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Monday, August 22, 2011

Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Polar Bear [Eric May, Dr. Charles Monnett, and the strange and rapidly falling apart investigation]

Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Polar Bear

by Eli Rabbett, Rabbit Run, August 22, 2011

Eric May, the Department of the Interior IG investigator is on very thin ice in his jihad against Charles Monnett. Eli is happy that the bunnies are underneath sawing away

Somebunny who knows more about the Polar Bear Follies than most has put upinformation, about which Eli, who obviously knows it all did not know. It got caught in the spam filter in the original post, but, if this is what they got, the IG is going to be embarrassed.

Keep those cards and letters coming little hares.

Anonymous said...

This has been an interesting discussion, so if anyone is still monitoring here is some information that you may find interesting:

Monnett and Derocher first met on September 2003 at a polar bear monitoring workshop being hosted by the USFWS in Anchorage, Alaska. At that time, Monnett became aware that U. Alberta and the Canadian Wildlife Service were beginning a massive capture effort of polar bears that offered a unprecedented opportunity to select young animals for collaring to study their dispersive movements. The question of interest was whether the existing politically-based stock designations had any basis in reality. If not that would have profound consequences for interpreting prior attempts at modeling the recovery of the Southern Beaufort Sea population from various oil-spill scenarios.

A draft study profile was created in October 2003, followed by a budget in November that reflected significant cost sharing by the Canadians. This would contradict IG assertions that the study was created to reward Derocher for his favorable review of the 2006 paper. The dead bears were not seen until September 2004, nearly a year after the original study profile was written. Of course, Derocher was not a peer reviewer for the Journal, as the IG asserted. That should be clear from a reading of the "Acknowledgements" in the published paper. Below are some excerpts from the original October 13th profile. In the introduction:

"The purpose of this study is to create a collaborative study of polar bear dispersal and population structure between University/Government researchers and Native subsistence hunters in villages along the Canadian Beaufort Sea, and adjacent coastlines. It will be complementary with previous and ongoing studies conducted in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea Region, but will add new insights because of the emphasis on population genetical mechanisms, particularly dispersal. Approximately 200 polar bears are expected to be captured in the Canadian Beaufort Region, each year for the next 3 years. This study is timed to take advantage of considerable savings in logistics by partnering with that ongoing study."

And the very first method is to:
"1. Develop a partnership between University and Canadian Government polar bear biologists, and Canadian Natives to implement a study of juvenile polar bears using long-lived satellite transmitters for monitoring."

Essentially the same language is published on page 155-6 of the official 2005 Annual Study Plan posted on the BOEMRE website at:

The type of study was shown as an "Intra-agency" Agreement because when the study was conceived it was expected to be an "agreement" rather than a contract since UA and CWS would provide nearly $1M funds toward the objectives.

See also the Annual Study Plan for 2010 pages 109-110 where essentially the same language continues to be used in the introduction and methods:

When it became apparent to the contracting officer that it would be difficult to procure a study with Canadians as an "agreement" the approach was changed to "sole-source," a poor fit for a study that required negotiation of objectives and details about cost-sharing so that funds could be requested through the study planning system at MMS.

A sole-source justification was drafted in late-December 2004. On December 20, the CO directed Monnett to forward the Statement of Work to Derocher so that he could get started on his proposal as there was a hope to get the study in the field that spring. In a memo dated December 21, the Chief Scientist of MMS also directed Monnett to forward the SOW to Derocher stating that the CO had informed him that the study did not require publishing in Fed Biz Ops, which is the normal protocol for sole-source procurements. At the beginning of the year, the senior CO retired, leaving a vacuum until early March when a junior CO was appointed.

After sending Derocher the proposal, Monnett and Derocher exchanged emails on January 10, 2005. In this message Monnett tells Derocher that when he is "happy" with his draft proposal to forward it and they (CM and AD) can work together to "work out any rough spots." Monnett was thinking of the usual rough spots he sees in drafts of cooperative proposals, issues with spelling out the cooperation and documentation of co-funding. Below is a copy of the January 10th email from Monnett to Derocher: 
-----Original Message-----"Excellent! I was thinking about you this AM. At this end, I am waiting for a HQ reviewer of the SOW to return from holiday so that I can satisfy all the channels. I believe she is back today so things should start to move at our end, shortly. Email the draft to me when you are happy with it and together we can work out any rough spots. You will get the official RFP from the Contracting Officer after everyone is happy with the SOW. Your proposal will respond to that official contact when it occurs. Hope you had a great holiday. cm"
It turned out that a pretty decent draft was finally submitted by Derocher on April 14th. At that time Derocher was struggling with a new requirement to submit the proposal electronically. Monnett responded with the email message below.
"Sorry to take so long to reply...bit distracting around here. I'm headed to Wash DC area for next two weeks but will monitor my email and try to move your proposal along when I see it. What you have seems on target. The most important thing is that objectives and methodology conform to the statement of work, and that seems to be the case. Put in what details you can and if we have further questions we won't be shy. Hope the bureaucracy doesn't get you down. You or your bean counters should get back to the MMS Contracting Officer if you have questions on that side."
This is apparently the evidence the IG has that Monnett helped "draft" the Derocher proposal.

