Willie Soon, will he soon be fired?

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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.

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91 thoughts on “Willie Soon, will he soon be fired?

  1. As a climate scientists I do not agree with the work of Willie Soon and I am surprised how fast he draws political conclusions from his own outlier articles.

    However, I do not think that it is a good idea to try to get scientists fired that one does not like. That would be a severe attack on the freedom of science. How would you respond to a WUWT post calling to sign a petition to get Michael Mann fired?

    Thus I would call on all readers NOT to sign this petition.

    1. I think your point is valid, generally, and I agree with it. However, this petition is not about not liking him or not agreeing with him or his bone-headed version of climate science. Having said that, note that I did not suggest signing it, I suggested looking at it.

      I’m not sure if it is a good idea or not. But, again, this is not about disagreeing with his science, or about one’s opinion of him. It is about a specific more narrowly defined issue that is, if it pans out, a serious ethical violation that an institution should probably look into.

      What I might disagree with, vis-a-vis the petition, is whether or not firing a person (the ultimate penalty that an institution or corporation has) is appropriate. I’m not sure what is appropriate in instances like this. In cases know of where research money was not properly attained or handled, institutions have put individuals on a kind of probation for a number of years … no grants will be managed or accepted by the institution. That may be the appropriate response.

      At the moment we have a major institution with a not very reputable scientist who is now apparently acting unethically. One would hope a petition like this would draw attention from the appropriate parts of the institution.

      Another objection to the petition is that the deniers will howl. I have two responses to this. Firs, they howl all the time anyway so who cares. The other, is that they are howling for the same reasons you suggest caution; they are howling about asking for the firing of someone for their version of science, i.e., they misread or misrepresent the petition, which is not about the science (or lack thereof) but about an ethical violation vis-a-vis disclosure.

    2. Greg – so you see no irony or conflict in using your position to call for the censorship of a person/scientist. He may be wrong and you have published your rebuttals to his work but does he not have the right to free speech? You have no proof that he took any money at all to publish the the latest paper. This looks like the mob calling for a witch burning and you are weaseling out of your part of the responsibility by saying “but I didn’t throw the burning stick”

    3. Bill, what does this have to do with free speech? Answer: Nothing at all.

      There is abundant proof related to Soon’s funding and lack of disclosure. I’m not weaseling out of anything. I’d throw the burning stick in this case. Soon and his ilk have done material harm to the future of my children. They can sit on the damn burning stick.

      Metaphorically, of course.

    4. First of all, your lack of objectivity is clear when you refer to his research repeatedly as ‘bone-headed,’ suggesting that’s a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, possibly nobody has a greater interest in seeing climate change (man made) becoming accepted by all, or the greater chance to profit from it and increase personal wealth and power than the US Government. The outstanding profits to current (and former–Algore) politicians in a position to oversee carbon taxes and exemption would be so enormous as to dwarf any interests of mere oil industry execs, who would be subject to taxes anyway. The government funding of research, then, should be a special disclosure and looked at with the closest scrutiny–there should be no assumption of untainted science simply because the government has funded it.
      Additionally, a lot of fraud has already been uncovered by sources receiving government funding, yet they remain churning out nonsense with impunity. A scientist cannot claim ‘settled science’ while attempting to censor all research that shows different results.

    5. Reading the post and following this on the ‘net, Victor, and reading the petition at FTF, this is not asking for action against a scientist for the science, but the ethical behavior.

    6. Dr. Soon has vigorously denied the allegation that he accepts money from the oil industry. Also, I think scientists should be attacking the content of his work and proving how wrong it is rather than trying to get him fird. If his worth is without merit then it should fall on its like of merit. Plotting to have someone fired because you don’t like his research is the juvenile lunacy scientists should be hove not promoting. Let’s a see a detailed presentation on WHY his work is wrong not a stupid petition simply attacking the man.

    7. Natalie, people have criticized his work, so your wish is granted there

      But we also have concerns about ethics. His denial is expected and he is certainly entitled to that. But the institution he works for is also entitled to investigate, and people are certainly entitled to call for that.

      The petition is not a “plot” to have him fired because people don’t like his work, it is about the ethical concern.

      I have assembled a number of critiques of his work, if you would like to review that. Here: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/01/31/willie-soon-gate/

    8. Dr. Soon is vigorously lying.

      “Plotting to have someone fired because you don’t like his research”

      And so are you.

  2. “He thinks the sun causes the climate change we’ve been observing over the last few decades:”

    The sun’s been ‘up’ there for millennia; the climate’s been changing for millennia. Your move.

