A PROMINENT and influential French physicist who had voiced support for a climate change sceptic fired from his Australian university has withdrawn a threat to report the case to a prestigious international science council.
Dr Marie-Lise Chanin had previously told The Australian newspaper that she was “scandalised” by the sacking of former Macquarie University professor Dr Murry Salby, who claimed he was fired from his job because he was a climate change sceptic.
In a page three report on July 24, The Australian newspaper reported that Dr Chanin intended to refer Dr Salby's case to a key committee at the International Council for Science (ICSU) - the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science.
But now it appears Dr Chanin had been canvassed for her support without being given the full facts. After a reading a DeSmogBlog report into a previously damning investigation into Dr Salby's conduct while at the University of Colorado, Dr Chanin has reconsidered her support.
The ICSU includes the world's leading scientific academies amongst its members, including Britain's Royal Society, the Australian Academy of Science and the US National Academy of Sciences. As the French representative on the ICSU, support from Dr Chanin would no doubt have been seen as something of a coup.
I contacted Dr Chanin to ask if she was aware of the long investigation into Dr Salby by the National Science Foundation in the United States, reported by DeSmogBlog, which resulted in the scientist being barred from having anything to do with the foundation's taxpayer-funded grants for three years.
The investigation, finished in February 2009 - a year after Dr Salby joined Macquarie, concluded that Dr Salby had “engaged in a long-running course of deceptive conduct involving both his University and NSF”. The investigators wrote that Dr Salby's conduct “reflects a consistent willingness to violate rules and regulations, whether federal or local, for his personal benefit”.
Dr Chanin told me, via email, that she had not been aware of the NSF case when she had communicated with The Australian newspaper and now wanted nothing more to do with the issue.
I had been made to believe that Murry Salby had been fired because of his position concerning anthropogenic greenhouse warming. Even though I disagree with his position, I did not think it was a reason to fire him, because I strongly believe in the freedom of scientists as long as they honestly state their case. Therefore, being distant of the proceedings, I feel unable to formulate any qualified opinion and obviously will not involve ICSU into that affair. I hope this ends my involvement with the issue.
Macquarie University was forced to correct a number of statements made by Dr Salby and published via an email he had written and promoted through a number of climate sceptic blogs. In a statement, Macquarie University said Dr Salby had been fired because of a “repeated refusal to teach”, for breaching university rules and for booking a flight to Europe on a university credit card via an unauthorised travel service at a time when he should have been teaching students.
Dr Salby's claims were also enthusiastically reported by a number of high-profile sceptic bloggers and commentators, who all suggested that Dr Salby had been victimised because he was a sceptic.
The Australian newspaper also ran a separate short story about Dr Chanin, lauding her credentials as a scientist. The story said that “Salby is also an outspoken critic of the government's Climate Commission, which includes two Macquarie academics”. One of those academics is Tim Flannery, Australia's Climate Commissioner, who in fact no longer works at Macquarie University.
The first report referred to Dr Salby as the “chair of Macquarie University's Climate Department” despite the fact that Macquarie University does not have a “Climate Department”.
So far The Australian newspaper has run three stories about the Dr Salby case. None of the three reports have mentioned the key National Science Foundation investigation, but seem to have relied too greatly on sceptic blogs for their information. How Dr Chanin was canvassed - and by who - is an open question.