Smithsonian issues statement on Willie Soon

The following statement was issued this afternoon by the Smithsonian:

Smithsonian Statement on Willie Soon, researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory.

The Smithsonian is greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.
The Smithsonian is taking immediate action to address the issue: Acting Secretary Albert Horvath has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General to review the matter. Horvath will also lead a full review of Smithsonian ethics and disclosure policies governing the conduct of sponsored research to ensure they meet the highest standards.

Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon is a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. He was hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar variability. The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research.
The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian’s official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming.

Smithsonian Statement on Climate Change

More like this

That Harvard now makes it clear that Soon is not associated with the university, and that the Smithsonian now feels compelled to distance itself from Soon's science shows that, under the present circumstances, incontrovertible evidence presented in a (the) leading newspaper can make a difference. It'll be interesting to see how much more comes out of this.

In septic circles, I imagine this will increase Soon's stature by further transforming him into a martyr. Delingpole's Breitbart article was the first indication of this.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink

I can't imagine what it's like to be a person who could sell out all of humanity for money.

Yeah, the most famous example at least had the decency to feel enough guilt to hang himself rather than spend the loot...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink

I think the statement "The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research" may be a bit of weaseling. Given how the information on funding was obtained (freedom of information act) it seems that the external grants had to have been funneled through the Smithsonian (or another government group) which presumably takes some in overhead and oversees expenditure.

It';s complicted.
The Smithsonian is a big umbrella, with $1.2B/.year revenue, based in Washtington.
The Smtihsonian Astrophysical Laboratory (SAO) is located at Harvard, as part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astropjhysics. The Harvard and SAO sides are somewaht separate.
(This is not an uncommon setup. For instance the Carnegie Institution has departments scattered around, like the Department of Global Ecology, which has building on Stanford campus, and at least some of the people have joint appts with Stanford departments.)

Budgets are typically run by departments, so while the Smithsonian is the umbrella, it is as yet unknown what they knew and when. it is clear that SAO knew, from the FOIAs.
Soon's grants were about 1/10,000th of the overall Smithsonian income.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

It is very common to have scientists working on "soft money" exactly like this. They get the grants and the grands fund them. The institution they are housed in takes an overhead.

Predict Soon will soon be gone - and not before time!

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Money and life- style go together for us all and many reasearch scientists have a good share of both. This is certainly true in the case of Mr Soon.
We all believe our work is important, but just suppose the it was decided the money on Martian exploration was allocated to what was considered more pressing needs.
Those employed would quickly make a case out for the huge benifits to be had by such exploration.
How would I know if they were genuine or just out to save their jobs and life-style?
Man certainly does not live by bread alone but his enjoyment of life is down to cash.

By magnocrat (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

I'm glad Smithsonian is taking this seriously. I wish the reelations about the funding had come from within the organization, and did not have to be forced... but at least, the truth is out.

Now, if we could get some transparency on funding for the other supposedly "independent" scientists (and economists and educators) who flood the world with articles and white papers showing how bad minimum wage increases are (or how good tax decreases are) or why we don't need common core... I'm not saying there aren't honest differences of opinions on those, but much of it is ginned up in the same way Dr. Soon's "research" was.

By Jon Steele (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

Suppose COI rules for Congress were even as good as they are for most medical journals ... but they aren't.
Look at Truth in Testimony links.
Are those forms as explicit as COI disclosures required by many journals?
if they were, this sort of thing likely wouldn't come up, except when someone failed to disclose something that should have been.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

The fact that Willie Soon has received funding from coal and oil has been known for years. From what I have seen in, he has been openly admitting this all along and he merely claims that the funding source does not affect the results. Is Soon claiming that he accepted industry grants for other research but not for the research in question?

He has published papers without disclosure.

Thomas: From what I have seen in, he has been openly admitting this all along and he merely claims that the funding source does not affect the results.

If the funding source does not affect Soon's results, then what does?

He claims that the Sun is the principal driver of current climate change — an assertion for which there is no convincing evidence.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 27 Feb 2015 #permalink

1) A few papers Ack'd API, Koch, etc.
They may have been awful, but were more or less properly Ack'd, although I don't recall if they always gave contract #s.

2) What was known in the past was that Soon got fossil money, and he produced papers ... but there was no documented connection.

3) When you claim credit for a paper or talk for fulfillment of a research contract, you ought to have Ack'd the contract in the paper or talk. What's new is the list of claims, which identify some of his papers as not properly Ack'd. Of course, we only have those claims for a few years, not the decade+ of taking fossil money.

See Was Willie Soon paid for Science ... or Anti-Science.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 27 Feb 2015 #permalink

Thomas, check the disclosure rules for "Science Bulletin". Even if he did not receive funding for that particular work, he still had to disclose his prior funding.

Also, there are supposedly (I have not checked myself) several cases where he listed a paper as a successful "deliverable" to the funding body...but did not disclose the funding by that funding body in the paper itself.

There are many medical journals that would retract a paper with such disclosure failures - although the circumstances do matter.

There is nothing "countering the force." Warming as expected is continuing apace. Do read what I sent you (and links therein) before further commenting on that. You simply don't have the information you need to have an informed conversation.

I was expecting denialists to express the surprise you just expressed. That is why I included quite a bit of information in that post about how this has actually been measured before.

"I was a bit surprised that only now has someone actually measured whatever it is they are actually measuring."

That is because you are not paying attention enough. The greenhouse effect has already been measured directly, but not *on the ground itself*.

Also, correlations are just that, correlations, without a causational explanation. That causational explanation we have for CO2 and the earth's temperature.

Greg....the warming stopped in 1998.

PS Why do you appear as a skull?

By Peter Rees (not verified) on 01 Mar 2015 #permalink

"The Heartland Institute portrayed Dr. Soon as a martyr.

'He’s a brilliant and courageous scientist devoted entirely to pursuing scientific knowledge,' the organization’s president, Joseph Bast, said this week in a statement. 'His critics are all ethically challenged and mental midgets by comparison.' "…

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 02 Mar 2015 #permalink