    1. Reading comprehension failure. “the few decades” are not “millenia”. The “climate change we’ve been observing over the last few decades” is not typical. And the sun is not generally responsible for climate change, even over the millenia … your “move” is a fallacy.

  3. Last I looked we are not a dictatorship and we allow those we disagree with to have their say. This includes scientific free speech. The peer review process is supposed to be the arbiter of good science not angry mobs with pitchforks. Peer reviewed science will determine the fate of Dr. Soon unless you have lost faith in the scientific process and think otherwise.

  4. Joe Public, what you said there doesn’t really make sense. The moon has been there the whole time. Does that mean that we must assume the moon has caused whatever variation we observe in a particular natural system on the Earth? Please explain.

    1. “Does that mean that we must assume the moon has caused whatever variation we observe in a particular natural system on the Earth?”

      Yes Greg, the moon is generally considered to be the strongest influence on the natural tidal system.

    2. Yes, and greenhouse gasses are the primary driver of heat imbalance on the planet. Glad we agree.

  5. Sundance, I don’t like angry mobs with pitchforks either. In fact, there have been times when I objected to the angry mod with pitchforks and then I had angry mobs with pitchforks going after me.

    But you have misunderstood the nature of this petition here, clearly. You are asking for the peer review process to handle this, but it can’t. This is not about science, research, publication, or peer review. This is about a question of unethical behavior within the context of the institution. Please do read the post.

    For the peer review process to somehow punish Soon for this behavior, reviewers would have to use an ad hom logic to shutting down papers he writes. That is not only difficult to arrange but highly inappropriate. That is, in effect, what you are asking for.

    Free speech is not an issue here at all. That’s a whole other thing.

    1. OK Greg let me address the ethics issue. What evidence if any is there for any legal wrongdoing Dr.Soon may be guilty of? Is there evidence that funding was obtained illegally or that Dr. Soon was involved in some illegal enterprise? If not and your position is based solely on his accepting funding from oil companies then we must consider all scientists accepting money from oil companies as ethically suspect. Berkeley Global Temperature Project was funded with oil money and President Obama’s former Science Czar and Nobel Science Prize winning Steven Chu took oil money to fund his new energy lab, are two examples off thee top of my head but I’m sure there are lots more.


      I am torn and admit I really don’t understand your view on this issue and it would help if you were explicit as to why accepting oil money is a problem. Are you advocating for a scientific panel to assess/establish which funding sources are ethical across all sciences or just climate science? Who should determine the ethical implications of funding from oil companies and make the determination? If funding from oil companies is determined to be unethical then should any scientist who received oil money be dismissed including Nobel Science Prize Winner Dr. Chu? My perspective comes from looking at the entire forest and not a single tree on issues like this. Thanks.

    2. Thank you for shifting towards the point of the petition. You are almost there. Now go back ans
      d read it again to discover that the ethical issue is different than you have characteized it in this comment! This is not about who he accepted money from.

    3. Thanks Greg. I think I need to read the Boston Globe article mentioned by Forecast The Facts in their petition to verify FTF claims. I like to get as much first hand knowledge as possible in these sorts of issues. I’m glad you corrected me in that oil funding was not at issue and that there is no problem with scientists being funded by oil companies as long as they are open about it.

    4. Hi Greg. Here is the link to Boston Globe story used by Forecast The Facts petition to claim Dr. Soon did not provide his funding sources.


      Here are some relevant excerpts from the Boston Globe:

      “Some of Soon’s papers disclose the sources of his funding, others do not. Industry and conservative sources have been the sole source of his funding since 2006, according to the records.”

      “Published in two separate peer-reviewed journals, the paper contained an acknowledgment: part of the research funding came from the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s lobbying arm in Washington.”

      “Soon said he is required by the center to recite a disclaimer – saying his views are his own, and not that of Harvard-Smithsonian — each time he speaks or writes on anything outside his expertise in solar radiation.”

      Now lets look again at the petition wording by Forecast The Facts:

      “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.”

      I did a word search and found nothing in the Globe for “violation”, “ethics” or “ethical” so the Globe made no claim of ethics violations by Dr. Soon that is strictly a claim made by Forecast The Facts.

      I could find no direct evidence/proof in the Boston Globe article to support Forecast The Facts claim that, “Soon just published a paper on climate change without disclosing his fossil fuel funding”. If Dr. Soon did commit “a violation of the journal’s ethics code” by not disclosing funding, then Forecast The Facts needs to cite the article(s) and the journal(s) for which Dr. Soon was required to provide funding sources but neglected to do so. Since Forecast The Facts provides no such information to support their claims the petition is without merit in my analysis and I doubt the Smithsonian will find merit either.

      Forecast is going to need a lot more than innuendo based on the Boston Globe article to get Dr. Soon fired IMHO.

