Washington, DC — The U.S. Department of Interior has found no scientific error in a high profile research paper by its scientists on sightings of polar bears drowned in open water following a storm, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This is another black eye for the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG), which has waged a controversial but fruitless campaign against the paper’s authors for nearly three years.
Since March 2010 the IG has vigorously pursued unspecified allegations about the peer-reviewed observational note published in a 2006 issue of the journal Polar Ecology, which galvanized public understanding of the effects of sea ice loss and other climate changes in the Arctic. The lead author is Dr. Charles Monnett, a senior scientist with Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
In late September 2012, the IG finally published its investigative report into the matter after BOEM rejected the IG recommendations that it take actions relative to both the paper and a joint U.S./Canadian polar bear research project. In a highly unusual step, the IG re-opened the case after it had been closed in order to request that BOEM commence a new scientific misconduct investigation. In a January 23, 2013 memo, Dr. Bradley Blythe, the BOEM Scientific Integrity Officer, rebuffed this latest IG overture:
“Upon completion of my review, I have no findings of violations of the DOI Policy on Scientific and Scholarly Integrity [citation omitted] that would merit a further review of this case…I consider this matter closed.”
Despite this second turn-down, the case remains in an open status while the “office is evaluating the response from the bureau,” according to an IG official in a February 8, 2013 email.
“This outcome only underlines that this entire investigation was a misbegotten travesty that should never have taken place,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization provided legal representation for the scientists. “We can only hope that the IG’s Lazarus-like vendetta does not rise from the grave again. What part of ‘No’ doesn’t the IG understand?”
Moreover, the fact that the IG tried to resurrect this investigation by invoking Interior’s scientific integrity policies is beyond ironic because the IG –
- Refused to submit its research-related charges to review by scientists as provided in Interior’s scientific integrity policies;
- Maintains that the IG is statutorily exempt from Interior’s scientific integrity policies; and
- Repeatedly demonstrated a lack of understanding of basic scientific principles and practices throughout the probe.
“For the IG to call for a scientific review after concertedly eschewing that same avenue suggests this latest maneuver was just a desperate effort to save face in this embarrassing self-created fiasco,” Ruch added. “Every aspect of this case reinforces the need for replacing both the acting Inspector General and her entire leadership team with professionals who know how to conduct objective investigations, not jihads.”