the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Polarbear Science Mysteries Exposed?

Posted by Jeff Id on July 29, 2011

There is an interesting dynamic in the full transcript of this interview which I have only read this morning. Carrick’s comment below got me interested enough to read the whole thing in detail and while I don’t believe that the data warrants the conclusions discussed, there is an impression of a beat-up scientist trying to exist inside a political system.

7_28_11_Monnett-IG_interview_transcript[1]

CHARLES MONNETT: They basically blew everybody out of here 6 that showed any, uh, desire to be a conscientious scientist. 7 Jeff Gleason was one of those. Did he tell you his story? 8
ERIC MAY: Not pertaining to this. 9
CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah, well, we got blasted, you know, 10 really, uh, hard, you know, by this agency when, when this finding came out, and if you‟ve been digging in my emails, and I don‟t know if you‟ve dug in my emails, or it‟s just Jeff Loman selecting it, but you‟ll see a lot of emails there, uh, from management to me telling me that I can‟t function as a biologist. I‟m not allowed to talk about this paper or our findings. I‟m not allowed to talk to the media. I can‟t, you know, I can‟t  do these things.
And, and they really dumped on us, um, uh, when this things came out, and then that, um – uh, and, and some other,  um, manipulation and restrictions that Jeff got hit with caused him to bail out of here, and he, he took a cut from a GS-13 to a GS-11 position to go to the Fish and Wildlife Service. He‟s back with MMS now, um, in the Gulf, um, but he, he, um – and he‟s back I think at a level below what he was at here. But his motivation there was he has a, a, a woman down there that he, you know, has linked up with, and he was looking for any job and, you know,  because I think he felt that, uh, the Alaska Region is kind of special in the way it treats its scientists.

I still find it difficult to feel sorry for the astoundingly cushy and high paying jobs these people have, but there is apparently a lot of pressure to toe the line for the boss’s political preferences.  Not a good place to do science of any kind.

Check this out at WUWT, AKA the center of the internet.

Inspector general’s transcript of drowned polar bear researcher being grilled


44 Responses to “Polarbear Science Mysteries Exposed?”

  1. Thanks for the humor, Jeff. Lord knows we need it now!

    Greed – manipulated by politicians who knew how to generate propaganda for their own purposes – produced
    today’s pending economic collapse of Western society.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/ 10640850/20110722_Climategate_ Roots.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/ 10640850/20110722_Climategate_ Roots.doc

    I do not like the conclusion myself. But the events do not offer a more pleasant one.

    What a sad, sad day for science!

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  2. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.doc

  3. Since 1972 global elites have used global climate change as a common enemy to unite nations and avoid global nuclear warfare.

    As an unexpected consequence of deception, world leaders and their scientific advisors were diverted from developing the Sun’s real energy source – neutron repulsion – and squandered resources and talent in pursuit of fusion – the imaginary energy source of the Sun – instead of developing reliable fission reactors powered by neutron repulsion.

    See Kent Clizbe’s “Willing Accomplices”

    http://www.willingaccomplices.com/

  4. WhyNot said

    I was reading the transcript and came across this from Monnett:

    [/q]CHARLES MONNETT: It makes me feel more professorial if I write it on the blackboard. [\q]

    Hmmmm, going any further would surly kill more of my brain cells. I am curious though, would giving Monnett crayons and a coloring book make him feel smarter?

  5. Exposed? What was it actually about?

    Is this the land of the free? Sounded kafka-esque to me.

  6. Carrick said

    I didn’t see that much wrong with what the guy did, and learned quite a bit from the transcript about the effects of polar ice loss on ecology, amongst a lot of other things. The point actually makes sense and is about the possible impacts on population of future ice loss, having nothing whatsoever to do with current population, growth or whatever.

    The WUWT are in exceptionally egg-sucking form today, just dumping on somebody because somebody else made a movie that used his work as a facet of one segment of a really bad movie, that somebody used as the justification for a legal decision.

    It’s a perfect example of when politics enters, cerebral activity ceases.

  7. Greg F said

    This is interesting.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/07/29/3803707/official-suspension-unrelated.html#ixzz1TWaS7Egs

    Official: Suspension unrelated to polar bear paper

    The recent suspension of Alaska wildlife biologist Charles Monnett is unrelated both to an article that he wrote about presumably drowned Arctic polar bears and to his scientific work, a federal official said Friday.

    The Anchorage-based Monnett was placed on administrative leave July 18, pending final results of an inspector general’s investigation into “integrity issues.”

    Monnett coordinated much of the agency’s research on Arctic wildlife and ecology and had duties that included managing about $50 million worth of studies …

    A memo dated days before July 18, sent to Monnett by contracting officer Celeste H. Rueffert, said that information raised by the investigation “causes us to have concerns about your ability to act as the Contracting Officer’s Representative in an impartial and objective manner on the subject contract.”

