Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A two-year federal investigation into a climate change report by a pair of government scientists has finally concluded, but the results are being withheld, according to their lawyer.
The conclusion of the investigation is the latest episode in an on-going saga that has included charges of “integrity issues” with the report and the pair of scientists alleging persecution within the Department of the Interior (DOI).
The report, cited in the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth”, centers around the discovery of two drowned polar bears after a storm in 2004. Published in 2006 by Charles Monnett and Jeffrey Gleason, the report also crystallized the image of polar bears as a symbol of global warming.
In March 2010, the DOI´s Inspector General received “credible allegations” that “acts of scientific misconduct may have been committed by one or more DOI employees” associated with the report. These allegations led to an investigation of the report that focused on the observations of the dead bears and how the report was composed.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a watchdog group that is providing legal representation for Monnett, called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” by a governmental agency charged with regulating offshore oil development. The report is largely viewed as having a negative impact on an industry looking to tap into arctic oil deposits.
“Ever since this paper was published, Dr. Monnett has been subjected to escalating official harassment,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “This is a cautionary tale with a deeply chilling message for any federal scientist who dares to publish ground breaking research on conditions in the Arctic.”
As he was being investigated in February through May 2011, Monnett, who was involved in the evaluation and supervision of contracts awarded to outside research groups, exchanged e-mails with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers, editing their draft proposals and talking with them about how to strengthen them, according to Nature.
The journal cites this preferential treatment of NOAA proposals over those made by the research arms of oil companies as reason for his suspension in July 2011. He was later re-instated, but without the same influence over federally funded grants.
The results of the two-year investigation were received by Monnett and Gleason´s employer–the DOI´s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on June 27, but have not been made public.
“The report recommends that BOEM take ‘administrative actions.’ The IG (office of Inspector General) has taken the position that the report will remain in ‘open’ or unreleased status until BOEM makes a decision on whether to implement or reject the IG recommendations,” PEER stated in a press release earlier this week.
“It is unclear whether the recommended ‘administrative actions’ are disciplinary measures against the scientists or procedural changes in agency research projects — or both.”
According to PEER, BOEM has 90 days to decide what action to take. In the event that BOEM decided to do nothing, the investigation would be held in perpetual “open” status, thus keeping it out of public view.