    5. Sundance, reading is fundamental. It is like text searching but you do it yourself, with your eyes (those glassy round things on the front of your head, which is that soft round thing on top of your neck). It involves looking at the words and attempting to comprehend… oh never mind.

      Soon has not gotten a dime from any source but petroleum boosters in eight or nine years. Of course the paper in question was funded by them. So far they are all in “no comment” mode.

      From the article you did not read:

      “As is common among the Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, Soon receives no taxpayer-funded salary; his compensation is dependent on outside grant money, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

      He has proved adept at winning grants. Over the last dozen years, he has received research funding of more than a $1.2 million from sources such as ExxonMobil; Southern Company, a foundation run by the Koch brothers, conservative energy moguls; and industry trade group American Petroleum Institute, according to public documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Greenpeace, the environmental advocacy group.

      Some of Soon’s papers disclose the sources of his funding, others do not. Industry and conservative sources have been the sole source of his funding since 2006, according to the records.”

    6. Greg,
      Was the paper authored by Soon et al “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model” funded by any fossil fuel company?

      On a side note the reference you gave for oil funding points to Desmogblog, who in turn reference David Suzuki who in turn references Greenpeace.

    7. Jokaim, that is the paper referred to in the Boston Globe article:


      If you have an issue with the DeSmogBlog page you can probably let them know about it. That particular breadcumb trail is not the primary documentation for his funding. This might be more helpful: http://www.webcitation.org/6KxJNp556

      As is common among the Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, Soon receives no taxpayer-funded salary; his compensation is dependent on outside grant money, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

      He has proved adept at winning grants. Over the last dozen years, he has received research funding of more than a $1.2 million from sources such as ExxonMobil; Southern Company, a foundation run by the Koch brothers, conservative energy moguls; and industry trade group American Petroleum Institute, according to public documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Greenpeace, the environmental advocacy group.

      Some of Soon’s papers disclose the sources of his funding, others do not. Industry and conservative sources have been the sole source of his funding since 2006, according to the records.

    8. Greg, I have read the Boston Globe piece and I can’t see the conflict of interest regarding the paper.

      IF you can show fossil fuel funding for the paper then yes I agree. But if you can’t then why bring up his PAST oil / coal funding as a conflict of interest? Where is his interest in writing the paper? PS the work was NOT funded at all by the way. Maybe it is a conflict of no interest.

      I hope you realise that CRU has in the past received oil money from BP and Shell. Do authors declare a conflict of interest since they have HELPED BP via contracts for oil exploration.

      From the late 1970s through to the collapse of oil prices in the late 1980s, CRU received a series of contracts from BP to provide data and advice concerning their exploration operations in the Arctic marginal seas. Working closely with BP’s Cold Regions Group, CRU staff developed a set of detailed sea-ice atlases,…

      conflict of interest
      n. a situation in which a person has a duty to more than one person or organization, but cannot do justice to the actual or potentially adverse interests of both parties.

    9. Jokaim, if you don’t see it, it is probably because you did not read it. If you are pretty sure there are other scientists who have also failed to properly disclose, you should report that to someone!

      Thank you for your comments.

    10. Oh, please! Sundance’s comment does not on any reading propose that peer review should take funding issues into account. He says that scientific papers should be evaluated through peer review.

      Your distortion of his position points to your own motivation to discredit the scientist on other grounds because you do not like his views.

      The link you provide is to a DeSmogBlog post which offers no evidence at all of any deception on Professor Soon’s part, but is a long list of – to DeSmogBlog – intolerably contrarian positions on climate change, with references to funding from oil companies that Professor Soon clearly acknowledges. In relation to the most recent paper, one of the co authors, William Briggs, is on record stating that no funding was received from anyone. They did it on their own time.

      This post is disgraceful.

    11. However, these counter-posts or replies are quite heartening. I don’t see why it should matter which side you are on, when someone writes a paper on a topic of interest, we can read it and determine for ourselves whether its methods, practices, and conclusions are worthy. Greg goes out of his way to deny that Soon’s research is not at all in question, in fact, I doubt he has read it himself. He also maintains that Soon’s funding sources are not at all the point or important to this discussion, but then reveals repeatedly Soon’s funding sources, as if they were relevant.
      Finally, poster after posted points out objective objections to Greg’s sources and comments, and Greg’s repeated responses are condescendingly pointing out that they can’t read, or that they don’t know what eyes are for, etc. He also brought up the petition, called the research that he may not have even read ‘bone-headed’ and certainly seems, despite his denials, to be advocating Soon’s firing. Greg is clearly being dishonest and unethical in his own right.

