers who have been through this before, and ensure that scientists can keep their focus on their work.”
On a more practical note, she urges scientists to contact a lawyer if they’re being targeted by harassment or intimidation, get clear on whether their work is subject to open records laws, keep personal and professional emails separate, understand record-keeping requirements, and remember that emails aren’t always private—they may be subject to disclosure rules, and as climate scientists have learned in the past, emails can be hacked.
“If you receive harassing messages, do not respond and do not delete,” Kurtz warns. “Do not respond to messages you feel were sent in bad faith – instead, archive or save, in case you ever need evidence to prove that it happened, which is especially important if the situation escalates.” If a message is threatening, scientists should tell their employers and law enforcement.