Documents Spur Investigation Of Climate Skeptic

2015-03-13T14:00:25+00:00 March 13, 2015|
Willie Soon. (Credit: The Heartland Institute)

(Click to enlarge) Willie Soon. (Credit: The Heartland Institute)

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has launched an inquiry into one of its researchers, solar physicist and global warming skeptic Willie Soon, following the release of documents that detail research funds he and the institution received from the energy industry and a conservative foundation.

(From Scientific American / by Jeff Tollefson)– Obtained by Greenpeace through a Freedom of Information Act request and released by an affiliated group, the documents include research contracts and describe specific commitments that Soon and the CfA, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, made to corporate funders. CfA officials say they are now investigating whether Soon properly reported the funding—he has received more than $1.5 million in private funding since 2001—to journals that have published his research.

The institution has no explicit policy requiring its researchers to disclose funding sources when they publish, says CfA director Charles Alcock, but they are expected to comply with journal rules, which typically require that authors report potential conflicts of interest.

“We want to get the facts straight,” says Alcock. “If there is evidence of failure to disclose, yes, we have a problem.”

Soon did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

The scientist has published numerous papers that go against mainstream climate science. Most famously, in 2003, Soon co-authored a paper in the journal Climate Research that questioned the standard interpretation of climate change over the past millennium and argued that recent warming is not unusual by historical standards. Subsequent controversy led to the resignation of several of the journal’s editors. In that case, the controversy revolved around scientific issues, not disclosure of funding sources.

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