The administrator of the web site NASA Watch, Keith Cowing, submitted several questions to NASA in order to get further clarification on the LENR research being conducted there. Mr. Cowing has been a critic of NASA’s involvement in this controversial area of research since the January 12 video featuring Dr. Joseph Zawodny. He authored two articles, Quack Science: Why Are NASA Glenn and Langley Funding Cold Fusion Research? and Why is NASA Langley Wasting Time on Cold Fusion Research? after the January video. He authored a third article, Official NASA Langley Cold Fusion Video Now Online , after the latest video by Dr. Joseph Zawodny just a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, Mr. Cowing is not in favor of NASA pursuing this line of research.
NASA Watch is not officially associated with NASA or any government agency. The site merely reports NASA-related news. However, Mr. Cowing has appeared in the American national media, including television and radio, hundreds of times by his own estimation, and his writings have been referenced by a variety of congressional committees regarding NASA activities. So Mr. Cowing, through his site and other writings, seems to be a defacto NASA watch dog, and one who is taken quite seriously in some quarters. He apparently has received formal training in astrobiology and rocket science.
In any event, given his growing consternation over cold fusion research being done at NASA, Mr. Cowing sent NASA officials a number of questions regarding the ongoing cold fusion/LENR research being done at the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC). After a period of time with his questions going unanswered, Dennis Bushnell and Dr. Joe Zawodny did in fact answer the questions, numbering 10 in total. To read the questions and answers, go here. For the convenience of the readers of this site, I have also taken the liberty of posting them below. However, I would strongly recommend readers view this material at their original source AND provide a comment in the section below the article on that site. As is usually case when the subject of cold fusion comes up, opinions and comments are divided. Unfortunately, Mr. Cowing continues to perpetuate the fairy tales and prejudices that have long been associated with cold fusion. For example, Mr. Cowing continues to make ridiculous and unfounded assertions, such as the results of cold fusion experiments are not reproducible, researchers have not done due diligence to exclude other explanations for their findings, and that cold fusion researchers in aggregate have not been following the rules that govern science.
While I actually find it reassuring that someone like Mr. Cowing is keeping an eye on how tax payer’s dollars are being spent, and find it refreshing that Mr. Cowing is calling for more public disclosure regarding NASA’s ongoing cold fusion/LENR research, I find it absolutely appalling that he is attacking an entire field of research for lack of due diligence when he himself has not done the same. More disturbing still, is that in recent comments Mr. Cowing has resulted to name calling and personal attacks towards a couple of posters who have tried to lead him to the evidence and documentation that he claims does not exist. Unfortunately, this is the same level of hypocrisy and “scientific inquiry” that has been displayed all too often when it comes to opposing this technology.
LENR RESPONSES TO NASA WATCH -provided by Dennis Bushnell, Langley senior scientist and Joseph Zawodny, LENR principal investigator
1. Who is funding this Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) research at LaRC?
Langley is funding LENR research as an initial, exploratory study of a low technology readiness level, high-risk, high-payoff technology through its Creativity & Innovation (C&I) fund and the Center Innovation Fund (CIF).
2. How much has been spent to date on this LENR research and how much will be spent?
The average yearly cost for the approximately 3.5 years of the research thus far is about $222,000 for a total of about $778,000. The research is ongoing, and another $212,000 is budgeted for the remainder of FY 2012.
3. Who is the PI listed on this research?
Dr. Joseph Zawodny
4. What individual(s) made the decision to fund this research?
Langley’s Center Leadership Council (CLC) made the original decision to support the LENR research. The annual C&I continuations of this funding were approved by the Langley Science Council, which is comprised of Langley senior scientists. With regard to CIF, the LaRC Chief Technologist approved funding of LENR research using the CIF peer review process.
5. Was a formal proposal submitted?
A proposal was presented by the PI for consideration to the Center Leadership Council and another proposal was submitted to the Center Innovation Fund.
If so can you provide that proposal?
This documentation reflects the internal deliberative process for Agency decisions. In order to protect the Agency’s decision-making process by ensuring open and frank advice and recommendations are provided to Center leadership, this documentation is not being provided. This documentation may also contain information that would not be released on the basis of other considerations (e.g. intellectual property).
Was this an unsolicited proposal or did LaRC ask the submitter to provide a proposal?
The proposal to the CLC was made as part of an ongoing process of presenting technologies of potential interest to the CLC for decisions on funding and resource allocation. The proposal to the Center Innovation Fund was in response to a broad call for technologies relevant to NASA’s priorities.
6. Was this LENR research peer reviewed prior to being given funding?
It was reviewed initially by the CLC. C&I funding continuations are contingent on an annual peer review by the Langley Science Council. Both the CIF proposal and the C&I continuation proposals were peer reviewed.
If so, please provide a copy of internal reviews and a link to the LaRC process whereby this review was conducted. If no peer review was provided, can you explain what process LaRC used to determine that this research was worth funding?
The CIF and C&I review processes are attached (Note: we are currently updating the C&I process to reflect that HQ no longer requires reports and the Innovation Panel is being replaced by the Science Council). Additional information pertaining to the CIF is available at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/innovation_fund/index.html.
Internal reviews are not being provided because they reflect the internal deliberative process for Agency decisions. This documentation may also contain information that would not be released on the basis of other considerations (e.g. intellectual property).
7. Did anyone at NASA headquarters had a role in deciding whether this research was to be funded?
If so, who was involved?
8. Does LaRC provide NASA HQ with status reports on this research?
Yes, updates and information in general about CIF projects are provided to NASA HQ. Last fall, Langley briefed the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT), with representatives from the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and the NASA Office of the Chief Engineer present. As part of the general CIF review process, there was also a briefing at Langley, with copies provided to OCT, in June 2011.
9. What publications have resulted from this NASA-funded research? (references/links
A patent application has been published. Reference U.S. Patent Publication Number 2011/0255645.
10. Are contractors, subcontractors, consultants, or advisors employed to conduct this research? If so, please identify these individuals/companies/institutions
An activity was issued under NASA Langley’s cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, VA, to scope an LENR access-to-space rocket. To date, this is the only contract action taken by NASA Langley in support of LENR research.
While these answers do not provide any significant new information, there are a couple of interesting notes. First, we finally are provided a number with regards the amount of money that is being expended by NASA for this research, just over $220,000/year (for the last 3.5 years). This amount is a pittance. At the going rate, it would merely pay the annual salary of 2 theoretical physicists. Secondly, it is claimed that no one at NASA HQ had to approve this funding. Even at MIT apparently funding has to be approved by everyone in the physics department, so I wonder why no one in the top brass at NASA had to give the go ahead. Perhaps the people at NASA are more enlightened and less in need of inserting their egos into scientific decisions. Lastly, we have the name of the company that NASA has contracted to do preliminary studies on their space rocket. Again, it is curious that NASA has taken this step if the research is still in the very preliminary stages. Despite the novelty of the NASA device to test WLT, and regardless of its actual utility, I have the feeling that the information that was recently released (in late May) is old news. If one is subcontracting studies for a space plane, more than likely you are beyond making little tiles glow in the dark.
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