2011-07-28 23:04:02Does anyone know anything about Charles Monnett and BOEMRE?


This article seems to be heavy on speculation, light on facts. Monnett was involved with an article reporting on drowned polar bears.

2011-07-28 23:25:28
Alex C


I read the article too, what I don't understand is how the "veracity" of the paper in question is under investigation.  It sounds like the paper reported on the observation of four drowned polar bears, and then a discussion on the likelihood of that being a more likely event as sea ice continues to melt.  Which part of that could be untrue?  Did he lie about the observations of the polar bears?  The latter discussion would be something that in my mind is outside of the issue of "scientific misconduct" - if he's wrong, then so be it, but a scientific rebuttal, rather than an investigation, would be warranted.

I need to go read that paper, and I also agree there are too few facts about this story.

Gotta love the comments though.

2011-07-29 01:57:49
Julian Brimelow

SOunds like someone has it in for  Monnett....Palin?

Anyhow, it sounds a bit like this incident in Canada with regards to Salmon.

2011-07-29 11:56:10
Same Ordinary Fool



At  Climate Change: The Next Generation  there are three articles near the top of the July list that concern this story.  When clicked, the article appears below the list.


"Arctic Scientist Protests Witch Hunt on Polar Bear"..........{There is a link to the original polar bear paper below this article.}

"Trumped-up witch hunt against Alaska scientist,"...........{Just a duplicate of the above}

"Alaska scientist, Charles Monnett, who publishes..."...........{"Readers, if you read anything today, or this week or this month or this year, read this"  This isn't a 'skeptical-science' story, its a 'SKEPTICAL-POLITICAL-DIRTY-TRICKS' story.  The link provided leads to  the Complaint from the scientists's Defense.}  

Also, "March 2,2007 Email from Richard Hannan, Acting"..........{For Department of the Interior trips up north there had to be a designated official spokesman,   "...responding to questions (on climate change, sea ice), particularly polar bears, including a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the Administration's position  on these issues."}

And, "In Alaska, the Department of the Interior was cook..."..........{July28,2011......"cooking the books in favor of oil companies,  suppressing the scientific data about the ecological impacts of drilling, and more..." ...""If the same managers who manipulated and suppressed scientific evaluations are still in charge, why should the public expect candid assessments of environmental impacts to suddenly begin"" said the executive director of PEER, who is also defending Charles Monnett.}



2011-07-30 07:23:16


Shameless plug alert !


I just wrote an article on this -


Comments are most welcome - even adverse criticism.  :-)

2011-07-30 07:38:44
Rob Painting

Seems a lot of speculation and little in the way of facts thus far. If the guy is being persecuted, it would not come as a surprise.

Logicman - no criticism from me. It's kind of useful to know the nature of the allegation levelled at you, before you can respond.  

2011-07-30 07:55:32
Rob Honeycutt


Definitely read the complaint filed on Monnett's behalf by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

2011-07-30 08:52:42


I have sent the following note to my federal representatives: Rep, Senator, President:

"There seems to be a star-chamber persecution of a scientific worker, Dr. Charles Monnett, in the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement. He has been suspended in the course of a criminal investigation, without being informed of the nature of the investigation or of the charges that are being considered. Somehow, something he has done in the course of his scientific work is now being considered of interest to the criminal justice department!

A complaint has been filed on his behalf by the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This issue is described here: http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1503 .

I urge you to look into this matter and settle this matter expeditiously."

2011-07-31 05:20:37
Rob Honeycutt


Mother Jones now has an article out on this story.

2011-07-31 06:05:14


I urge other US citizens to also write to their representatives and ask for action. It can't hurt, and sometimes you get back a surprisingly detailed response.

(Many years ago, when Salman Rushdie was under a fatwah for his novel, The Satanic Verses, I wrote in to Senator Cranston to urge the US to protect him. Cranston replied twice: first to say that he got my note; second to forward a response to him from the US State Department, in which they referenced my note to Cranston. So, I don't know if the signature was his, but some individual on his staff spent some real time looking into the issue that I had raised.)

