By JR on Friday, July 29, 2011
A FEDERAL wildlife biologist whose observation that polar bears likely drowned in the Arctic, which helped galvanise the global warming movement seven years ago, has been placed on administrative leave as officials investigate scientific misconduct allegations.
Although it wasn't clear what the exact allegations are, a government watchdog group representing Anchorage-based scientist Charles Monnett said investigators have focused on his 2004 journal article about the bears that garnered worldwide attention.
The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed a complaint on Mr Monnett's behalf on Thursday with the agency, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. BOEMRE told Mr Monnett on July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending an investigation into "integrity issues".
The investigator has not yet told him of the specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, the watchdog group's executive director. A BOEMRE spokeswoman acknowledged there was an "ongoing internal investigation" but declined to get into specifics.
The complaint seeks Mr Monnett's reinstatement and a public apology from the agency and inspector general, whose office is conducting the probe. The group's filing also seeks to have the investigation dropped or to have the charges specified and the matter carried out quickly and fairly, as the Obama policy states.
Mr Monnett, who has coordinated much of BOEMRE's research on Arctic wildlife and ecology, has duties that include managing about $US50 million worth of studies, according to the complaint. The agency spokeswoman said other agency scientists would manage the studies in Mr Monnett's absence.
According to documents provided by Ruch's group, which sat in on investigators interviews with Mr Monnett, the questioning focused on observations that Monnett and fellow researcher Jeffrey Gleason made in 2004.