Monday, August 13, 2012

Polar Bear Follies Act XXIV

PEER reports that a final report from the Interior IG (Inspectors Clouseau, Eric May and Richard Larrabee) is now circulating within the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under double hush secret rules which means that neither Charles Monnett and Jeffrey Gleason has seen it.  The report is known to contain recommendations for administrative actions, but what those recommended actions are is unclear.  Supposedly a decision will be reached by December 4, but "extensions" are possible.  Eli and Rabett Run have been popcorning the farce for a while, and it looks like this will last at least until Christmas.

Important UPDATES at the end

NATURE has a follow up which reports that the IG has moved the cheese again
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 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.
PEER points out that cooperation among government agencies is not a crime.  Eli points out that it is often rare, and some bosses think this a firing offense

UPDATE:  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think that bunnies read the comments, but then again there are often things in comments that are more important than the posts with higher added value.  Rabett Run has high class comments from knowledgeable hares and it is a smart bunny who steps out of the way and gives those with a clue their say.  There are at least a few such comments today, which the Rabett has added below.  First, from an anonobunny
The authority used for interagency agreements between BOEM and NOAA is the Fish and Wildlife Recovery Act which specifically encourages cooperative studies such as the synthesis in question. A negotiated agreement is drafted jointly and both agencies share costs and benefits of the work. It is not competitive but the study concept is reviewed by both NOAA scientists and the BOEM Committee of Scientific Advisors.

The synthesis (SOAR - see website) was specifically created to support an interdisciplinary scientific analysis of $50M BOEM research plus considerable other effort by other funders. The goal was for the study to be science based and somewhat immune from pressure from managers or industry to produce specific findings or exclude others. Industry was not excluded from participating - just required to openly share data and not block release of products. Monnett objected to the proposed study by industry because the SOAR study was ready to be awarded after 3 years of development when along came Shell and Connoco who independently tried to create an MOU with NOAA unbeknownst to the NOAA PI of SOAR. Folks involved in SOAR were concerned that the industry effort was on a faster track and would compete for researchers' time (and potentially data). When NOAA leadership realized they already had a synthesis in the bag they withdrew from the Shell MOU.

Shell then approached the North Slope Research Board with a bag of money and convinced them to sponsor the synthesis. The two efforts are very different. Industry wants what is essentially a literature review. The BOEM NOAA SOAR is an iterative process that is completely managed by scientists in which topics for cross disciplinary publications are identified and funds are provided for those researchers to come together and produce actual peer-review documents. 
 and Deech has some pointers about the process links here and here and here and others comments on this post
For grant applications, the interactions you write about are common and are encouraged (although conversations are more about generalities rather than application pre-review). (Speaking as a COR) contracts are a different ball game, however. I wrote a bunch of stuff when this first came up and I would have to read the Nature piece and go back to the earlier posts to see where this all fits in from a FAR perspective.

Deech56 

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Harassment of scientists by government officials almost makes you sympathetic toward the POV of the Libertarians.

Almost.

~@:>

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that it was not uncommon for grants managers at the NSF to work with applicants to strengthen their applications... and presumably there's a peer review panel at some point that makes the actual decision?

-MMM

Rattus Norvegicus said...

So basically they are down to recommending that existing practice, as evidenced by the email exchanges between Monnett and his superiors during the development of this RFP response, should become a bit more hands off? Ohhhh Kaaaay...

Steve Bloom said...

And of course this *never* had anything to do with the polar bear paper. Although there are those inconvenient transcripts demonstrating otherwise, and if the concern was really about the contract management issue why rope in Gleason? Occam suggests a generalized with hunt motivated by dislike of the PB paper. Of course the purported fact that Monnett also conspired (both openly and with himself!) to keep industry out of that research effort must seem the most horrible of crimes to BOEM management given their supine position relative to the latter.

Anonymous said...

Supine? History indicates the position of BOEM (formerly the MMS) is somewhat more compromised.

Taylor B

Ed Darrell said...

Think of this like one agency is the FBI and the other is the CIA. One agency has information about terrorists ready to strike the U.S., but doesn't want to notify the other agency because bosses worry about the agencies being "too close." So the information is not passed, and 3,000 Americans die.

In retrospect, would you pick up the phone and talk to your counterpart in the other agency?

Anonymous said...

The authority used for interagency agreements between BOEM and NOAA is the Fish and Wildlife Recovery Act which specifically encourages cooperative studies such as the synthesis in question. A negotiated agreement is drafted jointly and both agencies share costs and benefits of the work. It is not competitive but the study concept is reviewed by both NOAA scientists and the BOEM Committee of Scientific Advisors.

The synthesis (SOAR - see website) was specifically created to support an interdisciplinary scientific analysis of $50M BOEM research plus considerable other effort by other funders. The goal was for the study to be science based and somewhat immune from pressure from managers or industry to produce specific findings or exclude others. Industry was not excluded from participating - just required to openly share data and not block release of products. Monnett objected to the proposed study by industry because the SOAR study was ready to be awarded after 3 years of development when along came Shell and Connoco who independently tried to create an MOU with NOAA unbeknownst to the NOAA PI of SOAR. Folks involved in SOAR were concerned that the industry effort was on a faster track and would compete for researchers' time (and potentially data). When NOAA leadership realized they already had a synthesis in the bag they withdrew from the Shell MOU.

Shell then approached the North Slope Research Board with a bag of money and convinced them to sponsor the synthesis. The two efforts are very different. Industry wants what is essentially a literature review. The BOEM NOAA SOAR is an iterative process that is completely managed by scientists in which topics for cross disciplinary publications are identified and funds are provided for those researchers to come together and produce actual peer-review documents.