2011-07-31 06:07:36


Joe Romm has an article on it

Breaking Exclusive: Polar Bears Still Screwed by Global Warming

OK, technically, the exclusive I have is an internal email from the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement that was sent to his entire staff on Friday about the actions being taken against polar bear researcher Charles Monnett. I will repost that below, but the bottom line is that the decision to place him on administrative leave “had nothing to do with his scientific work , or anything relating to a five-year old journal article” on polar bears


2011-07-31 18:47:31
Rob Painting

Sounds like total bullshit - have you read the interview transcript at Joe Romm's? Dr Charles Monnett sure is someone of principle . Some snippets from the interview:


"– we – listen, we, we work for an agency that is, especially then, extremely hostile to the concept of climate change, that‟s hostile to the idea that there‟s any effects of anything we do on anything. And we could only write this paper by being extremely conservative, with a lot of caveats. It‟s the only way we could publish it. Because you saw those names on there. They‟re all looking at it, you know, wanting to see whether we‟ve said anything at all"

"And when I started the project, I had to make a basic decision. Am I going to try to ensure that this study goes forward forever and that we keep doing it the way we are, or am I going to try to do some science in here and get some of this stuff out? And I chose the latter, which led almost immediately to me having to outsource the study, and so it‟s at the National Marine Mammal Lab, because they‟re a trust agency, they have responsibility for these, these resources, they give a damn. And they‟re scientists, and if they find something in there, they‟ll, they‟ll publish it, regardless of what my management thinks. And my management have been trying to kill this study for a while, ever since really the polar bear thing came out. That was when they realized that it‟s dangerous to take data like this, because if there are changes and, you know, God forbid something that has anything to do with the climate change debate. So I, I thought they‟d softened. I‟m amazed that it, um, is coming up, at least if it‟s coming up here. I don‟t know, maybe it‟s coming up somewhere else, "

"And I was, uh, I was threatened; I was given deadlines; eventually, I was, uh, I was given a disciplinary action and required to produce this thing in a certain amount of time on their timetable, at which point I did, and I took my name off it. So there‟s a lot below the surface here, you know, that you guys aren‟t, aren‟t going to be aware of"

"They basically blew everybody out of here that showed any, uh, desire to be a conscientious scientist. Jeff Gleason was one of those. Did he tell you his story?"

"Yeah, well, we got blasted, you know, really, uh, hard, you know, by this agency when, when this finding came out, and if you‟ve been digging in my emails, and I don‟t know if you‟ve dug in my emails, or it‟s just Jeff Loman selecting it, but you‟ll see a lot of emails there, uh, from management to me telling me that I can‟t function as a biologist. I‟m not allowed to talk about this paper or our findings. I‟m not allowed to talk to the media. I can‟t, you know, I can‟t do these things.


Yup, it's a witchhunt alright.

2011-08-01 01:56:25
Rob Honeycutt


In the Mother Jones article they say that PEER is now making requests to see all BOEMRE documents related to the case.  (We'll see how quickly they respond when THEIR side gets asked for information.)

You're right, Rob.  This whole things was likely a witchhunt from the get-go.

2011-08-01 03:35:02Turning the tables


I would like to see an investigator - a journalist would do - go to Eric May and ask him why he is conducting an investigation which he is self-evidently entirely incompetent to conduct.

Seizure of May's computer and files would be a beautiful bonus.


This is nothing more than an attack on freedom of expression.  If it goes unchecked, you can wave goodbye to all the other freedoms which are protected by freedom of speech and the blood of martyrs.

2011-08-03 11:18:25Update, from Science:
Alex C


Apparently this investigation has to do with his management of research contracts, specifically his management of an upcoming study and whether he is impartial in his duties.  The Justice Department is not pressing charges related to these allegations - in effect this has blown over to an investigation that will only be reported to BOEMRE.

