Letter Circulated on Behalf of a Victim of Global Warming Witch Hunt
You probably recall the case of Dr. Willie Soon, a respected solar astrophysicist and expert in how the sun impacts earth's climate. Dr. Soon fell victim to a witch hunt by global warming hysterics who accused him of accepting money from the fossil fuel industry and not acknowledging the supposed conflict of interest in his work.
A group affiliated with the Center for American Progress gathered 20,000 signatures and sent a letter to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where Dr. Soon had served for 25 years as a tenured but unsalaried employee. The petition said:
Dr. Willie Soon — an astrophysicist employed by the Smithsonian — is a go-to “scientist” for climate deniers in Congress, despite his lack of climate credentials. Worse yet, he’s received research grants exclusively from fossil fuel companies and dark money groups since 2002.
Now The Boston Globe is reporting that Soon just published a paper on climate change without disclosing his fossil fuel funding — a violation of the journal’s ethics code and a no-no in the science community.
Tell the Smithsonian: Don’t lend your good name to fossil fuel-funded climate denial. Drop Dr. Willie Soon.
Joe Bast, the Heartland Institute's CEO and president, responded to these wild, unsubstantiated accusations:
The claim that Dr. Soon lacks “climate credentials” is false and meant to harm his reputation. Dr. Soon is a distinguished astrophysicist with many published articles in peer-reviewed climate science journals. A bio at heartland.org/willie-soon lists many publications and awards and features this quotation from Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most respected physicists: “The whole point of science is to question accepted dogmas. For that reason, I respect Willie Soon as a good scientist and a courageous citizen.’’
Forecast the Facts’ second lie is more serious, because alleging a violation of professional ethics is taken seriously in the academy. Dr. Soon and his coauthors told the editor ofScience Bulletin, “None of the authors has received funding from any source for this work. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.”
The petition misrepresents a Boston Globe article which reported only that an environmental group “accused” Dr. Soon and his coauthors of failing to report possible conflicts of interest to the journal’s editor. The petition fails to tell potential signers that the article quoted Soon’s coauthor, Christopher Monckton, vigorously refuting the claim. It also fails to note the reporter said the Science Bulletin had not responded to a request for comment, so he had no way of knowing whether there was a “violation of the journal’s ethics code.”
We have reviewed the Science Bulletin’s policy regarding disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and the coauthors’ letter to the editor explaining their decision to declare no conflicts of interest. We believe the coauthors were correct and there was no violation of the journal’s ethics code.
The phrasing of this petition is plainly misleading, making it meaningless regardless of how many people are fooled into signing it. It should immediately be withdrawn and a public apology extended to Dr. Soon.
Now, there is an effort by Dr. Soon's co-authors of that important paper to push back against the smears and call out the Smithsonian for their deliberate campaign to delegitimize Dr. Soon's work, and to damage him personally. Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, David Legates and Matt Briggs are circulating a letter addressed to the Smithsonian IG and the Attorney General of Massachussets outlining specific charges against the Smithsonian stemming from their organized and deliberate campaign against Dr. Soon.
There is a mountain of evidence:
We are friends, colleagues, or supporters of Dr Willie Soon, a solar physicist who has been on the strength at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, for a quarter of a century. Recently, with Lord Monckton, Professor David Legates and Dr Matt Briggs, Dr Soon co-authored a paper in the Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences that led to widespread but false allegations by the Smithsonian, echoing various advocacy groups, that he had improperly failed to disclose a source of his funding for his work on the paper.
When those allegations were proven false, the extremist advocacy group originally responsible for them circulated further false allegations that in 11 earlier papers Dr Soon had acted improperly in not having disclosed the source of his funding. However, the Smithsonian had negotiated a contract with the funder in question by which the funder’s identity was not to be published. The only papers in which Dr Soon had not disclosed his funders’ identity were those papers covered by that contractual obligation of confidentiality, for which the Smithsonian, not he, was solely responsible.
The Smithsonian, however, unlawfully and publicly issued a series of statements intended to blame Dr Soon, though it was at fault for having improperly agreed to the obligation of confidentiality by which he was bound. His three co-authors of the Science Bulletin paper have investigated the allegations by the Smithsonian and various political advocacy groups against their colleague. Their findings are set out in the first two pages of their report to the Regents, attached hereto, followed by the evidence.
We now ask you –
(1) to instruct the Inspector-General of the Smithsonian to investigate the co-authors’ findings (pages 2-3) and the evidence in support of the findings (pages 4-17) as part of his investigation of this matter,
(2) to investigate Dr Alcock’s malicious and dishonest interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education; his subsequent refusal to make any correction of his falsehoods upon request by Dr Soon and separately by Dr Soon’s lead author; and his failure to pass on to the general counsel the lead author’s freedom of information request;
(3) to request the Attorney-General of Massachusetts to investigate those aspects of the conduct of the Smithsonian in general and of Dr Alcock in particular that constitute a fraudulent campaign of connected and co-ordinated deceptions, persisted in despite requests to cease and desist and, therefore, intended to cause not only continuing reputational harm but also financial loss to Dr Soon; and
(4), if the report’s findings are in substance correct, to order the Smithsonian to apologize publicly to Dr Soon and to make just and full restitution to him for the loss and damage it and its defalcating senior management have caused.
The hypocrisy of the Smithsonian is astounding. After signing the confidentiality agreement with the funder, preventing Dr. Soon from disclosing his funding, they then have the gall to accuse Soon of unethical behavior!
There may be merit -- or there may not be -- to Soon's theories about the sun's effect on climate. But the goal here is not to examine the scientist's findings, but rather to stifle scientific dissent. And for a government-affiliated organization like the Smithsonian to willingly and deliberately take part in this organized attempt to smear a fellow scientist only shows how small-minded those who oppose Soon and his colleagues truly are.