University of Utah cold fusion researcher B. Stanley Pons, reportedly abroad visiting foreign laboratories, has requested a one-year sabbatical from the U.
U. President Chase N. Peterson said the request was faxed to chemistry department chairman Peter Stang Wednesday afternoon by Pons' North Carolina attorney C. Gary Triggs."He (Pons) asked for a one-year sabbatical beginning Nov. 15. He didn't say what he was going to do," Peterson said Thursday. "He has been at the university long enough to request a sabbatical, and it will be a matter for the department to now handle."
Peterson said in light of all the rumors circulating about Pons, the university anticipated the request.
The whereabouts of Pons and fusion co-discoverer Martin Fleischmann, who are running experiments both at the National Cold Fusion Institute and in the Henry Eyring Chemistry Building, have been a mystery for days.
Pons' house has been put up for sale. His telephones were disconnected this week, and family neighbors and friends said the Pons family has moved to France. Several U. officials have said they have heard that Pons is in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
But Triggs, an attorney for both scientists, would not disclose Pons' whereabouts. He said Fleischmann has returned to his home in Southhampton, England, for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition.
"It's nothing major, but he has been undergoing treatment for a number of years, and this is another treatment," he said in a telephone interview Thursday. "It was a long-standing medical appointment that he had planned to take care of and had informed the university as such."
Triggs said both scientists have every intention of continuing their affiliation with the university, including conducting research there. "He (Pons) is also doing other things."
How Pons' sabbatical will affect fusion research at the state-funded fusion institute is unknown.
It was expected to be a major topic of discussion when the state's nine-member Fusion/Energy Advisory Council meets Thursday afternoon to review the work of the university's fusion researchers.
The institute, funded by a $5 million state appropriation, is also scheduled to undergo an independent scientific review. The review was called for by faculty members disgruntled in June by the revelation that the U. administration had transferred $500,000 to the institute as an "anonymous" donation.
Meanwhile, the state auditor's office has completed its audit of the institute. State Auditor Tom Allen said it calls for some "recommendations for improvement," but the audit won't be made public until the institute has responded to those recommendations.
Triggs said that "speculation and rumor do nothing to help promote their (Pons and Fleischmann) positive research.
"These two scientists have from the beginning been bombarded with questions and interruptions in their research, and they need time and space to complete the research and develop new avenues of research," Triggs said. "They are at a very exciting phase of the research, which they have made university officials aware of. They are working very closely with the patent attorneys to protect some very exciting new findings."
Triggs said unless Pons and Fleischmann are able to continue their research without constant interruption, "they will not be able to adequately protect and expand what we feel is one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
"The quality of the work and the resolve of the university, the patent attorneys and scientists is stronger than ever to see that this work is expanded and protected. They are all working to develop new sources of funding to ensure that continues," Triggs said.