The opening line in the article is gold:

""Polarbeargate" may not be the gold mine that climate change denialists had hoped for."


2011-08-04 02:47:27
Rob Honeycutt


I hope they don't just let this thing blow over.  We need to know why this whole thing came about in the first place.  I get the sense the PEER lawyer (Ruch) smells red meat and wants to get to the bottom of this one.  Good for him!!

2011-08-04 03:16:13
Dana Nuccitelli

Another good post on CP today.  The Interior Department is launching this witch hunt against Monnett while simultaneously failing to collect billions of dollars in oil industry royalties.  This is the same department previously exposed for its overly close ties to the oil industry in the wake of the BP oil spill. 

Actually the story is a re-post from The Guardian.  The Guardian seems to be becoming one of the best papers in the world, also exposing the phone hacking scandal, as I recall.  Nice to see some real investigative journalism.

2011-08-04 05:18:54article in Nature


Published online 2 August 2011 | Nature 476, 16-17 (2011) | doi:10.1038/476016a


Bear researcher frozen out

Supporters question motives for suspension of government scientist.

A link between receding sea ice and polar-bear deaths has sparked political fallout.A link between receding sea ice and polar-bear deaths has sparked political fallout.P. Souders/Corbis

It was one of the most dramatic sightings ever made in an aerial survey of the Arctic: a dead polar bear, bloated like a gigantic beach ball, floating in open water north of the Beaufort Sea coastline in Alaska.

Researchers say that they spotted four dead polar bears during the survey, and surmised that the bears drowned in stormy waters as they searched for ever-receding sea ice. The idea that polar bears could drown like this became a rallying point for advocates of action on climate change, most notably appearing in former US vice-president Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth (2006).

Now, five years after the observations were reported, the bears have become the focus of charges ranging from scientific fraud to political interference in science. Last week, it emerged that the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) had suspended a researcher involved in the survey, wildlife biologist Charles Monnett. The reason, according to an 18 July memo from Monnett's supervisor, Jeffrey Loman, was an investigation into "integrity issues" by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the US Department of the Interior, which oversees the BOEMRE. Climate-change sceptics were quick to jump on the news as evidence that the science of global warming had been distorted. The BOEMRE has also halted a different polar-bear survey overseen by Monnett, pending further investigation.

Monnett's suspension was brought to light on 28 July by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a watchdog group in Washington DC that is giving Monnett legal advice in the matter.

PEER released a transcript of an interview between criminal investigators at the OIG and Monnett, in which Monnett was told that he had been accused of scientific misconduct. He was then asked a series of questions relating to the paper in which he had reported the four drowned polar bears (C. Monnett and J. S. Gleason Polar Biol. 29, 681–687; 2006), but was not told the specific allegations.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, says that this does not conform with the Department of the Interior's scientific-integrity policy, which states that those accused of misconduct should be properly informed of the allegations against them, and that the allegations should be referred to a scientific-integrity official, not to criminal investigators. On 29 July, PEER filed a scientific and scholarly misconduct complaint against Monnett's superiors and the OIG, accusing them of violating the policy.

Ruch claims that the suspension is a politically motivated attack on Monnett's research at a time when the BOEMRE is considering whether to allow an expansion of oil drilling off Alaska's northern coast. The bureau denies this, and any accusation of playing into the oil industry's hands is highly sensitive, because the bureau (then known as the Minerals Management Service) was accused of poor oversight of the industry leading up to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Ruch adds that Monnett is declining interviews because he has not been granted permission to do them by the bureau.

“Any accusation of playing into the oil-industry’s hands is highly sensitive.”

After a day of negative publicity generated by PEER's announcement, the bureau hit back. Spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz says that, contrary to the impression given by the transcript, Monnett's suspension was unrelated to scientific-integrity issues, his polar-bear finding or oil-drilling permits. She declined to say what it was related to.