    12. Renelli, I have not gone out of my way to suggest that Soon’s research in question. His research is horrible. But, if you knew how to read 🙂 you would see that the specific issue at hand is his seemingly unethical behavior in not disclosing his funding, which, simply, you are supposed to to.

  6. Paul, I think I responded to you on this elsewhere (or maybe someone else had an identical comment). You need to read the blog post again and make sure you understand what this is about. Read both blog posts again. For comprehension.

  7. Paul, I did not call for someone to be fired. I posted about a petition that does so.

    You are trying to make the argument that criticizing or asking for action about a specific unethical behavior (failure to disclose) is “an attack on an individual scientist” in the same way as noted in the Serengeti strategy. It isn’t. The Serengeti strategy, as explained extensively and intensively, by Michael Mann and by me, is going after legitimate science by drumming up bullshit about an individual scientist. That is not equivalent to asking for a major institution to look into what looks a lot like actual unethical behavior by Willie Soon, who generates fake science-looking output because he is paid to do so by industry.

    Next I expect you to claim that the legit climate scientists are also paid to make up shit by whoever it is you imagine pays for that. Don’t bother.

    1. Personally I would need far better proof of what you are claiming about Dr. Soon than what you have postured here. Even then it is not a matter for an angry mob with pitchforks pushing an agenda. Assuming you have real proof, and not third hand accounts that allege malfeasance, then the matter should go to a group of editors for the journal in question to decide if the publication violated their ethical standards and for a group of administrators at the Smithsonian to investigate the matter to see if it violates their standards. That is the proper way for such things to be done and yes, posting a petition demanding the fellow be fired IS a personal attack on the man.

    2. This matter should absolutely be taken up by the editors of the journal, as well as the administrators at Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. That is exactly what I have suggested I am glad you agree with me.

  8. Greg,

    You are trying to make the argument that criticizing or asking for action about a specific unethical behavior (failure to disclose) is “an attack on an individual scientist”

    Funny. When we criticized Michael Mann—an individual “scientist”—for the specific unethical behavior of refusal to disclose enabling details of the procedure behind the most famous result in recent climate science, he wrote a whole book whining about it. He even coined an impeccably victimly-correct (if militarily-illiterate) pop-ecological metaphor as a name for the “tactic,” which has since slipped my mind.

    in the same way as noted in the Serengeti strategy.

    Ah, that’s it. Except for the military illiteracy of course. It’s an (imaginary) tactic, not an (imaginary) strategy. Close enough for government work I guess.

    1. Michael man never carried out an unethical behavior. The criticism was part of a strategy to discredit mainstream science. It may be difficult to comprehend out the outset that the criticism was invalid to someone looking at third hand rhetoric but anyone looking at it first hand easily saw it was simply an application, as described and discussed ad nauseous (though this may never sink in through the thicker heads) part of a strategy to use false accusations and absurd ad hom attacks on a prominent member of the field for the purpose of attacking valid, consensus science.

      So, no, you have completely misunderstood everything.

    2. The criticism was part of a strategy to discredit mainstream science.

      Every single person I’ve met in the climate debate is a big fan of mainstream science and not one of them would ever have reason to concoct such an incoherent scheme to discredit it.

      I say “incoherent” because discrediting Mann does not, would never, and could not possibly have discredited mainstream science. Not even a little.

      So I wonder if you have 1 iota of evidence that any such “strategy” ever entered any human being’s head, or that it played any rôle in motivating criticism of Dr Mann.

      (I only “wonder” rhetorically, you understand.)

      FYI, asserting such a conspiracy theory as a fact without an iota of evidence is not what we in the science world would describe as “scientific.”

  9. Paul, I did not call for someone to be fired. I posted about a petition that does so.

    So you yourself didn’t sign the petition calling for someone to be fired, Greg.

    Good to know.

    (You know, the petition you’re directing your readers to so that they can sign it. Even though you didn’t. Which is good to know.)

    1. I din’t say that I didn’t sign it. I also didn’t direct people to sign it. I provided a link for those who might want to, and that is how I put it.

  10. > note that I did not suggest signing it, I suggested looking at it.

    Come on, Greg. You promote the petition. Your title contains a question that presumes the petition will get signed. You have not disapproved the peitition. Now you’re invoking plausible debiability. This is dog whistling.

    Please own your schtick.

    1. I’ve not disapproved of it. It may be a good idea. Right now they have over 10,000 signatures. Most likely that administrators in charge would ignore it, but at some point I can imagine a conversation between a Dean and Soon, where the dean says, “Willie, my boy, over 10,000 people have signed a petition to have you fired over this. You need to straighten up.” I’m truly undecided if a petition like this, in general, is a good idea, and I do not think that the ultimate cost must be paid (in this case being fired) for every transgression. But I also see a petition like this as a potential tool of use.

