Oceanographers Richard Camilli and Christopher Reddy, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have accused oil giant BP of stifling academic freedom and attempting to skew scientific research from the Gulf of Mexico after the massive BP oil spill in 2010.
This week, the two expressed concern after BP successfully subpoenaed thousands of confidential emails between the two regarding their research on the effects of the spill.
“BP claimed that it needed to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake. So we produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports, and algorithms used in our research — everything BP would need to analyze and confirm our findings. But BP still demanded access to our private communications. Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process,” the two wrote in an article for the Boston Globe.
They fear that the email exchanges, written during the process of research, could be used for deliberate misinterpretation in reports released by BP, the Guardian reports.
“Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to emails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings. In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the scientific process. In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don’t possess,” the scientists stated.