But a 13 July memo to Monnett, provided to Nature by PEER, says that the investigation had uncovered information that raised concerns about his ability to act "in an impartial and objective manner" while handling a US$1.1-million contract for a study of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. A notice sent to Monnett by the OIG on 29 July further explained that although investigators may continue to query him on scientific integrity, they will now focus on how Monnett awarded the research contract. This includes questions over whether Monnett complied with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which is intended to ensure fair competition for US government contracts. The OIG adds that the inquiry is not criminal in nature, as the Department of Justice has already considered the case and declined to prosecute. Ruch says that Monnett's handling of the contract was transparent to his supervisors, and that his technical role meant he was not responsible for compliance with the regulation.

The project, begun in 2005, involves putting radio collars on polar bears found on the Canadian side of the Beaufort Sea, and tracking their position by satellite over several seasons. The study is funded by various sources, including the BOEMRE and the Canadian government. But on 13 July, the BOEMRE told scientists on the project to stop their work. The project's principal investigator, Andrew Derocher, a biologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, says he had no idea why. "To begin with, I thought it was related to budgetary issues in the United States. I've never seen anything like this in my life," he says.

Derocher says that data should continue to come in from collars until 2013, but the 'stop work' order may mean that he is unable to document his findings in a final report to the agency. Among those findings is that 2–4-year old polar bears tend not to stray far from their home range — the first time this age group has been tracked. This would mean that in the event of a large oil spill, bears that died from oil exposure would not be replaced quickly by bears from surrounding areas, says Derocher.

Drowned polar bears have not been reported by other scientists, but the hypothesis that a long search for sea ice makes it more likely that bears will get caught in stormy weather and drown is regarded as plausible. In January, scientists led by George Durner at the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, reported the fate of an adult female bear as she swam more than 600 kilo­metres before reaching ice (G. M. Durner et al. Polar Biol. 34, 975–984; 2011). When the researchers caught up with the animal, she had lost 22% of her body mass and her year-old cub.

This finding, corroborated by other studies, suggests that the major impact of receding sea ice on the bears is nutritional stress caused by a reduction of their hunting range, says Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at the campaigning organization Polar Bears International, headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, and a co-author of the study. But the observation that drowning can occur is important, he adds. "If this investigation is not about those observations then the BOEMRE owes it to him and to the public to say clearly what it is about." 

Update: On 2 August, BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz told Nature that the order to stop work on Derocher's polar bear study was rescinded on 1 August, and that work is continuing again. Derocher confirms he has received a notice to proceed.

2011-08-04 07:44:38
Rob Painting

I think the greatest problem the US has at the moment, aside form the repugnantcans, is that their current president is essentially a brown George Bush. Surely the president could put an end to this witchhunt if he so desired, but Obama is just as keen to exploit and destroy the Arctic as the repugnantcans are. 

2011-08-04 07:53:57
Dana Nuccitelli

I think that's a little harsh, Rob.  I do agree that Obama's current positions are basically the same as a moderate Republican in the 1990s, like say Bob Dole.  But that's mostly because he's obsessively determined to act as a compromiser (with a Republican party which refuses to compromise), and because he saw the 2010 election as some sort of referendum.

He's still got a solid environmental record though, aside from the complete failure to throw his support behind the cap and trade bill.  Really I think the problem is that Obama is just a shitty leader.  He's more of a negotiator than a leader.  But the Republicans have no problem leading, so that's what they're doing, and he's following their lead.  Or more accurately, he's trying to negotiate with them, but they don't budge from their original positions, so in "compromising" he just ends up following their lead, doing whatever they want.  And somehow after 2.5 years he still hasn't caught on to the fact that they're not interested in compromise, or really in doing anything other than protecting the interests of the wealthy and big businesses.

Since Obama is basically spineless, he's certainly not going to do anything about the Monnett situation, although I don't think it's high profile enough for him to address anyway.

2011-08-04 07:55:08
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

Never underestimate the strongest power in the universe: political expediency.