Murry Salby: Galileo? Bozo? Or P.T.Barnum?

Read time: 14 mins
Murry Salby fired from Macquarie, had been debarred by NSF

UPDATE 03/09/16 Salby sued Macquarie U, judge ruled against him  on every complaint, similar pattern.

“They laughed at Galileo … but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown” might be appled to Murry Salby, who until May was a Professor of Environmental Science at Australia's Macquarie University (MU).  P.T. Barnum might fit better, as Salby has a well-documented history of deception and financial chicanery that got him debarred from Federal funding in the USA.

Galileo? In 2011, he proclaimed a recent rise in CO2 to be natural, not human-caused, which if true, would qualify for Galileo level.  This was received with great praise or at least taken seriously at The Sydney Institute (thinktank), Andrew Bolt in Herald Sun, JoNova, Jennifer Marohasy, WUWT (Steve Brown, Benny Peiser/GWPF, Ronald Voisin, Vincent Gray, Anthony Watts),  Bishop Hill (Andrew Montford), Climate Depot (Marc Morano), Climate Etc (Judith Curry,  who knew Salby at U Colorado), SPPI (Robert Ferguson reblogs Curry), NotrickZone (P. Gosselin), GWPF (reblogs Gosselin), The Hockey Schtick, to  name just a few.

Bozo? SkS lists “Murray Salby finds CO2 rise is natural” as #188 in the catalog of bad arguments, following this and this earlier articles.  MU Professor Colin Prentice took the time to write “How we know the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic”, but scientists rarely waste much time debunking wrong arguments. They wait until bad ideas get into credible peer-reviewed journals, beyond thinktank talks or even  poster sessions.

Fired in May, emailed ~July 8: Salby emailed a few bloggers laying out many complaints against MU, quickly published by JoNova (“Did Macquarie University sabotage, exile, blackban, strand and abandon Murry Salby?”), Watts (“Professor Murry Salby who is critical of AGW theory, is being disenfranchised, exiled, from academia in Australia”, reblogged by Tallbloke), Montford (“Climate of Fear”), Powerline (Steven Hayward, “The Climate Mafia Strikes Again…”). An article in The Australian was reblogged as Climate Chairman Left High And Dry By University by GWPF (of FOIA Facts 5) and Morano, who also wrote “the same.”   If a legal strategy, it seemed odd.

MU replied July 10, Statement regarding the termination of Professor Murry Salby.  Unlike bloggers, schools follow legal rules, so it was short, including:

'The decision to terminate Professor Murry Salby’s employment with Macquarie University had nothing to do with his views on climate change nor any other views. The University supports academic freedom of speech and freedom to pursue research interests.  Professor Salby’s employment was terminated firstly, because he did not fulfil his academic obligations, including the obligation to teach. After repeated directions to teach, this matter culminated in his refusal to undertake his teaching duties and he failed to arrive at a class he had been scheduled to take.'

On July 12, MU gave more information to deny allegations in The Australian.

Although some blog commenters counseled caution, many instantly accepted without question Salby's allegations and that this was an attack on Salby's academic freedom, done only because Salby disagreed with mainstream climate science. Anti-Macquarie cartoons appeared at WUWT (“Josh on the Salby - Macquarie affair”)  and Bishop Hill  (“Climate of smear - Josh 229”).

P.T. Barnum? Many bloggers took Salby's complaints on faith as credible. They should not have, but might have wondered about past history as I did.

Salby had been since 1988 a tenured Professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU), a fine school. He was a board member of  Denver “501(c)(3) tax-exempt” company ASA, headed by a person with whom he often coauthored papers.  He had another company and other ties to the area, but then he seemed to disappear.  ASA tax filings from 09/30/07 listed his location as “unknown” or equivalent.  Why did he leave for Australia?

He was forced to resign 01/31/08  in 2007 and by 2009 had been debarred by the National Science Foundation (NSF) from Federal funding until 08/13/12.