      What you need to do, Willard, and this applies to Brad and the rest of you, is this. Instead of pretending to be morons, with your selective ignorance of the science, selective recognition of ethics, your pretend really bad reading abilities, and your faux indignation, you need to consider the possibility that life is complex, science is real, and true, honest, conversations don’t work the way you do; your communication is not engagement, it is harassment.

      But not here. Go somewhere else to do that.

    2. Much personal insulting and dodging responsibility here directed at your detractors. “r selective ignorance of the science” “selective recognition of ethics” “really bad reading abilities” “faux indignation” “your communication is not engagement, it is harassment” Wow I hope you don’t actually try to do any science and restrict yourself to writing blogs. Conversation is done here.

    3. Natalie, it is interesting that you have a problem with the “selective reading” response because that is something you have appeared to have done yourself!

  11. Smithsonian Statement on Climate Change

    “Rapid and long-lasting climate change is a topic of growing concern as the world looks to the future. Scientists, engineers and planners are seeking to understand the impact of new climate patterns, working to prepare our cities against the perils of rising storms and anticipating threats to our food, water supplies and national security. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities. A pressing need exists for information that will improve our understanding of climate trends, determine the causes of the changes that are occurring and decrease the risks posed to humans and nature.

    Climate change is not new to the Smithsonian—our scholars have investigated the effects of climate change on natural systems for more than 160 years. We look at processes that occurred millions of years ago alongside developments taking place in today’s climate system.

    The Smithsonian responds to climate change in four ways: by increasing knowledge of the human and natural environment through research; by making our findings available to the public; by protecting the Institution’s core asset, the national collections; and by operating our facilities and programs in a sustainable manner.

    Research underlies all that we do. Scholars use the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collection of more than 138 million objects and specimens, together with our global network of marine and terrestrial monitoring stations, to examine climate change through multiple lenses. Smithsonian research scientists use satellite- and place-based sensors to study the changing composition of air, water and soil. They study climate history at geological and archaeological field sites around the world. Finally, they excel at baseline studies carried out over decades, which are recognized as essential to tracking the long-term effects of climate change.

    The 500 Smithsonian scientists working around the world see the impact of a warming planet each day in the course of their diverse studies. A sample of our investigations includes anthropologists learning from the Native people of Alaska, who see warming as a threat to their 4,000-year-old culture; marine biologists tracking the impacts of climate change on delicate corals in tropical waters; and coastal ecologists investigating the many ways climate change is affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

    The dissemination of knowledge gained through research is a public responsibility of the Smithsonian. Our scientists continually communicate with the scholarly community through publications and academic interactions. At the same time, the Smithsonian’s unique combination of museums and interconnected array of traveling exhibitions, publications, media and Web-based tools provide platforms to reach hundreds of millions of people each year across the world. Our goal is to explain in clear and objective terms the causes and effects of climate change as documented in our research and the research of our colleagues.

    The Smithsonian has assembled collections of scientific specimens unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. These collections provide invaluable documentation of cultures and global biodiversity for scientists, scholars and the public. Extreme weather, rising sea levels and storm surges pose significant threats to the museums and research centers that house these collections, many of them located on low-lying land. Our charge is to protect, now and far into the future, this irreplaceable resource from the impacts of climate change and other hazards.

    We are always striving to operate in ways that minimize the Smithsonian’s environmental footprint, meeting Institutional goals to decrease the use of potable water and fossil fuels, reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and increase use of renewable energy. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is set to be the “greenest” Smithsonian museum yet, designed to achieve a LEED Gold rating, and the new Mathias Laboratory building at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification.

    The Smithsonian will continue, as it has for more than a century and a half, to produce basic scientific information about climate change and to explore the cultural and historical significance of these changes. The urgency of climate change requires that we boost and expand our efforts to increase public knowledge and that we inspire others through education and by example. We live in what has come to be called the Anthropocene, or “The Age of Humans.” The Smithsonian is committed to helping our society make the wise choices needed to ensure that future generations inherit a diverse world that sustains our natural environments and our cultures for centuries to come.”

  12. Greg – who decides when a disclosure of a research funding would be appropriate? Would it be appropriate for you to disclose the sources of your funding?

    1. Several things including source of funding and other possible conflicts of interest are normally disclosed as part of the publication of the research in a peer reviewed journal. If you look at some peer reviewed journals you’ll see this. It is a practice that has become common in recent years so older papers won’t have it.

