JUNEAU, Alaska -- Just five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean helped galvanize the global warming movement. Now, the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing accusations of scientific misconduct.
The federal agency where he works told him he's being investigated for "integrity issues," but a watchdog group believes it has to do with his 2006 journal article about the bear.
The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed a complaint on his behalf yesterday with the agency, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Investigators have not yet told Monnett of the specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, the watchdog group's executive director. A bureau spokeswoman said there was an "ongoing internal investigation."
The investigation comes at a time when climate change activists and those who are skeptical about global warming are battling over the credibility of scientists' work.
Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the case reinforces the group's position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists.
Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the allegations made in the complaint filed by Ruch's group are premature and said people should wait to see what, if anything, comes of the inspector general's investigation.
The investigation also focuses attention on an Obama administration policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.
Monnett could not immediately be reached. His wife, Lisa Rotterman, a fellow scientist, said Monnett had come under fire in the past within the agency for speaking the truth about what the science showed.