By 2008, he was at MU, which seems unlikely to have known of the confidential investigations under way in the USA.  While at MU, Salby sued CU twice, 11/19/08-03/18/09 in Federal court, and then 04/14/09-02/01/10 in Colorado, with little result but making Federal court records easily available.  MU and CU problems with Salby seem akin, as do Salby's behavior and complaints against both schools and NSF.  At least for CU and NSF, extensive documentation is available from the NSF and Federal court records.  Salby's email and blogospheric propagation led directly to the information revealed here.

The NSF publishes semiannual reports, although identities are obscured, but in this case are clear from later reports, which make even stronger complaints.

NSF OIG March 2009

p.34 'Former Professor’s Involvement in Outside Companies Questioned:
An OIG investigation into an allegation that a former professor (Salby) at a Colorado university submitted a proposal to NSF that overlapped with an undisclosed proposal from an external non-profit research company (ASA)  founded by the subject, resulted in a recommendation of debarment. The university and our office both conducted investigations into improper award management and conflicts of interests. NSF had concurrent awards to the subject at the university and the first company, but more recently only to the company.

Our investigation revealed that the subject, consistently and over a period of many years, violated or disregarded various federal and NSF award administration requirements, violated university policies related to conflicts and outside compensation, and repeatedly misled both NSF and the university as to material facts about his outside companies and other matters relating to NSF awards. After many years of operation of the first company, the subject created a second, for-profit company (ASMP)  that acted as a subcontractor to the first company. The subject was the sole owner and employee of the second company, which existed solely to receive grant funds from the first company and pay them to the subject as salary. The subject failed to notify NSF of the subcontracting relationship with the second company, and improperly failed to limit indirect charges for the subcontract costs to the first $25,000 as required.

The university repeatedly asked the subject to disclose all outside financial interests, and he repeatedly withheld information about the funds he re-ceived from his companies; when the university learned the truth, it severely restricted his access to its research facilities. The professor then resigned from his tenured faculty position.

When we asked him to supply supporting documentation for the salary payments, the subject provided timesheets reflecting highly implausible work hours—for example, the subject claimed effort averaging nearly 14 hours a day for 98 continuous days between May and August 2002 (including weekends and holidays), and in other instances claimed to have devoted as much as 21 hours per day to the project. We recommended that NSF debar the subject for five years, and NSF’s decision is pending.'

NSF OIG March 2010

p.27 'NSF Acts on Debarment Recommendations. …
NSF debarred each of the following individuals for three years: …
A former professor who violated or disregarded various federal award administration requirements, violated university policies regarding conflicts of interests and outside compensation, and repeatedly misled both NSF and university investigations into the matter.9 (9 March 2009 Semiannual Report, p. 34.)'

The 31-page NSF final report 02/20/09* is far more explicit about the financial maneuvers and deception, with details far beyond these examples:

p.4 'The Subject's fifteen-year-long pattern of deceptive statements to his University and to NSF disguised his participation in entities and activities that existed for the purpose of maximizing his personal financial compensation and shielding the extent of his compensation from discovery or accountability.'

p.18 'The most egregious act of misconduct is the deficient and likely fraudulent** preparation of the Subject's time and effort reports for Company 2. However, the Subject's actions over a period of years displays a pattern of deception, a lack of integrity, and a persistent and intentional disregard of NSF and University rules and policies.'

p.21 'the charges based on the reports may also be an unallowable cost in the total amount of $303,281.'

p.23 'The Subject's focus on his personal financial gain conflicted with accountability and disclosure requirements, both to the University and to NSF. When these conflicts were uncovered during the investigation, the Subject's response was to continue and expand his pattern of deception and obfuscation, and to begin personal attacks on his former colleagues….(fn99) [Redacted] stated in an interview in April 2008 that the Subject blames him for the University and Federal investigation, even though the Subject directed all actions of Company 1 and Company 2, and received the financial benefits of the malfeasance.' From IRS Form 990s, [Redacted] must be Patrick F. Callaghan, Salby's long-time co-author and colleague.

Fortunately for Salby, he left the USA by 2008, else both NSF and the IRS may have wished to have further words with him.

