Yesterday, Shukla and GMU got notice that they have piqued the interest of a congressional committee, and via a written notice are required to preserve documents for an impending Congressional investigation and to provide proof that all employees of IGES/COLA have been notified that they are aware they can’t destroy documents. As we follow the unraveling behind the scenes and new FOIA documentation, rumors of some aberrant behavior in the past have begun to surface from former colleagues that suggest we might be dealing with the same sort of ego induced blindness that led to the downfall of IPCC chairman Rajenda Pachauri. The combination of information WUWT is being given behind the scenes suggests to me that this episode is going to get far worse for Shukla and GMU before it gets better.
At issue is at least 63.5 million dollars from the National Science Foundation, and where it went, whether it was used for the purpose intended, and who benefited from that money. The problem at hand seems to be that there may have been more than a little “double dipping” going on with that grant money as Steve McIntyre pointed out in Shukla’s Gold:
NSF policies purportedly regulate research compensation for members of university faculties by limiting their compensation in the academic year to their university salary, while permitting them to top up their university salary in summer months, but set their compensation at the monthly rate of their university salary (the “two-ninths rule”, as follows:
611.1 Salaries and Wages
- All Grantees. All remuneration paid currently or accrued by the organization for employees working on the NSF-supported project during the grant period is allowable to the extent that:
- total compensation to individual employees is reasonable for the work performed and conforms to the established policy of the organization consistently applied to both government and non-government activities; and
- the charges for work performed directly under NSF grants and for other work allocable as indirect costs are determined and documented as provided in the applicable Federal cost principles.
- Colleges and Universities. Section J.10 of OMB Circular A-21 establishes criteria for compensation work performed on government projects by faculty members during and outside the academic year.
NSF’s policy is:
- Academic Year Salaries. To be based on the individual faculty member’s regular compensation for the continuous period which, under the policy of the institution concerned, constitutes the basis of his/her salary. Except as provided in GPM 616.2, “Intra-University Consulting,” charges to Federal grants, irrespective of the basis of computation, will not exceed the proportionate share of the base salary for that period.
- Periods Outside the Academic Year. During the summer months or other periods not included in the period for which the base salary is paid, salary is to be paid at a monthly rate not in excess of the base salary divided by the number of months in the period for which the base salary is paid. NSF policy on funding of summer salaries (known as NSF’s two-ninths rule) remains unchanged: proposal budgets submitted should not request, and NSF-approved budgets will not include, funding for an individual investigator which exceeds two-ninths of the academic year salary. This limit includes summer salary received from all NSF-funded grants.
Andrew Dessler, who, like most climate academics, has consistently denied that research funding has any impact on alarmism, summarized the above policy as follows:
Texas A&M pays 10 months of my salary to teach. The other two months of my salary are paid out of grants for doing research, but the University sets the amount I receive during those two months equal to the m$158.06onthly rate that the University pays me the other 10 months. Thus, the vast majority of my salary is completely disconnected with research.
There are many other obligations on recipients of federal research grants, many of which are summarized in the NSF Grants Manual.
George Mason University Policy
Shukla has been on the faculty of George Mason University since 1993 (1984-1992 University of Maryland) and, during that time, has obtained federal grants both in the name of George Mason University and the Institute for Global Environment and Security Inc. discussed below).
George Mason, like most universities, has a policy on conflict of interest, including a detailed policy on conflict of interest in federally funded research. Under such policies, “non-profits” are classified as “business”, a protocol that seems very apt when large salaries are withdrawn by insiders from a closely-held “non-profit”:
“Business” means a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, trust or foundation, or any other individual or entity carrying on a business or profession, whether or not for profit.
The University conflict of interest policies require comprehensive and formal disclosure of personal and family financial interests to the Office of Sponsored Programs.
This policy applies to any person who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of any research funded by a Federal agency. The responsible parties listed in this policy act as institutional officials for purposes of policy implementation, enforcement, and reporting.
Financial Conflict of interest” (FCOI) means a significant financial interest (SFI) directly and significantly affecting the design, conduct, or reporting of the federally funded research.
“Significant financial interest” means a financial interest consisting of one or more of the following interests of the investigator (and/or those of the investigator’s spouse and dependent children) that reasonably appears to be related to the investigator’s institutional responsibilities:
Investigators who apply for any federally funded research must disclose certain financial interests related to that research. Specifically, each investigator must provide a list of his or her known SFIs (and those of his or her spouse and/or dependent children) related to the investigator’s institutional responsibilities.