  8. Jeff Id said

    #6 hmm.

    Carrick,

    I think that the concept that they spot 3 dead bears one day and 4 live ones a week later is weak evidence of a 25% survival rate. They discuss a couple hundred kilometer area of open water, so if the bears are swimming at 3km/hr they would cross it in a little over two days. Since the dead ones don’t cross, and you see ~4 bears/day, wouldn’t that be 28 bears/week of which 3 didn’t make it? It is definitely silly science for which little should be concluded and I find it a little convenient that the talking point is such an extreme calculation. I haven’t read the study though so perhaps the transcript doesn’t do it justice.

  9. WillR said

    If I read the paper — and the transcript correctly — a lot was extrapolated from very little input data — at least as regards to polar bears. Correct me if I am wrong — maybe I read too fast.

  10. Jeremy said

    Why GS positions for research exist is beyond my comprehension. There’s this issue with not mixing politics and religion. The general principle is you don’t want ordained priests directing political decisions, nor do you want those with political power the ability to shape the opinions of the poplace. Well a GS scientist position only has one purpose, issuing government-scientist-stamped proclamations on what reality is.

  11. Earle Williams said

    WillR,

    Suppose we have a spherical polar bear…

    OK, it’s not quite that bad, but the suppositions that Dr. Monnett relates in the transcript are substantial. You summarize it succinctly.

    SPECULATION:

    The POV that Dr. Monnett reveals in the rant at the end of the interview suggests to me that he has a hard agenda. He may be working very closely with NGOs in attempting to advance his concerns regarding Arctic wildlife. The OIG investigation may have determined that there is an improper relationship between these organizations and Dr.Monnett in his role overseeing $50 million in contracts studying Arctic wildlife.

    /SPECULATION

  12. Carrick said

    Jeff ID:

    I think that the concept that they spot 3 dead bears one day and 4 live ones a week later is weak evidence of a 25% survival rate

    Your valence is backwards. The living four were spotted a week before the storm that apparently killed the three bears observed during this set of transection. And they were the only dead bears floating in water observed to that point.

    The reason this is interesting is historically this section of coastline was ice-locked in the summer.

    The actual point of the manuscript (as I read it) was to make a plausibility argument for the impact of future warming. Unlike you and I, they were flying an observer plane over the ice and water during this period when the conditions went from permanent land-locked to intermittent and they were able to witness with their own eyes the effect this had on the ecology. Is it speculative? Of course it is, that’s why it was a “note” (and poster) and not a full blown manuscript.

    Did he have a personal agenda? Of course he did. So do you. So do I.

  13. Carrick said

    By “only” I mean “only ever observed”. It was the reporting of that observation that made it publication worthy, not the non-statistical analysis they performed (Monnet said as much that it couldn’t be viewed as anything more than a back-of-the-envelope estimate).

    If you read the transcript (skip the slow bits), you’ll see that neither interviewer had any idea what they were asking, and neither did they ever even reveal during the interview the specific ethics complaints they were reviewing. That my friend is horse shit.

  14. stan said

    Of course it’s horse stuff. You have incompetent govt employees doing an incompetent job of interviewing an incompetent govt scientist about an incompetent study. How could it NOT be horse stuff?

  15. jeff Id said

    “Did he have a personal agenda? Of course he did. So do you. So do I.”

    From 3 dead bears, would you ever write 25% survival? I wouldn’t. Whatever agenda I have, it is very weakly tied to polar bears.

    and you are 100 percent right. The interviewers had no clue, and they did have intent. An ugly thing on its best day.

  16. Richard T. Fowler said

    Carrick,

    I agree with your statistical analysis to a point (noting that I’ve only read the full transcript, not the manuscript that was in question).

    However, it also seems to me that one of the main reasons (possibly the most important reason) that this all got as far as it did was that there was a question from that e-mail that was presented as to whether the fourth dead bear was valid or not. Now I’m not saying it was valid, but let us just consider for a second the statistical situation if it WERE valid. Because my impression was that was the general direction that Special Agent May was going with his line of questioning about this, but never quite made the argument that _could_ have been made.

    That argument, by my reading, goes something like this. Suppose the fourth dead bear was in a transect and the e-mail was an attempt to orchestrate a cover-up of that fact. (In this event, Monnett’s speculative attempts to explain the discrepancy in the e-mail would have to be seen as lies.)

    Then, in this case, the ratio becomes, not 3/4 but 4/4, and if one performs the same “back of the envelope” estimate, the “survival rate” becomes 0% for the entire population, which is so transparently preposterous that he could never have dared to submit it. In this fact, you then have your supposed motive to fake a number.

