Our Common Good

Scientists are accusing the BP oil company of using the U.S. courts to attack their calculations of how much oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, charge that BP and other corporations damage scientific research when they subpoena documents and correspondence that lead to study conclusions. Richard Camilli, an ocean physicist, engineer and lead author of the paper, claimed that BP was intent on using such correspondence to raise doubts about the spill calculations.

Camilli and his colleagues called for legislation that would shield researchers from litigants who were “seeking to silence scientific inquiry or retribution for publishing independent research findings.”

A federal court in New Orleans is considering a proposed $7.8-billion settlement between BP and Gulf Coast victims of the 2010 oil spill. In preparation for a separate suit brought by the U.S. government, BP sought and obtained thousands of the scientists’ e-mails, as well as other documents, despite the insistence of scientists that the materials were confidential.

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    They should only have been accessible by subpoena if the scientists were designated experts working on the case. But...
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