The University of Virginia should make "full use" of all of the FOIA exemptions available to it when responding to a request for the electronic mail from a scientific researcher, says a Washington Post editorial entitled Harassing climate-change researchers.
The question stems from a request for the electronic mail records of climate change researchers from an organization which is professionally opposed to the notion that climate change is real.
Some reference from the various sides in this dispute:
Climate Change and FOIA at the University of Virginia: U. Va.'s official statements on the subject.
In defense of academic freedom against denialist FOIA inquisition tactics: from Climate Science Watch.
The FOIA exemption from Virginia:
§ 2.2-3705.4. Exclusions to application of chapter; educational records and certain records of educational institutions.
4. Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher education, other than the institutions' financial or administrative records, in the conduct of or as a result of study or research on medical, scientific, technical or scholarly issues, whether sponsored by the institution alone or in conjunction with a governmental body or a private concern, where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.
In Virginia, at least, unpublished academic study and research is exempt from mandatory FOIA disclosure.