      Nobody decides. This is standard operating procedure. It is appropriate for funding sources, etc., to be disclosed at that time, and that applies to everyone.

  13. Any reason you changed the title of the blog? Assuming it’s because you now wish to pretend that you weren’t calling for him to be fired?

    1. Richard, there are two things you need to know. First, and this went right over your head, is the play on words. I’m not going to try to describe it to you because that is the kind of thing you either get or do not get. Try reading the name of the blog and the slug slowly, maybe out loud. Second, I never changed the title of the post. You din’t know this, but slugs and post titles are actually independent entities. A lot of blogging platforms will give you a slug automatically if you don’t create one, but it is a good practice to create one. Now that you know that, and you’re welcome, you can pull your head out of that particular conspiracy theory!!!!

      By the way, I totally think he should be fired. He shouldn’t have been hired. He’s a crappy researcher and an embarrassment. But that has nothing to do with the apparent ethical violation. For that, you don’t fire people.

  14. I don’t think Soon’s ties to the fossil fuel folks has been any sort of secret, although that doesn’t excuse violating whatever rules his institution has on that topic. And anyone who has followed his work knows what his slant is. All his work is on Poptech’s list, which speaks volumes.

    1. No, it certainly is no secret! But apparently he failed to disclose, which is also no longer a secret…

    2. “apparently”! But you have adduced no evidence. Dear God, you’re questioning his ethics?

  15. By your own standards any scientist that receive funding from an organization that supports their findings should be fired.

    Can you point out where the authors are wrong in their analyses if not maybe you are the one who is wrong.

    1. Sylvain, these are not my standards, they are the standards of scientific publishing. And the standard is that you can’t be funded by a particular organization or interest. The standard is that you have to disclose your funding sources (and other things) when you publish, as per a journal’s rules and procedure. For the particular paper in question, there has been solid criticism of it, but that is not the point here. Please do go back and read the blog post (and the petition if you like) so you understand the situation. Thank you for your comment.

      A couple of comments on Soon’s paper:

  16. Greg Laden, 2.15: “By the way, I totally think he should be fired.” Greg Laden, 8.11: “I don’t think he should be fired.” Nice.

    1. Michael, I know this is hard and makes your brain hurt, and it is possible that I could have traveled forward into a time machine to figure out how a comment on a blog post might be later contextualized … but I have in fact made myself clear to anyone who wants to rub more than two brain cells together!

    2. So which of your statements is wrong?
      The 2:15 or the 8:11?

      Enquiring minds want to know.

    3. They are both correct. I don’t think he should be fired for this breach of ethics. I don’t think Soon should be working at a legitimate research institution.

      Funny that you use the word “mind” as if your question involved even a modicum of perception or thinking about the problem. 🙂

    4. ” I don’t think Soon should be working at a legitimate research institution.”

      So, we have it on record: you want a scientist fired just because you don’t like some of the (perfectly legit) companies who funded some of his research.
      That’s not the way science or freedom of speech works Greg. If you don’t like the science that Willie Soon is putting out there, produce some science to contest it. Don’t just start whining about “evil Big Oil”.

      BTW I’ve taken a screenshot of this admission of yours so you can’t delete it and claim you never irrationally demanded Willie Soon should be fired. I’ll be posting the screenshot on a new blog I’ll be setting up soon that will put on record some of the hysterical comments made by alarmists so that we can have a good laugh about them in the future when the predicted catastrophe fails to happen. I’ll post the link to the blog here soon for your delectation…


      David. Listen carefully. What I am about to tell you you should already know had you been paying attention. Likely you already do know but you are bing willfully ignorant, which is a form of dishonesty.

      I don’t think a hack and industry shill like Soon should be working at any institution of higher learning. I have said that now several times. You may think that somehow I’m violating Soon’s rights, but I am not. I am freely expressing my opinion, and I think a lot of other people would think my opinion has merit. We shall see over time if the Harvard Smithsonian CA agrees.

      In addition to that I don’t think someone should automatically get fired for the sort of ethical violation Soon pretty clearly (though still, technically, allegedly). If it happens several times, perhaps, but that is not how the administration of an institution of higher ed would normally do it. In this sense the petition is flawed.

      Having said that, who care’s if the petition is flawed. It should have called for an investigation, probably, but it really matters very little because this petition only has one use; to see if there is a lot of support for some concern. As it currently stands, over 22,000 people have signed a petition asking for Soon to be fired. I am sure a lot of people did not sign it because they though it was worded wrong and decided to let the perfect become the enemy of the good enough. For me, since the petition is only an outcry and nothing more, I am not too concerned that it is imperfect.

      I know this is a lot to absorb, David, but if you focus and read it a few times you can do it, I know you can do it!

