Icy Questions for an Arctic Scientist
Mon, 08/08/2011 - 5:40am
August 8, 2011
Assistant Managing Editor
In present time, Monnet was placed on administrative leave July 18; however, it wasn’t until nearly two weeks later that he was informed as to why he was suspended. As you can imagine, word quickly got out that the prominent arctic scientist was suspended, but that was all we had to go on. No explanation came until August 1 when Monnett told NPR that he received a notice dated July 29 that investigators only wanted to question him about compliance with contract regulations, disclosure of personal relationships and preparation of the scope of work (related to a different polar bear study than the infamous global warming one). The letter claimed investigators were not after the 2004 findings and/or subsequent paper. Sounds a tiny bit fishy so far, but no glaring red flags…yet.
Then, the AP reports, through documents given to them by the Public Employees for Environment Responsibility (Peer), that investigators have been looking at Monnet and Gleason for months, and had already questioned Gleason in February 2011. That line of questioning revolved entirely around the 2006 paper, including possible mathematical miscalculations, whether the observations of the bears were accurate and whether the accompanying photos were doctored. In fact, the Guardian newspaper (U.K.) published the transcript from that interview, and when Gleason questions what is under investigation, the special agent responds, “the validity of the paper and the photos.”
But wait, I thought Monnett was only under investigation for some contract mumbo-jumbo, not for any of his findings and/or paper. Now the red flags are slowly starting to emerge. It seems that the Dept. of Interior can’t keep its story straight. First it was after the paper, then it was after integrity issues, and now it’s after… what, exactly? I’m not sure we will get that answer tomorrow, or any day after that for that matter.
Peer initially suggested that the government had ulterior motives connected to offshore oil drilling. The Guardian quoted Jeff Ruch, president of Peer, as saying, “You have to wonder: [Monnett] is the guy in charge of all the science in the Arctic and he is being suspended just now, as an arm of the interior department is getting ready to make its decision on offshore drilling in the Arctic seas.”
While Ruch’s assertion may be unsubstantiated, it certainly makes me stop and think for a second. Nothing in this case has seemed to line up correctly from the beginning. Could it be because it is a patchwork of lies, with dozens of people trying to hide things from dozens of other people? Could it be because the government is more concerned with oil than troublesome Arctic weather? Could it be because the government is willing to risk the reputation and credibility of one scientist to further its own wants and desires?
I hope not…but I surely wouldn’t bet my life on it.