About a year ago, I had a freedom of information request (FOIA) from Gary Ruskin with U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) asking for all my correspondence with a long list or organizations and people from Monsanto to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The request wasn't surprising given that I've written a lot about biotechnology, and it had been widely publicized that Ruskin's organization had issued FOIA requests to a large number of academics who'd written positive things about GMOs.
At the time, I chose not to post anything about the FOIA request largely because it wasn't much of a nuisance to me (but it was a cost to the Oklahoma tax payers who funded the lawyers and IT folks who pulled together the documents), and I didn't feel I had anything to hide. Moreover, I generally support the ability of a free press to use FOIA, recognizing that it can become (and probably has become) abusive in some instances.
However, last week, I ran across this post by the Berkeley economist David Zilberman who received a FOIA request from a journalist regarding his communications surrounding GMOs. David's reaction to his request was similar to mine. In particular, I wondered why Mr. Ruskin didn't just pick up the phone and call me? I would have been happy to talk. I was struck by the impersonal, legalistic approach. Maybe Mr. Ruskin would have still wanted to issue a FOIA request after a chat, but at least we would have had a chance to share our perspectives, motivations, etc.
Here is David's reaction:
The last part is the best: