By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, David Legates and Matt Briggs
The three of us are Willie Soon’s friends and colleagues. With him we co-authored the paper Why models run hot (scibull.com, January 2015). We are asking all friends and supporters of Willie to come to his aid by agreeing to sign the following letter to the Regents of the Smithsonian, which has employed him for 25 years.
The letter covers a report by us to the Regents giving the findings of our investigation into the allegations against Willie that the Smithsonian, echoing various political advocacy groups, had widely and improperly circulated. Our investigation concludes that the Smithsonian is gravely at fault on numerous grounds, and that Willie is blameless. Our letter invites the Regents to ensure that the Smithsonian investigates the wrongdoing by the Smithsonian and its senior officials identified in our report, and, when they have confirmed that our report is in substance correct, to see to it that the Smithsonian issues a public apology to Willie, pays him just and full restitution, and meets his legal costs.
If you are willing to support Willie by signing the letter, please send an email with your full name and your academic qualifications to monckton[-at-]mail.com. Your name and qualifications will be added to the list of signatures, which is led by Professor Nils-Axel Mörner, the distinguished international expert on sea level rise, who has written more than 600 papers in his half century of studying sea level.
The letter and the findings of our report follow. Anyone who would like the full report, which includes the evidence in support of our findings, should email me. Thank you, in advance, for your help. We are determined to get fair play for Willie, who has been outrageously treated. Your support for him will help to bring the Smithsonian to its senses and lead it to realize that it must now apologize and make amends to him.
[Name and address of Smithsonian Regent]
Dear [Name of Regent],
Recent misconduct by senior managers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
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.
Monckton of Brenchley; Professor David Legates; Dr Matt Briggs
for themselves as Dr Soon’s co-authors and for the signatories listed hereunder
Attached: 2-3 Findings by Lord Monckton, Professor David Legates and Dr Matt Briggs
4-17 Evidence in support of findings
18 List of signatories, led by Professor Nils-Axel Mörner
Misconduct by the Smithsonian
A report to the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
AS the three co-authors with Dr Willie Soon of Why models run hot, a January 2015 climate paper in the Chinese Academy’s Science Bulletin whose publication led to the wide circulation of allegations that he had not disclosed a source of his research funding, we have investigated the allegations. Our findings are:
For 25 years Dr Wei-Hock Soon, an award-winning solar physicist of international standing expert in the Sun’s modulation of terrestrial climate, has been a tenured but unsalaried employee of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, affiliated to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The Smithsonian Trust Fund pays him out of money received from donors he has approached. He reports each proposed grant to the Observatory, which is then solely responsible for negotiating and signing a funding contract with the donor, receiving the funds, retaining 30% for overhead, and paying for his research out of the balance.
In 2008 the Observatory negotiated such a contract with Southern Company. The contract included a term binding the Smithsonian and, therefore, Dr Soon as its employee not to publish the donor’s identity. The Smithsonian should not have agreed to that term, but, having agreed to it, should have honoured it. Instead, it acted in breach of contract, of the Stored Communications Act and of its obligations to Dr Soon by disclosing the funders’ identity. Dr Soon, in making no disclosure, honored the contract as the law requires.
Late in 2009 a political advocacy group made an FOIA request to the Smithsonian for details of Dr Soon’s funders. Dr Soon twice wrote to the general counsel’s office to say FOIA did not bind the Smithsonian and that disclosure would breach the Smithsonian’s obligation of commercial confidentiality and its policy on FOIA compliance, and advocacy groups would exploit it to prejudice his academic freedom. Nevertheless, the Smithsonian’s general counsel shut off Dr Soon’s computer access and appropriated copies of his files, whereupon the Smithsonian made the disclosure, which, as he had predicted, the advocacy group swiftly and ruthlessly exploited to his disadvantage and to that of the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian’s disclosure was intended to put Dr Soon’s funding at risk, and has now done so. It is now reported that later this year Southern Company will not renew its long-standing contract with the Smithsonian to fund his research.
In January 2015 a political advocacy group, inferentially to divert attention from our paper’s conclusions, widely circulated in the international news media an allegation that fossil-fuel interests had funded Dr Soon’s research for our paper but he had not disclosed his “conflict of interest” to the Science Bulletin. The editor consulted the lead author, who explained we had done the research in our own time and on our own dime. The group, on realizing no one had funded our paper, widely circulated allegations that in 11 earlier papers published since 2008 Dr Soon had not disclosed Southern Company’s funding. The group did not challenge his scientific conclusions in se. Southern Company did not directly or indirectly influence him or require or expect him to alter the content of any of his papers or to reflect any particular scientific viewpoint. Nor, given the subject-matter of each of the 11 papers, could any conceivable conflict of interest on his part be legitimately imagined to have arisen from Southern Company’s funding of his research.
In response to the recent publicity, the Smithsonian and its senior management engaged in a willful and apparently co-ordinated campaign of false statements and implications intended to damage Dr Soon:
February 21: Ms Christine Pulliam, a Smithsonian press officer, told The Guardian that Dr Soon had “failed to meet the disclosure requirements of some of the journals that published his research”. She added: “Soon should have followed those policies.” Yet the Smithsonian’s contract term forbade him to do so.
February 22: The Smithsonian issued a press release announcing that it would stage an investigation into what the release described as Dr Soon’s “failure to disclose” his funding, Yet the Smithsonian knew he had merely acted in compliance with the non-disclosure obligation they, not he, had negotiated.
February 22: The press statement by the Smithsonian falsely claimed that the Smithsonian does “not fund Dr Soon”. True, the Smithsonian does not pay him a salary, and he is responsible for attracting research funds, but it is the Smithsonian Trust Fund that receives donors’ grants and pays him from the Trust Fund.
February 22: The Smithsonian’s statement said Dr Soon is merely a “part-time researcher”, when his appointment is full-time but he has been ill ever since – and at least in part owing to – the original disclosure by the Smithsonian of the confidential details of his funding.
February 22: The Smithsonian’s statement falsely implied that Dr Soon does not think we are a cause of climate change. Yet Why models run hot is irrefutable evidence that he accepts we are a cause of it.
February 25: The Observatory’s director, Dr Charles Alcock, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that Dr Soon should not have described his affiliation as “Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics” and that he “holds no Harvard appointment”, falsely implying he had inflated his affiliation. Dr Alcock added that, legally speaking, the Center has no existence. Yet he is its director. Its name is mentioned in funding proposals it sent to Southern Company. If it has no legal existence, the Observatory’s use of its name in funding proposals was dishonest. A previous director had issued a standing instruction, not since rescinded, that the affiliation was to be stated as “Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics”. In every paper for 25 years Dr Soon had complied, without objection from the Smithsonian. Dr Alcock was wrong to criticize him on this ground, wrong to imply he was falsely claiming “a Harvard appointment”, and wrong in terms of Smithsonian policy not to pass to general counsel our FOIA request for the Center’s founding documents.
February 25: Dr Kress, the Smithsonian’s interim under-secretary for science, made a public statement that Dr Soon’s research “was not of the highest quality”. Yet the Smithsonian had given Dr Soon an award in in 2003 for the high quality of his research. Dr Kress, a botanist unqualified to assess the value of research in solar physics, was wrong thus to cast aspersions, particularly at a time when his colleague was under fire.
These many falsehoods and false implications, within days of each other, were intended to reinforce each other, to cause severe financial loss to Dr Soon and to compound the damage the Smithsonian had already done to his health, reputation, livelihood and career as a solar physicist. The inexplicable and continuing refusal by the Smithsonian to correct the record, despite Dr Soon’s requests and ours that it should do so, further aggravates the damage to him and evidences the Smithsonian’s intent to cause him loss and damage.
Dr Soon is manifestly blameless. He has acted at all times correctly, in compliance with the policies of the Smithsonian and with the terms – however repugnant – of his donor’s funding contract with his employer. Dr Soon declared his sources of funding all his published papers that were not funded by the Smithsonian, being under no contractual obligation not to disclose the funders’ identity. It was only in the 11 papers to whose funding Southern Company had contributed that he did not disclose the funders’ identity, for – through the Smithsonian’s fault and not his – he was bound in law not to disclose it.
Yet the Smithsonian and its personnel acted incorrectly in agreeing to the confidentiality clause, in failing to honor it once they had agreed it, in failing to follow its own FOIA policies, in failing to come to the aid of a long-standing and award-winning colleague suffering because he had complied with a contract term to which they had improperly consented, in conducting a campaign of coordinated and false allegations and implications intended to damage him, in failing to correct the record when asked, and in failing to respond to our legitimate FOI request for copies of the Center for Astrophysics’ founding documents.
We are asking the Inspector-General of the Smithsonian and the Attorney-General of Massachusetts to investigate the Smithsonian’s misconduct. When they have confirmed our findings, the Smithsonian must apologize to Dr Soon and make just and full restitution to him for the loss and damage it has caused.
Viscount Monckton of Brenchley: email@example.com: +44 7814 556423
Professor David Legates
Dr Matt Briggs
NOTE: I add my name to this letter, signed, Anthony Watts