Golomb's Central Role in the Microwave Diplomat Story: Correcting the Record
William Broad’s New York Times (NYT) article “Microwave Weapons Are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers” (Sep 1, 2018) broke the story that microwaves may be responsible for the “mystery illness” in diplomats in Cuba and China. Broad’s article was directly triggered by an OpEd submission to the NYT on May 27, written by Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, and cosubmitted with Frank Clegg, former President, Microsoft Canada, Inc; and current CEO of Canadians for Safe Technology; the Golomb-Clegg submission was accompanied by >90 citations, so Editors might see the heretical claims were grounded in evidence.
Broad received access to the Op Ed without the authors’ consent and fails to acknowledge the role of this work. It was not intended for appropriation by a reporter, and in our view his unapproved access should intensify the obligation to respect Golomb’s (and Clegg’s) credit. When Broad first phoned Golomb, she directly stated that it was not her intent that her hard work and insights would become someone else’s story, particularly in a fashion that sidelined the credit. Broad gave reassurances – that he failed to honor.
Far from respecting that credit, Broad guts it, implying that Golomb’s contribution is late and incremental. Broad knew of Golomb’s January 9, 2018 detailed defense of the hypothesis sent to State Dept’s top doc Charles Rosenfarb (with 93 citations), which Rosenbarg stated he would share. This had been passed to Broad after the aforementioned reassurance (along with Golomb’s pending peer reviewed publication). Broad also knew that, as their JAMA article from that time makes abundantly clear, the diplomats’ doctors were not seriously considering the microwave hypothesis prior to Golomb’s communication with Rosenfarb. Yet it is implied that those doctors reached this conclusion apparently first and apparently independently. It is U Penn’s Smith, not UCSD’s Golomb, that has received credit for the paradigm shift.
Many who knew of the microwave auditory effect likely wondered if microwaves were a cause, and (at least) one has prior credit for so speculating in print, in a (non-peer-reviewed) column in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of Microwave News (IEEE Microwave Magazine (Volume: 19, Issue: 1, Jan.-Feb. 2018)). This failed to gain traction: While the microwave auditory effect literature was cited (emphasizing the author’s own worthy contributions), the tie to health effects was speculation - it didn’t fit the facts and bore not a single citation. Broad did not write his article at that time, or based on those findings. He wrote it based on access to Golomb’s work, which supports the health effects in detail (citations which Broad mentioned having verified when he first called Golomb) - and which he fails to credit.
Golomb was the first (and remains the only, to our knowledge) to meaningfully lay out evidence for the connection. Her work, passed to Rosenfarb, informed the thinking of the diplomats’ team. Her OpEd submission with Clegg instigated Broad’s article. Her pending scientific article will be the first peer-reviewed paper to address the evidence (https://golombresearchgroup.org/press). Her work triggered the paradigm shift – for which credit was unaccountably redirected.
The distortions that strip credit were predictably propagated and in some cases magnified, in the reporting by others that followed. In most, Golomb remains unmentioned. and Brinkwire actually assert that U Penn’s Smith wrote Golomb’s forthcoming paper. Unlike many stories, these name Golomb -- but demote her to apparently junior coauthor on her own (sole-author) paper, and credit Smith specifically with words written by Golomb.
Perhaps there remains a desire for paradigm shifts in technical fields to come from men. “Bro-propriation” semi-jocularly refers to the phenomenon in which women’s contributions are credited to men whose claims to the contribution are lesser and/or later. The present events appear an illustration of bro-propriation writ large.
Chronology of Events Related to the Broad New York Times Story on Microwaves and Diplomats’ Illnesses
0. First surviving draft with original date
1. Jan 9 email to Rosenfarb, and Jan 12 Rosenfarb response. (Golomb’s letter addressed to Rosenfarb, and detailed defense, were emailed by friend Ziegler with whom Golomb had shared these. It was still Golomb’s letter, addressed by her to Rosenfarb – just “put in the mail” by someone else. This was well meant; however, Golomb had meant the email to come from her.)
2. Jan 9 2018 Golomb cover letter to Rosenfarb - Attachment to above.
4. Jan/ Feb 2018 Microwave News article by James Lin, is the first (that we are now aware of) to put the speculation of a microwave link to diplomats’ health effects in print. The microwave auditory effect, on which Lin has published extensively, is recognized. This gained limited traction: in contrast to Golomb’s efforts, the proposed ties to health comprised speculation unbuttressed by citations or evidence. The hypothesis for health effects focused on the auditory apparatus alone, failing to account for many reported diplomats’ health effects.
5. Mar 20 2018 Swanson et al article in Jama on diplomats’ health concerns. Not once is “microwave” or “radiowave” or “radiofrequency” mentioned. This makes clear that prior to Golomb’s defense of the thesis to Rosenfarb, the diplomats’ doctors were not seriously considering the microwave hypothesis.
6. May 27 2018 Op-Ed submission to the New York Times, after the first report of a diplomat in China being affected. Golomb had also attempted an OpEd submission in January. This time Frank Clegg, former President, Microsoft Canada, Inc, and currently CEO of Canadians for Safe Technology, kindly agreed to cosubmit.