As a part of the university’s application for federal funds, each investigator must certify (1) that he or she has no such interests or (2) that he or she has such interests and has disclosed them through the institution’s disclosure process. The Office of Sponsored Programs maintains custody of the investigator’s certification.
So, as you can see, there are strict rules on how that money can be used. McIntyre adds commentary that suggests in addition to nepotism, there’s a quantity friends and family all feeding from these NSF grants:
Despite the various changes in grant structure, one constant (or rather steadily increasing amount) has been the several sources of compensation to Shukla and his wife.
In 2001, the earliest year thus far publicly available, in 2001, in addition to his university salary (not yet available, but presumably about $125,000), Shukla and his wife received a further $214,496 in compensation from IGES (Shukla -$128,796; Anne Shukla – $85,700). Their combined compensation from IGES doubled over the next two years to approximately $400,000 (additional to Shukla’s university salary of say $130,000), for combined compensation of about $530,000 by 2004.
Shukla’s university salary increased dramatically over the decade reaching $250,866 by 2013 and $314,000 by 2014. (In this latter year, Shukla was paid much more than Ed Wegman, a George Mason professor of similar seniority). Meanwhile, despite the apparent transition of IGES to George Mason, the income of the Shuklas from IGES continued to increase, reaching $547,000 by 2013. Combined with Shukla’s university salary, the total compensation of Shukla and his wife exceeded $800,000 in both 2013 and 2014. In addition, as noted above, Shukla’s daughter continued to be employed by IGES in 2014; IGES also distributed $100,000 from its climate grant revenue to support an educational charity in India which Shukla had founded.
There is a surprising link between the George Mason department and one of my earliest adversaries at NSF, David Verardo, Mann’s handler at NSF, who told him in 2003 that he didn’t have to provide data to me – that Mann was entitled to his view of climate and I was entitled to mine. Verardo’s wife, Stacey Verardo, is a colleague of Shukla, Kinter, Klinger and the others in the AOES department at George Mason, while Verardo himself is a member of the Adjunct Faculty at George Mason.
The most important point about all this?
There’s apparently an $800,000 annual salary and an organization full of Shukla family members that has produced next to no results for the millions received. Even NSF on their own web page acknowledges that only one paper has been produced out of a 4.2 million dollar grant.
Just think of what climate skeptics could do with money like that if we actually got it rather than the purported proverbial “big oil check” we are so often accused of getting?
In addition to the Federal law related to NSF grants, the other real teeth of the matter here is the law governing state employees: state employees may not be compensated by another employer for work that falls under their state employee remit. In this case that would include scientific research by a Professor (a state employee) i.e. Shukla himself.
It seems this went overlooked by GMU for awhile, but there are indications that somebody might have seen the looming problem that threatened to derail the gravy train, and made some changes.
From what can be ascertained at this point, prior to 2013, all the NSF grants flowed through Shukla’s IGES organization to the subsidiary organization COLA. Now, the NSF grants apparently bypass IGES and go directly to GMU and COLA.
WUWT commenter “lokenbr” noted yesterday:
It’s almost as if someone recognized the inappropriate nature of the previous arrangement and shut it down.
Though given the Schedule A filed in May 2015 along with a statement of financial interests by COLA director James Kinter it seems like they are still one and the same entity:
Source: Kinter, James – SOEI – 2015 (PDF)
Former Virginia State Climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels quipped on WUWT yesterday: (bold mine)
It would appear that there’s about $31.5 million in overhead (1/2 of 63 million) that should have gone to GMU, but the grants were run through the consulting company, in clear violation of the rules for state employees. This is money that the taxpayers of Virginia had to pony up instead.
IGES’ Form 990 shows Shukla worked 28 hours per week for it. That can only happen if the Dean approves an overage beyond the eight hours allowed.
GMU’s faculty Dean had to know about the magnitude of the money flowing through IGES and into the Shukla family.
GMU’s Provost had to know this, because no Dean would permit that all that overhead to not go to the university on his or her own.
Perhaps the President knew.
NSF had to know this.
NOAA had to know this.
NASA had to know this.
Apparently each one of these entities felt they were above the law. You may be looking at the largest science scandal in US history.
Note: initial publication of this post was missing an image and quote from Pat Michaels due to operator error of the Publish/Save button. The missing elements were added within a couple of minutes. Some spelling and formatting corrections and a link to Kinter’s SOEI have also been added.