Court Cases

Federal court documentation offers useful insight into Salby's behavior.

Federal Lawsuit, 1:08-cv-02517-RPM Salby v. University of Colorado et al

11/19/08 Cover Sheet Murry Salby (no county of residence) vs CU and Provost Phil DeStefano, under US Civil Statute 42 USC, Sec 1983, “Retaliation for exercise of First Amendment Rights.”  i.e., freedom of speech.

11/19/08 Main Complaint, 8 pages.

'Plaintiff Salby was a resident of Adams County, Colorado, who now resides in Australia. He had been a tenured professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences with defendant University of Colorado since 1997 and a tenured professor in predecessor departments since 1988. …

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter because plaintiff Salby claims that he was forced to resign in retaliation for the exercise of his first amendment rights (free speech) and that the University violated his fourth amendment rights…. (unreasonable search and seizure)

Between 1997 and 2000, Professor Salby brought grievances involving the departmental chair, Peter Webster. (Now Georgia Tech, Judith Curry's husband) …

8. From December, 2006, through August, 2007, Professor Salby was on a second sabbatical leave outside the United States. …
Address of Plaintiff Salby:
20 22 Abbott St
Sandringham, Vic 3191

Salby then lodged against CU many complaints, which might be compared to those against MU, and also to NSF's detailed report.

01/15/09 UC Moves to Dismiss, 8 pages (of legalese.)

01/16/09 UC and Provost DiStefano Answer the complaint, 5 pages.
They esentially deny all the relevant allegations.

02/25/09 Affidavit of Philip DiStefano, 6 pages.

02/25/09 Affidavit of Russell Moore,Assoc. Vice-Chancellor, Research, 18 pages.
This detailed CU's long struggle with Salby, warnings, etc. CU clearly understood its responsibilities for Federal funds, perhaps in contrast to George Mason.

02/25/09  Affidavit of Frank W. Bruno, Vice Chancellor Administration, 2 pages.
Salby does not own his CU lab space.

02/25/09 DiStefano motion for summary judgment, 19 pages.

p.14 'Attempts to communicate with Salby were impossible, and he often failed to attend his scheduled classes.'

Salby's teaching ratings were usually in bottom 15-20% for ATO 1050 (introductory course), but Fall 2007 was ATOC 3180, usually better, but unsurprisingly, not this time.  Accessiblity was rated low.

03/09/09 Salby moves to dismiss Federal claims, refile in state court, 2 pages.

03/18/09 Salby moves to avoid summary judgement, refile, 2 pages.

'Given the discovery produced by Mr. DiStefano in his summary judgment brief, Professor Salby will file a slightly different complaint in state court and the matter can be reasserted there under the new allegations.'

03/19/09 Case dismissed without prejudice, 1 page.

UPDATE 08/23/13: Salby tried in Colorado state court, whose 195-page record is now available, attached here with consistent pagination and some highlighting. 

04/14/09 pp.186-192 Salby filed against CU, DiStefano, John Does, including demands for costs, attorney's fees, punitive damages, etc.

05/13/09 pp.173-176  DiStefano rejected allegations. 

05/26/09 pp.165-169 CU rejected allegations.

06/15/09 pp.156-157 CU 10/01/07 to Salby: COI form or else action.

06/15/09 p.133 Salby 01/29/08 to CU: retire 01/31/08, claims constructive discharge, give him property and all data or federal agencies will be notified.

06/15/09 pp.103-121 DiStefano moves for summary judgement/dismissal.

06/09/09 pp.72-77 Stalby 09/28/08 letter to DiStefano, “preposterous” etc

07/09/09 pp.63-70  Salby moves to deny DiStefano motion to dismiss

07/23/09 pp.55-57 Kelly Duong describes Salby's lack of cooperation.  pp.44-48 Brian Toon (Dept Chair) explains procedures, Salby to be given unsupervised acess to sort things out.  CU and Salby's story differ.