    It’s minor in the grand scheme of climate research, but IF that is actually what happened, it is certainly misconduct and it certainly warrants not only the civil inquiry that happened, but a criminal one as well since he would have lied to the agents who interviewed him.

    As a footnote, I’d also point out that Jeff’s statistical criticism in #8 might not even go far enough, since we don’t know over what period of time the entire population of bears who chose to make the swim were swimming. The ones who died obviously weren’t going anywhere, so reasonably almost all who died in the test transects were spotted; however it seems to me that only a small percentage of the ones who made the swim WITHIN THOSE TRANSECTS were actually spotted. I’d appreciate your (and others’) view of whether there’s any validity to my criticism. Thanks, and I do think you made some good points in posts 8, 12, and 13.

    RTF

  17. Richard T. Fowler said

    Sorry, I meant posts 6, 12 and 13.

    RTF

  18. Anonymous said

    Those bears weren’t dead, they were just resting.
    ===============================================

  19. WillR said

    It seems like people are missing the link to the short paper — so here it is…
    Observations of Mortality associated with extended open water swimming by Polar Bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea

    http://www.peer.org/docs/doi/7_28_11_Polar_Bear_paper.pdf

    It still seems like too much extrapolation to me. Those bears could have died for many reasons… I know what seems likely — but likely ain’t for sure when making such sweeping generalizations.

  20. Matthew W. said

    What brought this situation to the point that there is this investigation ??

  21. Carrick said

    Jeff, no I wouldn’t have written 25% survival rate. That was sloppy and stupid and detracted from the reason they published the note to begin with. However, I have very low expectations of ecologists, so I wasn’t surprised by the lack of rigor. These people are trained field observers, most of their real analysis is done for them by software designed and written by other people than them, and I would be surprised if the guy had any training of this sort past the very basic. That’s not what they are there for and not what they are good at….spotting animals in the wild, characterizing their behavior… modal rather than ordinal sorts of things.

    Richard, as best I can understand it the fourth bear was observed during the flight too and from the transection part of the flight, so it was excluded from their “analysis”. I think the note and other work would have been better had this been left out of it. It wouldn’t pass the “audience laugh test” at a physics or engineering talk. The biggest crime they are guilty of in my opinion is lacking the statistical skills to provide the analysis they provided, and the second biggest crime was that the media bought the story because they’re just plumb stoopid.

    WillR, I think the point the ecologist made was this was the only instance where they ever saw dead bears floating in the water, and they saw four of them (three during the transects), and the fact it happened in open water, and immediately after a storm, does make it a novel observation and worthy of reporting in a biology related journal.

    Anonymous,I know this was meant humorously, but if you read the interview, you’ll see there is plenty of reason to know the bears were dead (e.g., obvious bloating and other signs).

    I agree with all of you guys about the appalling lack of rigor, but in my experience it’s par for the course in biology.

  22. Carrick said

    Matthew W, somebody filed an ethics complain against Monnet. We don’t know the basis for the complaint, because neither Monnet nor the the public have been told. Smacks very strongly of political motivation to me. But there may be more to it. This is Monnet during his interview:

    Yeah, well, we got blasted, you know, really, uh, hard, you know,by this agency when, when this finding came out, and if you‟ve been digging in my emails, and I don‟t know if you‟ve dug in my emails,or it‟s just Jeff Loman selecting it, but you‟ll see a lot of emails there, uh, from management to me telling me that I can‟t functionas a biologist. I‟m not allowed to talk about this paper or ourfindings. I‟m not allowed to talk to the media. I can‟t, you know,I can‟t do these things.

    There are rules of conduct that you sign on to when you sign an contract. And if he wasn’t supposed to be talking to the media or acting as a biologist etc, then perhaps that was a contractual breach. He was told in the interview that the only way there could be criminal consequences were if he lied, and I think the agents were there to ensure there would be legal consequences if he lied to them.

    The interviewers were a sick joke IMO, but I did enjoy reading him describing his work.

  23. Richard T. Fowler said

    #22 — Again, good points. Thank you very much.

    RTF

  24. ColinD said

    Carrick, you have to know your Monty Python to understand Anon’s comment. It was from the Dead Parrot skit.

    BTW take it easy on us biologists we’re not all like that (I like to think anyway).

  25. Carrick said

    ColliinD, I completely missed that reference to the Dead Parrot skit. LOL.

    What area of biology are you in? The guys I know all do field work (counting tree rings, number of fire ants, etc.) Not particularly math intensive sort of work…

  26. ColinD said

    Carrick, well yes I collect field data too- plant stuff. It depends of course on how well structured your data collection is as to how math intensive the analysis can be. I enjoy extracting information from the data but certainly don’t consider myself a statistician- just try to carefully apply standard methods. I’ve learned a heck of a lot following this CAGW caper as a lurker most of the time.

