Improving open records rules can provide transparency, protect scientists from harassment

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

Some argue that we have to choose between transparency and academic freedom. That occasional harassment is the price we should pay for accountability. I don’t accept this premise. I think that there are solutions, both inside and outside of the open records request process, that can keep us from having to make that sacrifice. Here are some suggested ground rules:

It’s okay for academics to talk to industry. It’s also okay for them to work with colleagues in industry. It’s okay for them to get funding from industry. It’s okay for scientists to publicly share their scientific analysis and advocate for their personal policy preferences.

Funding, and any strings attached to that funding, should be disclosed proactively and also under open records laws to avoid both real and perceived conflicts of interest.


Documents that constitute the research process should be kept confidential under open records laws, especially when disclosure would compromise the research process. This includes peer review comments, research notes, paper drafts, handwritten notes, some types of data, and other academic deliberations.

Academics should err on the side of disclosure. Public perception matters; sometimes, simply complying with a university’s minimum disclosure requirements and checking off a box is insufficient.

Together, we need to develop common disclosure standards and incentives to adopt them.

A more thoughtful balance between academic freedom and accountability will lead to better public understanding of science, and policy outcomes that are more in line with the public interest. In the meantime, scientists who work on contentious issues should be prepared for scrutiny, both justified and unjustified. Here’s a guide that helps scientists think through these challenges.


Read full, original post: Yes, We Can Defend Scientists from Harassment AND Increase Transparency

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