      Thank you for your comments.

      Your other comments may be too obnoxious to post, I’ll see. Cant’ get to that for a few minutes, though.

    6. “So which of your statements is wrong?
      The 2:15 or the 8:11?

      Enquiring minds want to know.”

      Why is the simple concept that Soon should be fired for being ” a crappy researcher and an embarrassment” but Soon should not be fire incompetent but not “for his apparent violation of ethics” beyond the mental capabilities of deniers?

      Of course, if we turn it around and observe that those who lack such basic mental capabilities tend to be deniers, we have the answer.

    7. Argh … where’s the edit button? Make that:

      Why is the simple concept that Soon should be fired for being ” a crappy researcher and an embarrassment” but Soon should not be fired “for his apparent violation of ethics” beyond the mental capabilities of deniers?

  17. Greg, so if I undertand you right Soon has been disclosing his funding in the past but didn’t do so for this joint paper. I can only conclude that for the time he spend on preparing this particular paper he did not receive any funding. What is wrong abbout that? Or do you suggest that he should until the end of his career mention that he received money from industries for work he did or published in the past ? Why assume he has been dishonest if you have no insight in his personal agenda? And with “agenda” I mean the real one, the one that deals with time schedules. appointments etc.

    1. Chris, I suggest that if he has received 100% of his funding from these sources …. and I believe he is on soft money so that would mean 100% of his paycheck … and published the paper as a member of the HSCA staff … meaning that he worked on it as part of his day to day job … and that funding funded this research. It is extraordinarily unlikely that he wrote the paper without that funding. So, what is called for is that the center investigate to see if he has done this wrong, and if so, proper action, whatever that might be.

    2. You “suggest” and you “believe” but is that enough ground to sign a petition that her be fired? Why not a petition that he be investigated first?

  18. The petition is silly and not silly at the same time:

    1. silly – not disclosing interests in a single paper is not a sacking offense. In an ethical/competent world the journal/publisher would address this particular issue and consider whether (a) a retraction, (b) a correction or (c) no action, is appropriate. One might say that the journal shouldn’t have published the paper since it’s junk, but that’s another matter [see (2.)], and it may be that the journal and its editors are perfectly happy publishing junk – we’ll see.

    2. not silly – there are a whole bunch of real issues here. Unfortunately there seems to be a tiny group of “scientists” in research institutions (US to the fore, but not exclusively) that consider that their political views outweigh standard notions of scientific research integrity. How does the institution address this in any particular case? It seems that in general they ignore this unless the scientist does something illegal or breaks the institutional rules to the extent that sacking is legally justified (the Salby case for example). I expect that in reality they don’t ignore it, and no doubt there is quite a bit of discussion of scientifically-dubious employees amongst institutional hierarchies; but ideas of “research freedom” seem to be a get-out for not making more explicit public comments/actions.

    The other issue is that of the publication of junk science within the explosion of junk pay-per-publish journals. This doesn’t really affect science as such since this stuff is eminently ignorable – however it does (amongst other crappy things) allow political view masquerading as science to find an outlet in the “scientific literature”.

    I guess the non-silly value of the petition is that it will make a tiny contribution to bringing these issues to prominance. Perhaps it will encourage research institutions and their staff and even students, to be a little more outspoken about academic staff that may be attempting to misrepresent science in support of political/commercial interest.

    1. Chris, I basically agree. It is also probably worth considering the nature of Soon’s position. I have no idea what the deal is there. I don’t believe HSCA has tenured professors, though there are certainly Harvard professors affiliated. Is he a glorified post doc? A senior scientist with an at will arrangement? A contract? Or is there in fact some kind of tenure system. These all matter to how an institution would address having a person on board who has become a major embarrassment (has he did years ago) who is suddenly caught (if it turns out this way) doing something actionable.

  19. http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/11/05/harvard-smithsonian-global-warming-skeptic-helps-feed-strategy-doubt-gridlock-congress/uHssYO1anoWSiLw0v1YcUJ/story.html

    “Soon said he is required by the center to recite a disclaimer – saying his views are his own, and not that of Harvard-Smithsonian — each time he speaks or writes on anything outside his expertise in solar radiation.”

    From the MSLB paper:

    “W. W.-H. Soon
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge,
    MA 02138, USA”


    “Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.”

    So, I’m a wee bit curious if the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics cares at all that Willie used their institution’s good name sans any form of a disclaimer with respect to said institution?

    Just, you know, askin’

    1. Everett, where one’s views are from, or what entity one represents when expressing views, is entirely different from where one’s funding comes. So, thank’s for askin’, but you are barking up the wrong tree!