Steve Bloom said...

Thanks for that detail, anon, it's much appreciated. It's interesting how Nature spun things off at variance with the facts.

Taylor, that's very unfair of you to mention that, although I maintain supine might retain a degree of relevance as a descriptive term. :)

Anonymous said...

For MMM:

For grant applications, the interactions you write about are common and are encouraged (although conversations are more about generalities rather than application pre-review). (Speaking as a COR) contracts are a different ball game, however. I wrote a bunch of stuff when this first came up and I would have to read the Nature piece and go back to the earlier posts to see where this all fits in from a FAR perspective.

Deech56

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

"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."

translation: an activist government bureaucracy would block oil drilling indefinintely, surprise!

and oh the arctic! we all care so much about it! precious arctic! None of you has ever even been there.

a_ray_in-dilbert_space said...

Wet Clean-up, Aisle 3!

The good Dr Spunkydrawers has spilled how own particular brand of nonsense all over the thread.

Please wear a hazmat suit, as the stupid is weapons grade.

Russell said...

Perhaps Eli can invoke the Canadian Human Rights Act’s Section 13, -- aerial harassment of dead polar bears by non-Inuit should be as actionable as using a narwhal tusk as seal pup club

Marion Delgado said...

This is roughly the same crew literally in bed with the resource extraction industry. And snorting their coke. Okay, their governmental cousins or half-siblings.

something about taking resources out of the commons and keeping them seems to make for a corrupt environment.

Anonymous said...

Brian, if I might impose?

What is your view on the following that appeared in the comments to Jill Burke’s story in the Alaska Dispatch on the latest Monnett Development?

“Monnett clearly cooked the science-data books, in order to make it look like the dead bears were unusual. He claimed that older records showed that no dead bears were seen earlier, when actually the older survey-records by design did not record any such sights, one way or the other (so of course, there were none to be found in early records).

‘I did not have sex with that bear!’"

Is this libel? Does the “by design” clearly enough relate to “cooked the science”?

WhiteBeard

Anonymous said...

http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/soar/

The Nature article was inaccurate in the statement "and offer conclusions about the overall impact of oil-and-gas exploration there...." This is definitiely not a goal of the SOAR. The folks that designed the study were very determined that the study would focus on the science and tried to make sure that would be the case by putting the study in the hands of a steering committee that was composed of scientists from a variety of organizations (see the website) that were not beholding to industry or NGO's. The value of the study is in its approach. It is multi-disciplinary and includes a strong element of retro-spective analysis which is normally missing from such activities.

The individual behind the comments of "Cadbury" above clearly shows his disdain for the Arctic and the people of the Arctic in his statements. His statements are beneath comment as he is probably being paid (or at least wishes he was) to disrupt intelligent discussions about important topics.

J Bowers said...

So why did Mulder and Scully have to paw through all that stuff about the photographs, including seeing the camera? This latest iteration is such utter BS it deserves a song and a note on the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

@anonymous

the fact is we should be drilling for oil in the arctic by now. Either way we get energy, the land is going to be ripped to shreds. If we want windmills and electric cars, those require rare earth metals, and I'm sure some of the more astute bunnies like Mr. Bowers and the Eli himself know that the Chinese mining practices are rotten.

Marion Delgado said...

By the way, I've been to the Arctic a few times. I'm FROM the subarctic. I canoed there and I also did a story on the movement of the Arctic Circle over time. It's very pretty there in the summer, although the mosquitoes are quite fierce.

The big difference is that Arctic life, mainly vegetation, is quite fragile even when compared to fragile subarctic flora and fauna.

Also, of course, any mental patient can claim a PhD from some sort of for-profit online Bible college.

J Bowers said...

Jay, when you're drilling for oil in the Arctic you ain't mining for rare earth metals in China. Speaking of even more delusional fantasies (warning, link to Comical Ant'ny's).

Lionel A said...

And further, Dr. (Is that for real?) Cadbeary, many of those so called 'rare earth' elements are not actually rare.

Another Jay 'look over there it's a squirrel' moment strikes.

Gee, some of these bot avoider strings could be anything. 5 attempts so far!

Eugenie Samuel Reich said...

@Anon at 13/8/12 11:50 PM
I'm the reporter who wrote about this for Nature. Would you be willing to contact me at eugenie.reich@gmail.com or 617 475 9243 (Nature office) to discuss your knowledge of the situation. Not for attribution or on background would be OK.
Eugenie

John Doe said...

On the subject of polar bears....

There is a movie Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change which calls attention to observations of change made by the Inuit, the people of the north. It was made by Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk (known also for his Atanarjuat The Fast Runner movie) in collaboration with notorious outside scientist agitator Ian Mauro (known for his Seed of Change movie). A shorter commentary in English explains the main observations. The movie itself in Inuit with English subtitles is here.

Inuit elders noticed that the sun and the stars had changed position in the sky since they were young. They went to some lengths to draw the attention of the outside world to this fact. Scientists at NASA among others told them this was impossible. The film claims it has been established to the satisfaction of scientists now that due to a lot of warmer air moving into the Arctic as a result of climate change which causes persistent inversions the observations of a changing position of the sun and stars coming from Inuit all over the north can be explained as the result of refraction in the changed atmosphere.

Bunnies snoozing off due to no polar bear news so far in this comment may be interested to know that the Inuit in the film also claim that all these scientists coming north to study bears do not talk to them. The Inuit in this film are claiming that overall the polar bear population for the moment in most areas of the north is very healthy.