Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Previous Posts on Whistleblower Case and Removal of Faculty from a State Board Now Seem Connected

Note: There have been previous separate posts on this blog which are now connected by the item excerpted below.

For the earlier posts, see:
Researcher files whistle-blower retaliation complaint against UCLA (excerpts)

September 7, 2010 | Erica Perez | California Watch

A UCLA environmental health sciences researcher whose appointment was not renewed this year has filed a whistle-blower retaliation complaint against the university, saying he's being punished for publishing politically incorrect research findings and for previous whistle-blowing against colleagues. UCLA officials had planned to end epidemiologist James Enstrom's appointment August 30 but extended it until March 2011 after outside groups intervened, including a group of California Republican legislators and the Pennsylvania-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

University officials said Enstrom's appointment wasn't renewed because his research wasn't properly aligned with the mission of his department and did not meet financial requirements – not for political reasons. Enstrom wasn't tenured or on a tenure track, but he has worked at UCLA for 34 years. He believes UCLA faculty voted not to reappoint him this year because of two main issues: his role in challenging the makeup of the California Air Resources Board and his controversial research on fine particulate air pollution, which he presented to the board in February with other scientists.

Earlier, as the board was planning to adopt strict regulations on diesel truck emissions, Enstrom argued the group had not fairly evaluated California-specific studies (such as his own research) looking at the health impacts of diesel particulate matter, according to Inside EPA.
In 2008, Enstrom complained at an Air Resources Board hearing that lawmakers and board officials were improperly allowing some members of its Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants to serve far beyond term limits…

One of the panelists at issue, John Froines, is a colleague of Enstrom's in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA's School of Public Health. Following Enstrom's complaint, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2009 saying that panel members shouldn't be able to serve such long terms. California Watch reported in August that the Sacramento-based group, which has a history of fighting environmental legislation, is taking credit for the recent ouster of Froines and four other members of the panel…

Previously, Enstrom had faced criticism for his research and for having an industry bias. The American Cancer Society accused him of scientific misconduct after he authored a 2003 British Medical Journal article funded by tobacco companies that questioned a link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. After an internal UCLA investigation, Enstrom was cleared of the charges of scientific misconduct, Inside EPA reported.
Enstrom later vocally opposed a proposed campuswide ban on tobacco money for research at the University of California, Science Magazine reported… After UCLA denied Enstrom's initial appeal, he filed an academic complaint and a whistle-blower retaliation claim…

Then last month, a group of 21 Republican lawmakers led by Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, coordinated a defense of Enstrom, penning a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block demanding an accounting for the firing:

Based on our understanding of the situation, he has not been given valid justification for the termination of his 34-year exemplary academic career at the UCLA School of Public Health. It appears to us that he is being dismissed in order to silence his scientific views on the health effects of fine particulate air pollution.

The letter threatened a hearing if the university didn't let Enstrom hang on to his appointment pending his appeal.

If Dr. Enstrom is dismissed before his appeal has been fully evaluated, we plan to promptly hold a hearing in Sacramento on this matter…

Full article at

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