When the new CO came on board in early March, the new regime approached the procurement much more conservatively and a Fed Biz Ops Notice was developed. A new senior CO took over who eventually signed the award, but she was not involved in the details of the procurement. That senior CO was who the IG interviewed. No surprise she had no knowledge of what had actually taken place. 

From the comments:

Gavin said...

It is becoming clearer and clearer that this is simply harassment by the OIG. It clearly started off with a letter of complaint related to the 2006 paper - regardless of what BOERME management are saying. This is obvious from the idiotic questioning related to the '7' bears started by May in the first Gleason and Monnett transcripts.

But, has anyone outside the OIG office seen the original letter that started this off? Is it FOIA-able? (It might be exempt under the exception for 'personnel' matters, though this isn't obvious.)

The oddity that scientific results were being challenged without any public disclosure of the scientific case being put forward is ridiculous. And of course, now that the scientific stuff has proved unfruitful, we have the OIG manufacturing Conflicts of Interest out of the whole cloth to try and justify the whole ill-conceived enterprise.

Aren't there any grown-ups in charge there?

Holly Stick said...

Just a tad more information and context; the planning for the original study took place while Canada had a Liberal government. The evil scumbags now misruling my country were first elected as a minority government in January 2006. They cut back the Canadian Wildlife Service in 2007;

and they have cut research in the Arctic and are now cutting Environment Canada much more.

Strangely enough, Harper is showing much interest in the Arctic, in a rapacious let's strip it of resources and leave a poisoned wasteland kind of way.

The point being that if the Harper government has any involvement in what is happening to Dr. Monnett (I don't know if it does), it would be to do whatever they could to help the forces of evil.

There were articles stating that the University of Alberta was distancing itself from Monnett, though the headline seems more sensationalistic than the rest of the article. I would point out that the university could well be subject to pressure from the evil scumbags misruling my province who control education funding.

Anonymous said...

Correction to posting by Anonymous - The paragraph in the middle of the post that starts "A sole-source justification was drafted in late-December, 2003." should read "December, 2004." The error does not change conclusions because that date is still at the beginning of the procurement process. Between December 2003 and December 2004 the study was reviewed and approved by MMS, reviewed and recommended for funding by the MMS OCS Scientific Committee, funding was approved, and a full statement of work was developed.

Sorry for the error. I caught it right after the posting last night and attempted to replace the post with the error corrected. I had difficulty because the posting kept disappearing, due to the spam filtering mentioned at the beginning by Eli. That's the problem with doing this sort of thing at 2AM.

The COs that are based in Virginia were certainly involved (or absent), but it is hard to say what they will recall from actions taken 6-8 years ago. One has retired and the other has moved to a different agency.

One problem with the way the IG has managed this investigation stems from the fact that they are criminal investigators, apparently hell-bent on a conviction. The science would have been better served by an investigation managed by scientists that are familiar with scientific methodology and protocols for publication. When the approach is to use entrapment, by interrogating people that have not thought about an analysis and procurement for 6-8 years and to not give them any hint of what is coming, don't be surprised if memory is not perfect and the person being interviewed does not always recall details sufficiently to give satisfying responses. Monnett, with help from PEER, has protested the IG investigation and called for an investigation using more appropriate methods, as well as an investigation of the investigators for scientific misconduct.

For more discussion see this recent "Statement of the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Regarding Personal Attacks on Climate Scientists":

The AAAS BOD is concerned about the big picture, which is not what is happening to Monnett, but is an intensifying attack by politicians and certain resource managers on the foundations of scientific method and peer review. Scientists and all thinking people should be concerned by this. And of course, it now looks like this may become an issue in the presidential campaign.

Anonymous said...

To Rattus: Gleason had no way of knowing who reviewed the paper because the journal's peer reviews were anonymous. Derocher was acknowledged for a review in the paper and reviewers that are acknowledged usually are not selected for further peer review. Here is an excerpt from a message from the Editor of Polar Biology. He is referring to Ralph Gradinger, the Editor at the time the paper was published.

"According to Rolf's information, the review process went as usual. The ms was evaluated by three peer reviewers. All of these are internationally acknowledged polar bear researchers from both North America and Europe, all with a proven record of scientific expertise and experience in evaluating manuscripts for Polar Biology. The referees unanimously recommended publication of the ms after revision. Based on the reviews at hand and the response of the authors to the reviewers' comments, there was, to my opinion, no other reasonable decision than to accept the revised and resubmitted ms for publication."

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