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Sponsors back out of climate seminar

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 1:46 p.m. ET

A Monday seminar on climate change has lost two sponsors following the organizer's decision to not open the event to the press.

Contrary to earlier reports, organizers insist the event is indeed open to the press with one condition: That participants and audience members abide by the "Chatham House Rule," which could severely hamstring reporters eager to share the thoughts of certain people in attendance.

Tonight's speakers include a mix of government and private climate change experts from the U.S. and Great Britain.

The seminar's organizer is Natalia Galin, a Fulbright scholar at NASA's Goddard Space Center. In an e-mail she explained that the rule "would allow for the speakers and audience to engage in free and unrestricted discussion for the benefit of all present."

The rule dates back to the late 1920s and states that "participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed." It's designed to encourage open and frank discussion by cloaking the identity of speakers at an event.

But her decision has cost her the support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Fulbright Association's National Capital Area Chapter.

The Fulbright chapter withdrew its support "because the chapter, like the national association, is dedicated to the free and open discussion of ideas," said executive director Jane Anderson.

AAAS, which planned to host the event at its building, said it backed out when the group learned of the plans to curtail press access.

"It is our policy that any events we sponsor in our building that are open to the public also must be open to the press," AAAS spokesman Earl Lane said in an e-mail.

That means tonight's event -- running from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. -- has a new location, at NASA headquarters at 300 E St. SW in Washington.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 23, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Unless there is more to the story, such as a well-founded concern over disorderly political bias as the reason for anonymity, this is not as an issue that merits a withdrawal of support. Without disorder, all positions can be aired and argued based upon the scientific merits. These rules don't hamper free flow of ideas, just who is expressing the ideas. A public expression of disagreement or unease with the rules is understandable, a temper tantrum is a bit much.

Posted by: aavant | November 24, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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