Obama Administration Suspends Scientist Who Warned of Threat to Polar Bears

Sunday, July 31, 2011
(photo: Susanne Miller, USFWS)
Five years ago wildlife biologist Charles Monnett made news with his observation of drowned polar bears in the Arctic sea, which helped fuel the debate over global warming. Today, Monnett has made headlines again, this time for being suspended from his job pending a government investigation into alleged scientific misconduct.
Monnett’s employer, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, has not said what the biologist is in trouble for, saying the matter has to do with “integrity issues.”
But a watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), insists Monnett is being investigated because of his 2006 article in Polar Biology, “Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea.” The article, co-authored with researcher Jeffrey S. Gleason, suggested that “drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues." This seemingly innocuous observation led to the authors being treated like enemies by the oil industry, which wants to drill in the Arctic region.
PEER claims federal officials “have actively persecuted Dr. Monnett, acted on hearsay and rumors, gratuitously tarnished his reputation and substantially disrupted important scientific research.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Arctic Scientist under Investigation (by Becky Bohrer, Associated Press)
Report on Dead Polar Bears Gets a Biologist Suspended (by Felicity Barringer, New York Times)
Arctic Scientist Protests Witch Hunt on Polar Bear Paper (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
Complaint of Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) (pdf)
See all 18 comments


Charles G Monnett III 8 years ago
The picture above is not Charles Monnett the wildlife biologist from Alaska. It is Charles G. Monnett III the attorney from North Carolina. Do better research and it is obvious. www.carolinalaw.com
john 3000 9 years ago
i just read the whole 96 page interview transcript https://motherjones.com/files/7_28_11_monnett-ig_interview_transcript.pdf if you read it, read it all. keep slugging through to the end. you will clearly see the situation is exactly as peer describes it and the bureau of ocean energy management, regulation and enforcement are stooges.
C-homP 9 years ago
i strongly agree with you anon(- 8/1/2011 @ 12:56:06 am) you took the words right out of my mouth. well said.
Bunky 9 years ago
this is bad reporting at it's finest. calling the bureau of ocean energy management the "obama administration" is a bald faced grab for readers, and attributing any of this to the guy's polar bear paper is unfounded speculation. an "integrity issue" could be just about anything. this guy could have made a racist comment for all we know. this has nothing to do with obama, nothing to do with the environment, and it really isn't even news unless you tart it up with some inflammatory associations. this is like hearing about a letter carrier fired for taking too many smoking breaks and saying "obama administration official busted for wanton air pollution!" dig down deep and try to find a little journalistic integrity.
ascpgh 9 years ago
the true relationship between science and politics is that anything embraced by politics is for its the unidirectional benefit to a political platform or plank and can include science, arts, religion, or education. a wary, informed citizen will be suspicious and question the integrity of any "discipline" wielded by politicians because it and its practitioners have been co-opted as useful idiots to promote the party line, not the ends of the practice being presented. climate change has merits unless used by politics to assert a political will because that assumes the science is complete. that is a state that, by definition, is never attained by science, only pursued ad continuum. very few things worth pursuing attain their absolute objective so as to be a valuable or convincing supporting argument. climate change as absolute settled science?l show me an accurate detailed weather forecast for next week and i will begin to be less suspicious of science's ability to tie any influence to the recorded weather. the explanation of dinosaur extinction has changed several times in my life; which is right? it is simply science refining its interpretations based on new information added to past studies.
Anon 9 years ago
the separation of science and state is quite important. if this scientist's technical integrity was truly suspect his "trial" would be conducted in the scientific community, among established scientist, out in the open, in peer-reviewed journals. if his personal integrity was suspect, he would be fired, without an investigation. comments by "sean gallagher" reflect the general public's insincerity toward scientific findings ... that is to say, the public does not recognize the powerful impact a substantiated finding in science has on politics, finance, and general culture. an article written in 2006 published in good faith with reputable science can indeed be the start of political smear campaigns, especially considering that the findings suggest one of the most lucrative industries on earth curtail its future plans. while it is warming to know this watchdog group peer is vocalizing this issue, the real tragedy is that while washington is beating hard working scientist over the head for doing good work, the chinese continue to quietly work toward bettering their society ... the disparity grows ...
sean gallagher 9 years ago
i am not a rocket scientist, nor any kind of scientist, but if someone is being investigated for an article written years ago i doubt it is because he is causing a headache to anyone in power or any current issues. usually it is because the now untimely article has some factual investigative/research issues. obama has many faults but striking back at someone who wrote an article so many years ago does not make any political sense. i would bet money that the "integrity issues" are real. but again, it is all conjecture on all of our parts until the reasons are spelled out. then we can all bitch about it according to our political bent.
dbeall 9 years ago
this is so typical of the anti-american, anti-truth, un-constitutional us government that we are harboring in this backwards country. the obama said yes-we-can, but the real answer has been no-we-can't. it's just another little lie. the obama said we-are-going-to-change-the-way-washington-works..... that too was just another little lie. the truth is,, we can not afford these lying, spending, borrowing fools in our government.. this can be said for the congress, senate and the all the white house staff that serves the liar president. obama and his lies are done in this life. we must put the country into default, in order to force the huge military cuts that should have happened years ago.
Wa;ter L Johnson 9 years ago
i will be watching how this personnel action is handled, because i too lack confidence in obama's willingness to protect civil servants. however, i am not willing to rush to conclusions either. one good finding does not make a lifetime career for any scientist. integrity of things like data collection and keeping correct records are crucial to all the hard sciences.
MDL 9 years ago
i think we need to see all the evidence before we jump to the conclusion that he was suspended for writing a paper about melting ice.

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