Who is Willie Soon?”
(ADDED: Since there have been so many wonderful questions about the controversial research and related issues, let me point you to this post, which is essentially a link farm to myriad resources for you to read and enjoy.)
According to DeSmogBlog, Willie Wei Hock “Soon is a prominent climate change skeptic who has received much of his research funding from the oil and gas industry.” He thinks the sun causes the climate change we’ve been observing over the last few decades:
“The evidence in my paper is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sun causes climatic change in the Arctic … It invalidates the hypothesis that CO2 is a major cause of observed climate change – and raises serious questions about the wisdom of imposing cap-and-trade or other policies that would cripple energy production and economic activity, in the name of ‘preventing catastrophic climate change’.
Apparently, his research is paid by the fossil fuel industry.
There is now a petition to get the venerable Smithsonian to drop Soon from it’s staff. The petition addresses a specific ethical concern, not his research. This pertains to Soon’s failure to disclose his sources of research funding when disclosure would be appropriate. Not disclosing funding sources is not the same as getting funding and disclosing. This is about not disclosing. You are supposed to disclose. This is a point being missed (rather intentionally I suspect) but Soon supporters. Lots of researchers get funding from industries related to their research, and conferences are often funded this way as well. But it is disclosed, like it is supposed to be, generally. The petition is not about his bone-headed ideas about climate change, to which he is entitled (as we all are entitled to view as, well, bone-headed). It is about his failure to disclose, and the specific allegation is that his funding is from oil/energy companies, which would make research (published along side well known petroleum industry funded science denialists, by the way) potentially biased. Which is why disclosure is normal. This is not hard to understand, though you will see a lot of anti-science climate change deniers very willfully misunderstanding.
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.
The petition is here, in case you want to sign it. I signed it, but reluctantly. On one hand I don’t thing firing someone is what one would normally do for violating grant-related ethics. Usually other sorts of actions are taken. On the other hand I like the idea of giving deans and other administrators a tool, so they can sit down with Soon (soon, one would hope) and the sentence “Look, Willie, there’s a petition with over 10,000 people calling for your head over this. Hard to ignore!” could be part of the conversation. (Even if they are quite capable of ignoring it). It is all a matter of personal choice. Were it me writing the petition, I’d have it be to ask the administration to look into Soon’s practice of failing to report funding by clear special interests, and take appropriate action.
UPDATE: So far, since this post has been pointed at by various science denying, or denialist defending, web sites, from which I’ve gotten a few dozen (at most) page views and about 25 or so (deleted) obnoxious comments, the petition has garnered well over 20,000 signatures. I really do have my doubts about how much a petition like this will matter, but I do strongly suspect that the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory is getting tires of Soon and his shenanigans. Don’t be surprised if he’s not around by next winter.