Prof fired for debunking pollution myth

By Bob Unruh

What’s academia’s response to a whistleblower who exposes fraudulent research and faked credentials on a panel of experts?

Fire the whistleblower, of course.

That’s the allegation in a new complaint filed against the regents of the University of California by the American Center for Law and Justice on behalf of former professor James E. Enstrom.

The lawsuit explains that Enstrom was a UCLA research professor for decades – until he blew the whistle on “junk environmental science and scientific misconduct at the University of California” and was dismissed.

“The facts of this case are astounding,” said David French, senior counsel for the ACLJ. “UCLA terminated a professor after 35 years of service simply because he exposed the truth about an activist scientific agenda that was not only based in fraud but violated California law for the sake of imposing expensive new environmental regulations on California businesses.”

French said, “UCLA’s actions were so extreme that its own Academic Freedom Committee unanimously expressed its concern about the case.”

According to the ACLJ, Enstrom, a research professor in UCLA’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, published peer-reviewed research showing that fine particulate matter does not kill Californians.

However, much of the “anti-pollution” research is based on the assumption that those fine particulates, like those that make up Denver’s infamous “Brown Cloud” during the winter, are injurious to all who breathe them.

Enstrom also assembled evidence that claimed powerful UC professors systematically exaggerated the adverse health effects of diesel particulate matter in California, “knowing full well that these exaggerations would be used by the California Air Resources Board to justify draconian diesel vehicle regulations.”

Further, a lead author of a report from the CARB didn’t earn a UC Davis Ph.D. as he claimed but had purchased a fake degree for $1,000, Enstrom documented.

“Finally, Dr. Enstrom discovered that several activist members of the CARB Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants have exceeded the legislatively mandated three-year term limits by decades,” ACLJ said.

The university responded to Enstrom’s pursuit of the truth by issuing him a notice of termination and denying him compensation for his work, the lawsuit claims.

“If academic freedom means anything, it should permit a professor to challenge bad science and expose scientific misconduct,” said French. “Yet UCLA appears more committed to a political agenda than to free and open inquiry.”

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles alleges the school violated Enstrom’s constitutional rights under the First and 14th Amendments.

Enstrom’s Ph.D. from Stanford is in physics. He’s worked in the university system for more than 30 years. His difficulties started after his peer-reviewed inhalation toxicology report titled “Fine Particulate Air Pollution and total Mortality Among Elderly Californians 1973-2002,” the claim explains.

That study “found no relationship between PM2.5 (particulate matter) and total mortality in California,” the lawsuit said.

His finding contradicted the opinions of “several senior … faculty members. [Environmental Health Sciences] chair Jackson, EHS professors John Froines and Aurthur Winer, epidemiology and EHS professor Bente Ritz, and Dean Rosenstock have all publicly supported the widely popular – though scientifically unfounded – argument that diesel particulate matter and/or PM2.5 results in increased mortality risks for California citizens.”

Enstrom then contradicted the other researchers in testimony to the state legislature and further exposed the fraudulent credentials of Hien T. Tran, “a key CARB scientist and lead author of the October 24, 2008 CARB report on PM2.5 and premature death.

“Mr. Tran’s research report served as the primary public health justification for a new diesel vehicle regulatory scheme approved by CARB … Dr. Enstrom’s statements brought to light that Mr. Tran’s Ph.D. was not awarded by the University of California at Davis as Tran claimed. Mr. Tran subsequently admitted that he purchased his Ph.D. at a cost of $1,000 from ‘Thornhill University,’ a fake institution and Internet diploma mill based at a UPS store in New York.”

The complaint also asserted that members of a university committee had been serving indefinite terms, in violation of state rules limiting terms to three years.

He also discovered that, as a researcher whose compensation was paid entirely by grants and other resources he acquired for the university, the funding management had been changed and his salary could not be met. Also, his grant funds were charged for an on-campus office, when UCLA’s only space allocated to him was a .4-cubic foot mailbox.

Then came the termination notice, based on university statements that his funds, which he generated but the university administered, were depleted.

University officials released a statement to WND saying they dispute the allegations.

“UCLA zealously protects the intellectual independence of members of our academic community and has long maintained that Enstrom’s political and scientific views and outside activities were not considered during his reappointment process,” the statement said.

The university said it used appropriate procedures in dealing with Enstrom.

But a letter to Enstrom from the university’s associate dean for academic programs, Hilary Godwin, noted, “Please be advised that you will not be reappointed Aug. 30, 2010. As previously notified, the reason for non-reappointment is the faculty of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences has determined your research is not aligned with the academic mission of the department.”

The university held to its position even though its own Academic Freedom Committee wrote in Enstrom’s support that the school’s decision “may represent a violation of academic freedom.”

“If the School of Public Health has a bona fide rationale for denying Dr. Enstrom’s reappointment … then we concur that it is within their purview. … However, we also assert that UCLA has an obligation to protect the ongoing research activities of its academic staff. … The seriousness of the consequences of his termination, as well as the allegations he has made, raise worries,” the committee’s letter warned.

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