Bookmark and Share

For Immediate Release: Aug 09, 2011
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

POLAR BEAR PAPER REMAINS FOCUS OF IG PROBE OF ARCTIC SCIENTIST

IG Refuses to Identify Criminal Charge Rejected by Justice Department


Washington, DC —Today’s interview between the Interior Department Office of Inspector General (IG) and a suspended Arctic scientist reveals that his 2006 peer-reviewed journal article on drowned polar bears remains the focus of the inquiry, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).   A new allegation surfaced that one of Interior’s top Arctic scientists, Dr. Charles Monnett, improperly steered a polar bear study to the University of Alberta, even though his agency had already approved it as a sole source contract.

The multi-month IG investigation is still ongoing but today’s interview with Dr. Monnett showed –

  • The IG is still focused on the scientific merit of a seven-page note authored by Dr. Monnett and a colleague published in the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology in 2006 which reported sightings of drowned polar bears in open waters following a storm;
  • The IG had questions about Dr. Monnett’s role during procurement of a research study titled “Populations and Sources of Recruitment in Polar Bears” conducted by the Canadian University of Alberta but Dr. Monnett acted under the direction of agency contracting and procurement staff.  When pressed, the IG refused to answer how these transactions justified an unsuccessful referral to the Justice Department for prosecution; and
  • The IG took credit for prompting  the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM, the Interior unit where Dr. Monnett works) to issue a stop work order on the University of Alberta study but that stop work order was rescinded by the agency two weeks later and the study is ongoing.

“With each interview, it becomes more outrageous that government funds are being spent on this crackpot probe while paying Dr. Monnett’s salary to sit at home,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is providing legal representation to Dr. Monnett. “The Canadian study is a prime example of cost effective science in the public interest.  It was sole source to the Canadians because the Canadians were paying half the cost and were already doing much of the research.”

PEER has filed a complaint that any charges of scientific misconduct or bias should be handled not by untrained criminal investigations but instead should be referred to Interior’s process for handling any allegations of scientific misconduct through professional review.  Interior officials have publicly pledged to follow that process.  Yet the IG’s theory on both the polar bear paper and the Canadian polar bear study both hinge on Dr. Monnett’s scientific integrity.

“We will reinforce our call for Interior to follow its own rules on these matters and call off this ridiculous witch hunt,” Ruch added.  “One object lesson from this case is that scientists can be anonymously targeted for professional terrorism without recourse.”