Tin foil hat territory....
Over in Google Groups/globalchange (have to add that to the blogroll), James Annan has accused Eli of being a conspiracy theory fan. With an invitation like that how can we resist entering tin foil hat territory in speculating about how Pat Michaels got to be called State Climatologist. Beyond the introductory material for the non-academic, no one should accuse me of having anything beyond questions (yet).
Introductory material for non-US academics:
US academics come in two flavors: tenure/tenure track and all others. Tenure/tenure track faculty have ranks of assistant, associate and full professor. The receive nine months salary from the university at which they work. They can obtain salary for the other three months from grants/contracts, teaching summer school or their father-in-law. Or they can go sit on the beach.
All others work on temporary contracts. If someone is called a Research Professor or an Adjunct Professor, you can bet that the University is not paying his or her salary. In many cases the person works at a research institution/national lab, etc. and has the title so that he or she can supervise student research. In many other cases the person brings grants and contracts into the University from which his or her salary is paid. Since Research Professors of the later type occupy lab/office space there is not much of a margin when their grants run out. The rule is that when the support goes so does the Research Professor (I know you can find the occasional counterexample, but these are the general rules).
Putting on our tin foil hats....
Pat Michaels is Research Professor and State Climatologist according to the Environmental Sciences Department at UVa. According to Kevin Lynch, the position of State Climatologist does not exist, and Lynch, a lawyer has looked at the records. You can find another version of what went on in the Daily Progress. From the latter, according to the governor's representative, Michaels is an employee of the University and
“He doesn’t speak for the state. He doesn’t speak for the governor,” she said. “This is the University of Virginia having this particular faculty member head up their office of climatology.”According to the University
The position of state climatologist is a gubernatorial appointment,” said Jeffrey G. Hanna, senior director of university relations. He produced copies of Michaels’ letter of appointment on July 8, 1980, by then-Gov. John N. Dalton and of professor Bruce P. Hayden as acting state climatologist by then-Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. on July 13, 1977.....and there lies the current rub. The University and Michaels represent that he is speaking for the state and he does play Virginia State Climatologist for the Federal Government. That may not be a simple ball of string to untangle in so far as he has been responsible for any actions with consequences (like a bad drought forecast).
Hanna said the state climatologist position “is not ceremonial. … The state climatologist produces data and reports for the commonwealth and its citizens. This includes drought predictions for crops as well as work with state emergency agencies in the cases of, say, hurricanes or winter storms."
However, the more interesting question is why UVa hired a freshout (Michaels got his Ph.D. in 1979 from Wisconsin) as State Climatologist. So here is what the Tin Foil Rabett is looking for:
-Why was Hayden named State Climatologist in 1977?
-What was the interest at UVa in capturing the salary line?
-Was Hayden then on the faculty, or did they need a parking place for him at that time?
-If UVa was using the State Climatologist salary line to hold Hayden, did he get a tenure track appointment in 1980, which opened up the position?
-If not, and Hayden already had a tenure track salary, what did they do with the State Climatologist salary?
-What was Michaels hired to do?
-Why did UVa hire Michaels for a position which appears to call for someone more senior than he was (there has to be an offer letter setting forth his duties and the benefits and correspondence)?
Other things to contemplate include Virginia Tech trying to grab the position back.