  27. kim said

    Excellent, Carrick; you got the joke without knowing why.
    ====================================================

  28. Chuckles said

    #22,

    Carrick, for us non-USA types, I presume the legal consequences you’re referring to here are an offshoot of the ‘Martha Stewart Effect’?

    Very strange, all of it.

  29. Carrick said

    ColinD, my brother in law did a multi-year study examining the effects of different variables (temperature, moisture, etc) on tree ring growth…the ultimate customer for this were tree plantation owners. Part of his analysis was to perform a MANOVA-type analysis using SAS. But it was pretty much cookie-cutter sort of stuff, just collecting data, getting into the right format, pushing it through the SAS black box.

    Chuckles, in the US, it’s an act of perjury to lie to a federal investigator. So yes, it’s “the coverup not the crime.”

  30. Carrick said

    Chuckles, I think that’s the reason they identified their titles in the transcript. (They were calling Dr. Monnet “Mr. Monnet” to ruffle his feathers, I’m sure. Keep them a bit off balance, and it’s harder for them to keep made-up stories straight.)

  31. Chuckles said

    Thanks Carrick, an interesting deification of the bureaucracy then?

    A further transcript here –

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/29/transcript-jeffrey-gleason

    may also be of interest.

  32. Mark T said

    It is for that same reason calling the investigators incompetent is way off the mark. Indeed, they are likely quite good at intentionally playing dumb to aggravate their subjects and force a mistake. Polygraph examiners (not the cheesy kind on TV) use the same tactics though they only need you to doubt yourself rather than openly conttadict yourself. Repeatedly asking the same question for “clarification” or asking a reworded question are common tactics.
    Mark

  33. Carrick said

    MarkT, I am sure they are competent at what they do. I don’t think their analytic skills are quite up the task of auditing what he was doing, hopefully that wasn’t the point.

    If the real purpose of the review was to get him to state that he was doing work that was outside the scope specified in his contract, then they accomplished that. It almost seems that way, because once he went out and said that near the bottom of the interview, they ended the session.

  34. Carrick said

    Chuckles, more like an attempt to increase the consequences for “impeding a lawful investigation.”

  35. Anonymous said

    They don’t need to be up to the task of auditing (or even understanding) his work, just checking that his story was not a fabrication. That much was instantly obvious.

    Mark

  36. Mark T said

    Their analytic skills don’t need to be up to the task of understanding let alone auditing the work. They only need to be up to the task of uncovering any fabrications, which was quite obvious from the interrogation itself.

    Mark

  37. Mark T said

    Oh… WordPress flakiness.

  38. Chuckles said

    Carrick, yes agreed, my aside was simply a musing in a much wider sense of the wisdom of assigning such status to govt. functionaries of any sort, rather than a comment on the specific transcripts and interviews being discussed.

  39. HaroldW said

    Update on Monnett’s suspension is at http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=14209382

    Apparently it’s nothing to do with the polar bear article. It’s about a contract he gave to University of Alberta. Perhaps the recipient there has some personal tie to Monnett?

    This makes more sense to me than investigating a poor article 5 years ago.

  40. See comments posted here:

    http://judithcurry.com/2011/08/02/trying-to-put-the-climategate-genie-back-in-the-bottle/

    The thirty-nine (39) year battle (2011-1972 = 39) to avoid servitude to the one-world government that Richard Milhous Nixon secretly agreed to on 21-28 Feb 1972 is finally ending.

    I regret that NAS, PNAS, UK’s Royal Society, UN’s IPCC, Nature, Science, etc were not on the winning side of this hopefully final chapter to the Watergate era.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  41. kuhnkat@yahoo.com said

    I think y’all missed the issue that they didn’t even know for sure that what they thought were 3 dead bears were even bears, much less dead!!! When looking at the pictures that were shot at the time, no one could recognise the white blobs with any accuracy. This is quite interesting when compared to the very sharp, clear, pictures of the whales they shot with the same camera.

  42. kuhnkat@yahoo.com said

    I probably wasn’t clear in my first post.

    The photos were blurry at least partly because they were taken from an aircraft at their search altitude. They apparently were never very close to the floating white blobs.

    http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2011/08/more-on-polarbeargate-interview-with.html

    The investigation may very well be about something else completely, but, this would definitely be an issue with the paper.

  43. Douglas said

    @ Carrick

    transect: relevant to whales, which he is supposed to be studying. How is that properly relevant to bears?

    Up till 2004 no recordings of dead bears because they were not tracking them. Probably only spotty tracking of anything not their primary mission. Which was whales.

    So recently they got some data points on dead bears added by the new supervisor, and use 2 to make a case for CAGW.

    How well does that sit with you?

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