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Protecting Academic Inquiry Off-Campus, Too

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Academic researchers in California who have been harassed by animal-rights activists have a new layer of protection, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday.

The “Researcher Protection Act of 2008,” introduced by Rep. Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, makes it a misdemeanor to publish personal information about academic researchers or members of their families, if the intent is for others to use that information to threaten or attack the researcher. It also makes it a misdemeanor for protesters to enter a researcher’s personal property to disrupt or interfere with their ability to carry out their academic work.

“Increasingly, the potential for innovative thought and new medical therapies is jeopardized by threats aimed at researchers and their families,” said Mullin. “The signing of (this bill) sends a message that California recognizes its researchers and their families need to be protected from threats of violence.”

The legislation was introduced in response to a series of attacks on researchers at various University of California campuses. The most egregious of these were against Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA. Her field of study is the neurobiology of addiction.

London -- a child of Holocaust survivors -- had her home attacked twice in late 2007 and early 2008. In October 2007, it was flooded when a garden hose was inserted through a window. In February 2008, an incendiary device ignited and caused further property damage.

At the time of the first attack, a communiqué from the Animal Liberation Front accused London of addicting primates to methamphetamines.