Sandy Rosenberg, a Maryland congressman from Baltimore, has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would extend broader protection from public information requests to professors at the state’s public universities, reports the Baltimore Sun. He said the bill was prompted by attempts to draw academic researchers into political battles. He cited the Virginia attorney general, a global warming warming skeptic, who tried to use his subpoena powers to build a fraud case against a climatology professor, and an attempt by a Wisconsin Republican official who sought the emails of a history professor, trying to demonstrate that he had misused his public account to stir political unrest during the state’s battles over organized labor.
Rosenberg’s efforts have drawn praise from academics and raised concerns among open-government advocates. Nse Ufot, government relations officer for the American Association of University Professors, said some of the great discoveries in history were deeply unpopular with contemporary political and social leaders, but scientists were free to make them without scrutiny at every step. “We fear losing the culture of deep knowledge if every email that’s written is risking public ridicule,” she said. “If we lose that, it doesn’t bode well for us as a nation.”