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Good practices

Having been summoned, scientists deliver e-mails sent to BP

The process whereby scientists reach their conclusions, then test and refine their work methods to achieve the best possible accuracy, can also be used against them in charges of misconduct in court. Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA, had helped estimate the magnitude of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. They were ordered to deliver more than three thousand personal e-mails to Court.

The Federal Government sued BP, the operator of the platform that had exploded. In its defense, BP requested and received more than 50 thousand pages of documents and messages from researchers, with details on how they had estimated the oil spill. The company alleges that the documents are necessary to defend itself in court. The researchers argue that this decision could jeopardize future scientific deliberations (The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 5).

The researchers told The Boston Globe newspaper that the company had allegedly found messages in which the researchers themselves questioned their methods; in addition, the company claimed that the researchers had come up against dead ends or had modified their points of view. According to the two scientists, these events should not have resulted in any questions about their findings, because they are part of scientific work.