    2. From the same link:

      “In 2011, for health reasons he declined to disclose, he went from full-time to part-time status. Although Soon initially agreed to an interview, the observatory declined to permit it to take place on its campus.”

      So if Soon is still part time (whatever that means) he obviously had time outside of his official work to do this effort.

      Also, you will have to do a complete review of all of Soon’s peer reviewed publications (or all published literature with his name on them). The point being, that if Soon has never issued a “funded by fossil fuels” disclaimer before, then it stands to reason that you need to either: (1) go after all of Soon’s works where similar disclaimers were not made or (2) lay off the disclaimer accusation altogether. Because, quite simply, you (or anyone) don’t get to make up the rules, after the fact.

      (OT, but what the heck) Oh, and I still waiting over at Sou’s about about your glaciers ‘theory’ causing the Alberta oil tar sands, please do show up over there and please explain yourself. TIA

  20. When did Willie last use the Harvard-Smithsonian Center as his return address as a oerrresponding author ?

    Is he or is he not a paid employee, or just one of a thousand former researchers there , some with, and many without real or courtesy titles or FAS appointments ?

    And what ever happened to Sally Baliunas?

    1. Soon is there now, and used HS as his affiliation on that paper. I don’t now the current situation with Baliunas.

    2. Her last Google Scholar references stop in 2010.

      Stoat found a link that suggest that SB is now retired:


      “(Retired) Astrophysicist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory”

      According to wikipedia she would be 62 years old on February 23rd.

      It’s kind of like, she simply disappeared.

      Someone would have to contact Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (or elsewhere at Harvard) to find out for sure.

  21. After reading through these threads, I am truly dismayed by you, Greg. Science is science. Let’s leave it at that. By your own assertions scientific research is swayed by funding. That goes for the “white hats” and “black hats”. Therefore, the only research that is not influenced by funding has to be from a neutral source.

    I really enjoy a lot of what you write, especially when it comes to evolution, but your posts on climate change are off the mark.

    1. Mark, no. The whole point of disclosure is to reduce the temptation to bias based on funding. That is why it is required. It allows other to test, in their replication or analysis of results, that there has been bias.

      If you have a specific scientific point of disagreement with something I’ve written about climate change, let’s hear it!

  22. Greg, I like the new blog format and layout but I am not sure if I am enamored with threaded comments.

    I do like the pun, though! Most of the deniers seem to have missed it.

    David Smith, Greg is not backed into a corner, and I agree with what he said. Soon is an embarassment unbecoming of the institution he represents, but a “fireable” matter violating ethics may or may not be.

  23. Co-signed. Disclosure rules were created in order to foster objectivity in the sciences. That Soon failed to disclose his funding sources, which not so coincidentally happen to be climate denialist outfits which concur with his findings, does not bode well for the objectivity of Soon’s research nor the integrity of his character. The Smithsonian should not be associated with this illicit practice.

  24. Two articles in which Naomi Klein shows the clear connection between the global warming infatuated greens and the fossil fuel industry.


    The whole affair, according to Klein, underlines a painful truth behind the “catastrophic failure” of some environmental organisations to combat the fossil-fuel industries responsible for soaring greenhouse gas emissions. “Large parts of the movement aren’t actually fighting those interests – they have merged with them,” she writes, pointing to green groups that have accepted fossil-fuel industry donations or partnerships and invited industry executives on to their boards.

    It is no coincidence, suggests Klein, that several environmental organisations have also championed climate policies that are the least burdensome to the energy industry, including generously designed carbon markets and the use of natural gas as a bridge to a cleaner energy system



    Well, I think there is a very a deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right.

    The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right on all counts. Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do lower emissions

  25. Naomi’s articles reveal the function of the corporate liberal. To stand in the middle of the road as distraction while big business raids every home in America (in this case with carbon trading)

  26. Greg, why are almost all of your commenters deniers, poor readers, poor reasoners, and intellectually dishonest? It’s weird.

  27. @deminthon : “Greg, why are almost all of your commenters deniers, poor readers, poor reasoners, and intellectually dishonest? It’s weird.”

    Denialist bat signal?

    IOW, this thread esp. has come to the attention of a bunch of Climate Reality Deniers who are focused on this issue with all the illogical passion of the pseudo-scientific and ideologically motivated crankhood.

    It could be an interesting and revealing exercise comparing the Denier commenters on this thread here with the usual “regulars” here who comment on non-Global Overheating threads or seeing what other topics and comments the Deniers here have commented on on this blog.

    1. ^ Please insert : “..and warped imperviousness to reason and evidence between “..the illogical passion .. “and “..of the pseudo-scientific, ideologically-motivated crankhood.”

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