07/23/09 pp.32-41 DiStefano repiles in support of dismissal

10/28/09 pp.27-31 Court: summary judgment for DiStefano, dismissed

11/09/09 pp.18-26 Salby moves to reconsider dismissal

11/19/09 pp.13-16 DiStefano responds in opposition to reconsider

12/10/09 pp.7-10 Salby moves to reconsider, court DENIED.

01/12/10 p.6 Court says show cause why case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute or failure to file pleadings, else case will be dismissed without prejudice and costs awarded by C.R.S. 12-16-113(1), Salby would pay defendant costs.

02/01/10 p.2 Case Closed, with no Judgment. Given the NSF report, it seems unlikely this case produced anything to Salby's liking either. After all the fuss:

'The University and Plaintiff have resolved and settled all issues between them and as part of their agreement stipulate that this lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice,  each party to bear its own fees, costs and expenses.

WHEREFORE, the parties respectfully request that this action and all claims herein be dismissed with prejudice.' 

Readers can form own opinions, but mine is: Salby wasted much time and money of CU and DiStefano.  Judges simply did not buy his complaints.  Finally, Salby was told he would pay defendants' costs if he didn't start doing something more useful, and settlement happened very quickly.  This may be compared with Murry Salby responds to the attacks on his record:

'Later after Salby left CU in 2008 to come to Australia, Colorado University withheld his computer files and work. After requests for those were also ignored, he launched a case from Australia, and won access to everything — CU paid legal costs as well.'

Salby had had been given unsupervised access to his lab in 2007, and CU did not pay his costs, just theirs, and he could not sue them again on this issue.

Salby was earlier involved in complex divorce proceedings, relevant here only because there seemed to be financial issues and possibly attempts to hide money, consistent with NSF findings:

'…for purposes that may have included concealing outside compensation from his University, or concealing income from a state court,21 or both.
(fn21) [Redacted]. See [redacted]. The court reviewed Subject's income for 1999-2002. Charges accrued by Company 2 for Subject's efforts in 2001 and 2002 were not billed to Company I until 2003.'

That case was:

10/06/05 Colorado Court of Appeals, Shoshana (Eva) A. Salby vs Murry L. Salby.

'Temporary orders were entered in November 2001 under which the parties’child was to reside primarily with mother, and father was ordered to pay family supportof $2000 per month. …In August 2002, the court entered permanent orders regarding parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibility. It designated mother as the primary residential parent, awarded father parenting time, and directed that the parties share decision-making responsibility. The marriage was dissolved in November 2002.

In January 2003, mother moved for the forthwith entry of an order continuing family support, alleging that father had stopped paying support after the decree of dissolution entered. The trial court ordered that the temporary orders be continued until entry of written permanent orders and denied father’s later motion for reconsideration. In April 2003, the court entered permanent orders on the division of marital property and all other remaining issues. Father appeals the temporary and permanent orders entered by the court. …

The court found that there had not been full disclosure by either party, and that based on the totality of the evidence regarding the value of the property, enforcement of the agreement would result in mother receiving assets valued at $123,000, while father retained over $1 million in total property, including $700,000 in marital property. The court refused to enforce the agreement, finding that father’s actions were inconsistent with his obligation to deal fairly with mother, and that enforcement of the agreement would not result in a fair, just, or reasonable division of property between the parties.(much detaill, but later rulings (as on financial settlments) are not public)

Salby apparently rejected this result, as he later sued the state of Colorado:

Federal Lawsuit, 1:07-cv-00225-LTB-MJW Salby v. State of Colorado

01/03/07 Cover sheet, Fourth, Fifth & Fourteenth Amendments,
Denial of Plaintiff's Consitutional Rights, $275K damages sought

01/03/07 Complaint, by Murry Salby, 10698 Hobbit Lane,Westminster, CO, 11 pages. Salby made many statements and complaints about the Mother, expressed concerns for the child.

05/01/07 Judge recommends dismissal, 5 pages, mostly comments like:

'Nevertheless, the plaintiff failed to appear, did not move for a continuanceof the conference, and did not even telephone the court at the time set for the

05/29/07 Case dismissed, some administrivia continued through 01/22/08.

