The American Tradition Institute would like to know who, besides taxpayers, pays prominent NASA researcher James Hansen, a leading voice in climate change discussions.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says it's concerned about "reports of personal attacks on climate scientists, including harassment, legal challenges, and even death threats."  How are those two related?   Well, political issues inspire zealotry.  When the world's most prominent hurricane researcher, Dr. Bill Gray, disputed Al Gore's movie assertion that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, he got all of the above.  So has Professor Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the M.I.T.  But they got those from global warming believers, not deniers.

The American Tradition Institute isn't all that thrilled about being mentioned in an AAAS press release starting off with complaints of death threats and says AAAS is engaging in selective outrage - they claim Hansen has made $1.2 million outside his government salary in the last four years and wants to know where it came from, so they filed a Freedom of Information Act request with NASA and were rebuffed, NASA citing Hansen's privacy but, they also have not disclosed if he received permission from the agency to conduct his outside activities, which interfere with his government job.  

AAAS says they are worried that "a practice of aggressive inquiry into the professional histories of scientists whose findings may bear on policy in ways that some find unpalatable could well have a chilling effect on the willingness of scientists to conduct research that intersects with policy-relevant scientific questions.”

Did anyone at AAAS defend Lindzen when he was being libeled?   The only money he took (then, anyway) was $5,000 - which he disclosed - from an oil company in the early 1990s as a stipend to be on a panel about environmental issues.  That's it.  Yet he was routinely dismissed as a shill for Big Oil and his science irreparably invalidated by association, according to detractors.

If Hansen is accepting money from George Soros or other prominent political funding groups, it is due to his prominence - the NASA name, one of the most respected science brands in the world.  Is it reasonable to expect government employees, or government-funded researchers, to disclose outside activities that allow them to profit from that work?    Tough call, since where you draw the line might be contingent on how much you get from outside sources.

It seems a strange debate to suddenly wade into.   AAAS did not warn of a 'chilling effect' when Greenpeace asked for the financial records of University of Virginia's Patrick Michaels to know who might be paying him - but he is a skeptic. If AAAS is choosing its positions solely for the benefit of people they happen to like, rather than for the benefit of all researchers and the free exchange of scientific ideas, they are doing a huge disservice to their member-supported organization by using its membership dues to engage in partisan politics, rather than promoting science for all.