Two Things I Don’t Understand About the Soon Scandal

So the NY Times yesterday reported that a prominent climate change denialist, Dr. Willie Soon, who is associated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has received $1.2 million from various climate change denial groups from 2003 to 2015. As best as I can tell, Soon is completely soft money–which means that he has to bring in his own salary. What this means is that there’s a lot more digging to be done here.


First, while $1.2 million sounds like a lot, spread out over twelve years, that’s $100,000 per year–and some of that money would go to the HSCA (in my experience in the non-profit world, overheads in this kind of situation are somewhere between 20 – 40% of the total haul). So while it’s not a bad living, he’s hardly getting rich or even upper-middle class from it. I’m guessing there are some very lucrative ‘conference speaking fees’ he’s receiving that top things off–being associated with the Smithsonian would definitely raise his dollar value as a speaker. There’s probably more money sloshing around here.

Second, what the hell was the Smithsonian thinking? Again, this isn’t very much money per year–tarnishing your reputation for this little money just isn’t worth it. I wonder if his denialist ties helped him in that the Smithsonian was afraid to let him go as it would be seen by the right as politically motivated. At best, the Smithsonian got greedy–and in a Spiro Agnew sort of way. At worst, this is a real failure of scientific oversight.

Lots of questions. Keep digging.

Also worth noting that this puts concerns over p-values in perspective…

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2 Responses to Two Things I Don’t Understand About the Soon Scandal

  1. realthog says:

    This stuff about Soon has been known for years; I was writing about it in 2011, and I was far from the first. Why is everyone acting so surprised about it?

  2. Pingback: Lexington Libertarian | Democrats Subpoena Personal Records Of Scientists Who Disagree With Global Warming

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