01/10/11 Federal Lawsuit, 1:11-cv-00068 Alon Salby v. State of Colorado


According to Salby, Colorado, CU, NSF, MU and various other individuals have treated him unfairly and illegaly, were wrong to do so, so he sued often, but lost.

People might compare the NSF OIG report on Salby to other OIG examples and decide whether or not he got off lightly, compared to USA residents.

Galileo: NO. Salby is not Galileo.

Bozo: NO. Salby is a climate scientist, has written a textbook thought reasonable.

P.T.Barnum: YES. Salby has a well-documented history of financial chicanery, deception and unwillingness to listen to warnings. If he was increasingly unable to produce much good science, perhaps he moved to anti-science to retain attention, get (paid?) speaking engagements at thinktanks, as per FIN3, PSY3 in reasons.

Bozos: YES, many. Some people apparently accept anything that agrees with their views, without ever bothering to do even minimal credibilty checks.

* H/T to Graham Readfearn for finding the NSF Final Report, which must have been FOIAed sometime before, as such are not otherwise made public.  See also Graham's story.  H/T to Paul W for fetching the 195-pager from Denver.

** Fraudulent is not a word used lightly. People can be required to restore money, with penalties, or go to jail.  Of course, Salby was in Australia, and did not seem to return to the USA even to appear in court cases.

UPDATE 07/19/13: Added Salby blame of Callaghan, CU's comment on not showing for classes Fall 2007.

UPDATE 07/30/13: Fixed quote about teaching.

UPDATE 08/23/13: added discusison of the Colorado case

UPDATE 10/01/13: fix quoting, add quote from NSF on Colorado court case.

UPDATE 10/13/13: added 2011 Federal complaint by Salby's son against State of Colorado, unclear whose idea this was.

UPDATE: 03/19/14: NSF changed website, link to Wayback copy of 31-page report.

Image Credit: YCO / Shutterstock.

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Good job John, thoughtful questions as always.

Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers.  –>Voltaire

We try, and every investigation raises more questions, and this isn't done.

I'm more curious to know where he goes next.  Will he go on the mend, or will he go on the lecture circuit with Willy Soon?  The dude has bills to pay, and faking corporations and his ties to them will be very hard as of now.

Having looked at his history (and there is more that isn't out yet), it is really hard to tell.  There is some data:

2005 He appealed a divorce settlement, less clear, but obviously didn't like result:

2007 Sued State of Colorado for above, but basically wasn't willing to show up.

2008 He sued CU, in Federal court, they replied, he folded, asked for dismissal, so he could file:

2009 Similar suit in state court, which went a while, then nowhere.

So, what do you think? Mabye he can talk for Sydney Instiute, EIKE, GWPF, etc and make the money to hire lawyers … because according to him, he has never done anything wrong, it's been everyone else's fault.

A professor in the sciences generally does pretty well.  My guess is that his motivations were ego and money driven.  Both of which are shot to pieces.

Just looking at the denial machine financials, it doesn't look like there's much money in it unless you're a pretty important and central figure. So that's a no go.

There's no work in 'industry' for someone like this either.

He's left a digital foot print a mile wide.  You can't hide that kind of thing.

So where's he going to land?  My bet is a professorship with a much tighter leash.  He will need to be more vocal in his anti science views in order to garner more cash from the denial machine.

PS.  I don't trust people who won't admit fault.  Self deprecation goes a long ways with me.

Let's see:

0) Few people outside of climate science would have heard of him until 2011, when he started saying things akin to Gerlich-Tscheuschner or  Ferenc Miskolczi, i.e., lots of math yields “No Greenhouse” or “not caused by humans” in contradiction to vast evidence.  A few minutes with Google Schoalr would show that he's written well-cited papers, and was tenured at a school credible in this topic, so it wasn't that he was some ignorant bozo.  BUT:

1) NSF ruled long-running fraudulent and deceptive activities, 3-year debar, and from the writeup, they were not happy.

2) He lodged complaints against CU and PEter Webster ~1997-2000.  I don't know what happened with those.

