B. Stanley Pons says he's as misunderstood as his own discovery.
After silently enduring weeks of spoken doubt about his fusion research and his commitment to the University of Utah, Pons lashed back Wednesday, calling criticism about him "unfair, misleading, unjustified, disruptive and politically motivated."He blames the most recent round of fusion controversy on National Cold Fusion Institute Director Fritz Will, whom Pons says he mistrusts.
"It's a gross misinterpretation to say I am uncooperative or not a team player," Pons said in an exclusive Deseret News interview. "The cooperation between the university and me is better than ever. Everyone has been working toward a good resolution to complicated problems."
Pons' comments, made during a telephone interview from an undisclosed location, came on the heels of a meeting of the state Fusion/Energy Advisory Council during which members expressed anger that the university had not provided members with a promised research plan and budget for what's left of the state's $5 million fusion investment. Approximately $1 million remains, and that is due to be spent by June 30.
Council chairman Raymond Hixson said he is prepared to propose suspending further funding until a research proposal is submitted by the U.
But U. officials countered that a detailed research plan hinged on ongoing negotiations with Pons and his North Carolina attorney, C. Gary Triggs. An angry Will specifically blamed Pons for the delay, complaining to the council that Pons was "not a team player."
Will's comments brought the political controversy shrouding fusion to a head, shedding light on why communications between the highly publicized fusion scientist and the institute director have been tenuous at best.
"To say that I have not been cooperative and have withheld data is inaccurate," Pons said. "I have always agreed to release any data - provided that patent attorneys consented to the release, that reviewers signed confidential agreements and that it didn't violate any contractual agreement with the university or violate any federal law."
But Pons said he and co-researcher Martin Fleischmann have refused to release data to Will because of a personal mistrust. "Fritz Will hasn't been part of that group (to which information was released) due to his repeated failure to adhere to confidentiality agreements," Pons said.
Many others, he said, have seen the data, and several have voiced support. In fact, within hours of Tuesday's meeting of the state council, U. President Chase N. Peterson announced the resignation of Pons from his regular faculty position and a proposal to appoint Pons as a research professor in the U. department of chemistry.
The research appointment, approved by the chemistry department faculty, is expected to be finalized by the U. Institutional Council at its February meeting. John Morris, the U. associate vice president for academic affairs who negotiated the agreement, said Pons will receive his same salary and will be eligible for raises.
The 18-month appointment will also allow Pons to relinquish his teaching duties and conduct research in a variety of locations, including the U.'s chemistry building and its National Cold Fusion Institute.
His experiments at the NCFI, however, will not be under the direction of Will.
Pons said he and Fleischmann "asked to have ourselves removed from his administration; he was excluded from those negotiations," Pons said. "It was our request because of our objection to how he treats us at the center."
Pons said their advice has been ignored by Will.
"He follows his own agenda - totally and blindly. We have written many letters and memoranda to try and make our points clear, but he never answers because he has an aversion to reasonable discussion within the legal constraints by which we are bound," Pons said. "Instead, what we get from him is a barrage of requests and ultimatums. We are refused the opportunity to discuss them."
Since the institute's inception, Pons and Fleischmann opposed state funds being used for purposes other than research. But because the U. administration pushed for the building - heralding it as a way to attract key scientists and research money - Pons and Fleischmann did not publicly oppose the use of state money to establish the institute. They agreed to do some experiments there and others in the Henry Eyring Chemistry Building.
But their association with two of the institute's directors - Dr. Hugo Rossi and Will - has been strained.
"There certainly has been conflict and certainly has been difficulty at the NCFI with Pons and Fleischmann a part of it," said council member Wilford Hansen, a Utah State University physicist/chemist."They apparently never wanted to be a part of it. But I didn't know that as a council member at the beginning. It came out at our meeting Tuesday."
Now state funding of the Pons/
Fleischmann experiments at the institute depends on another scientific review called for by the university. One demanded by disgruntled faculty members was recently completed by an independent panel of scientists. However, it did not satisfy members of the state committee, who expressed concern that Pons hadn't complied with information requests from reviewers.
The upcoming review will be conducted by Hansen, along with U. College of Mines and Earth Sciences Dean Milton Wadsworth and others. According to the U., Pons will be required to turn over his experimental data in two stages - on Jan. 15 and on Feb. 1.
Hixson said if those deadlines aren't met, state funding of Pons' research will be withdrawn.
"It's a wait-and-see situation. I haven't seen it, but I fully expect to see the data. I am happy with his cooperation with me at this time of the game," Hansen said. "But there are some real factions in terms of personality clashes (at the institute). As to where the blame lies, I would let time sort that out a bit."
Hansen said Pons has worked hard to be a team player. "He came out to Utah at Christmas. He left his family to meet with university officials and with me," Hansen said. "I think there are things that will happen in the near future in terms of cold fusion in general. It's still an interesting subject."
Pons said he and Fleischmann are continuing their fusion research "with a lot less interruption and administrative harassment."
He said he had been assured that everyone was comfortable with what he and Fleischmann are doing and arrangements were being worked out with Hansen.
But the continual criticism, he said, bridges the physical distance between him and the university and continues to hamper their research efforts.
"Our research is continuing and doing fine," he said. "We are trying to start a whole new phase and will - if we can avoid having to go back and redo all we've accomplished in the past several months."