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The reason an environmental polar bear scientist has been suspended and is under investigation is because — while tasked to review and approve research proposals — he played favorites, helping to write and revise his preferred proposals while working against proposals from others.
Documents obtained by Nature through the Freedom of Information Act do not reveal the investigators’ conclusions but they suggest a more specific context for Monnett’s troubles: he assisted in the writing of a proposal from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that he was also responsible for reviewing for the [US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)]. He also resisted a separate initiative by oil companies.
Over five years, the NOAA study would synthesize knowledge of different elements of the Arctic environment — from marine mammals to fish to zooplankton — and offer conclusions about the overall impact of oil-and-gas exploration there. The NOAA team was awarded the contract last year.
Monnett exchanged e-mails with the NOAA researchers between February and May 2011, made edits to their draft proposal and talked on the phone with them about how to strengthen it. Nature has seen emails from within the BOEM showing that the reason for his suspension in 2011 was management concern about similar assistance being provided to a grant applicant on another contract, which Monnett was also responsible for reviewing.
This is the same scientist whose paper on drowning polar bears has become a favorite with the environmental movement.