3) He sued CU in Federal court, when CU replied, he folded, mvoed to state court, and that ended up going nowhere.

4) He sued state of Colorado over divorce appeal, but didn't show up or act responsively, so that got dismissed.

5) There was a 15-20 year pattern of deception, blame of others, strong complaints that cheweed up a lot of time, but generally went nowhere.

6) MU seemed willing to keep this fairly quiet, but he explicitly chose otherwise.  The real facts of the case are yet to be known, although at least some of his complaints seem contradictory or unlikely. For instance, “recruited from the US in 2008”  is a bit ambiguous and might be read with a grain of salt.  He was udner serious pressure in the US in 2006 and then 2007, spent Jan-Aug 2007 in Australia, and then started at Macquaire in (early) 2008, his house was sold by June.

7) But, this whole thing started with serious allegations for which the only support was his story, and given his recorded history, his story alone might not carrry much weight.

8) But, even if it's all true, I'd suggest that in academe, eh is effectively radioactive.  I think he managed the job at Macquarie before the NSF investigation was completed, and even if MU checked with CU, it seems unlikely they would have been told much, given the yet-unresolved investigation.  Salby hasn't bene publishing much of late, and now he is famous.

9) But, maybe one of the thinktanks will offer him a Galileo-in-residence position, although likely not resident in the US

Keep Salby's private life out of this and focus on his professional behavior.

I wouldn't, she's had a hard enough time.

The only reasons for mentioning the divorce proceedings and appeals are:

1) They show Salby filing lawsuits, with strong complants about the mother, some of which the court didn't buy.  Then, he sued state of Colorado on earlier ruling, when he was going to be in Oz, so didn't bother to show up or even cooperate.

2) There is information about finances that I don't think is in the NSF investigations, and they shed light on the timing of the creation of Company 2.  There was a lot of argument in the divorce case about whether or not consulting time counted in assessment of child support payments.  It seemed Company 2 started while in the middle of (messy) divorce proceedings, and it may have helped obscure the money.  I'm not pursuing that, and divorces are often “he-said-she-said,” so I offer no opinion beyond those of the courts, at least one of which seems to have not executed well.

3) But, the divorce records add evidence to a pattern: Salby consistently blamed the mother, the courts, the state of CO, and CU.  Maybe he was right, and everybody was just treating him badly.

4) There are other issues, yet to be resolved.

5) Finally, when someone has a contentious past, with an NSF debarment, and has made a bunch of lawyers mad at them, it might not be wise to jump into the spotlight. He is famous now.  Within a few hours of the blog post appearing, people were looking around.  For me, the reason was simple: when someone has been a tenured prof for ~20 years,at one school, it is rather rare for them to voluntarily leave for halfway around the world, except for a big boost in position or university ranking.   NCAR is just up the hill from CU, and CU is well-established in atmospheric sciences, so this seemed at best a lateral move, and odd, given my experience with universities.  It took very little time to start finding the back history.  I have sympathy for his ex-wife, and most of all for his son, and thiswas one messy divorce with him in the middle. But, Salby prepared fraudulent materials, effectively stealing money from US taxpayers. 

I realize I'm being ghoulish.

In my personal experience if you can't get information from the front door, you can get a lot from the back door.

You've raised enough concerns that unless you had a pretty direct line of questioning, you shouldn't even bother asking.

Neither Bozo nor P T Barnum attempted to defraud the public by promoting some quack “science.” 

NSF may well have had legitimate gripes with Salby, although couldn't be too bad because any proven fraud will disbar somebody from receiving public funds for life. 

On the other hand, it appears very likely that Maquarie U did abandon Salby becuase they didn't like the flavor of Salby's “message.” 

“There's nothing to fear from CO2 in the air.”  Some folks just can't stand to hear that message and will go to any lengths to shoot the messenger and encourage others to do the same.  Go figure. 

So John, go find a few shovelfuls of dirt to throw on me and show everybody how great you are and how crummy I am.  That appears to be your authentic talent.