Two scientists say BP's aggressive efforts to subpoena e-mails related to their estimate of the oil flow rate during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill invade their privacy and threaten the integrity of the scientific deliberative process.
"Two years after the Deepwater Horizon dumped nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, some of the scientists who tried to figure out how much oil escaped are facing legal scrutiny. BP has subpoenaed the emails of Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who conducted research on the oil spill flow rate back in 2010.
During the spill, both BP and the Coast Guard requested Reddy and Camilli's help in determining the flow rate, which was crucial to understanding how much oil was pouring into the Gulf. The two scientists--and other researchers brought on to come up with an estimate--determined that the rate was about 57,000 barrels of oil per day. Now the federal government has brought a lawsuit against BP for the disaster, and the scientists are caught in the middle. The suit could cost BP billions in fines, and the company has requested access to the scientists' records. Reddy and Camilli have already turned over 50,000 pages of documents, data, and algorithms they used in their research, but BP wants more--it also wants all their emails, and the court has consented.
The two co-authored an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Sunday criticizing this development and expressing concern that their email conversations would be used to undermine their scientific conclusions:
'Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.'"