Clouds Gather for Scientist who Purloined Documents

Support from Pacific Institute’s board, funders may be wavering

Peter Gleick is a prominent water scientist and a Macarthur Fellow.” credit=”World Economic Forum/Flickr

The furor surrounding Peter Gleick’s admission that he lied in order to get internal documents from the Heartland Institute appears to be gaining momentum, with the board and at least one major funder of Gleick’s Oakland-based Pacific Institute appearing to back-peddle on initial statements of support.

Gleick, who co-founded the Institute, wrote in a blog post earlier this week that he impersonated a Heartland insider to obtain the information, which includes strategy and fundraising details from the organization, a conservative think tank that’s against taking action on climate change.

Gleick has already stepped down from positions with the American Geophysical Union and the National Center for Science Education. Initially the Pacific Institute stood by him, saying in a brief statement posted to its website, Gleick “has been and continues to be an integral part of our team.” That statement is no longer there, replaced yesterday by one that takes a different tone:

The Board of Directors of the Pacific Institute is deeply concerned and is actively reviewing information about the recent events involving its president, Dr. Peter Gleick, and documents pertaining to the Heartland Institute. Neither the board nor the staff of the Pacific Institute knew of, played any role in, or condones these events. As facts emerge and are confirmed, the Board will inform all stakeholders of our findings and of any actions based on these findings.

Meanwhile The Guardian reported that Pacific Institute funders are concerned, and quoted Conrad N. Hilton Foundation spokesman Marc Moorghen:

Obviously we are concerned about any allegations of unethical conduct and Dr Gleick has already admitted to it and apologised. We are disappointed in his poor judgment.

That’s a more stand-offish appraisal of the situation than I got from Moorghen yesterday in an email.

“The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s relationship with Dr. Gleick has nothing to do with global warming and climate change. Our foundation has been working to provide safe water in developing countries since 1990, and since Dr. Gleick is a recognized expert on global water issues, we have funded the Pacific Institute to assist us in these endeavors.”

The Heartland Institute states on its website that it’s consulting legal counsel. Before Gleick fessed up online, the Institute said it intended to see the perpetrator put in jail.

Clouds Gather for Scientist who Purloined Documents 1 February,2018Molly Samuel

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Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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