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Inspector General Investigated For Muzzling Inconvenient Science

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the better-be-able-to-take-what-you-dish dept.

Science 276

Layzej writes "Federal biologist Charles Monnett was placed on administrative leave July 18 pending final results of an inspector general's investigation into integrity issues. The investigation originally focused on a 2006 note published in Polar Biology based on a unique observation of four dead polar bears. The investigators acknowledged that they had no formal training in science, but later demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of science, the peer review process, and at times basic math with questions like 'seven of what number is 11 percent?' They also expressed concern over the fact that the note was reviewed by Monnett's wife prior to submitting the paper for peer review. When nothing turned up, the investigation turned towards Monnett's role in administering research contracts. But documents released by PEER, a watchdog and whistle-blower protection group, suggest even that investigation is off base. Monnett has since been reinstated, albeit in a different position. Now the IG handling of this case is itself under investigation following a PEER complaint that the IG is violating new Interior Department scientific integrity rules."

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276 comments

First (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429088)

thing I ask is, who appointed this IG?

The Oil Corps (5, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429474)

If you click through the links in the Summit County Voice articles that have been covering this story, you get to
"Feds may be muzzling scientist over Arctic research [summitcountyvoice.com] ":

We think they’re [Interior Department investigators] nervous about his portfolio of science in the Arctic,” said [watchdog org] PEER [peer.org] director Jeff Ruch, explaining that there’s enormous pressure to move ahead with offshore drilling in the [Arctic] region.

It's obvious what's going on here. The Interior Department, which under Bush/Cheney took cocaine and hookers [nytimes.com] from drilling, other oil and other energy corps who are supposed to pay (minimal) royalties to the Department, is totally corrupt. That is the agency that pretended to regulate BP and other drillers, allowing the Mocambo blowout to poison the Gulf last year (and generally, in less reported ongoing operations). Obama hasn't worked hard enough to replace the crooks running that department. But it's much harder when the Senate's Republican minority abuses the filibuster to block any useful replacement of the crooks, installed by Bush/Cheney when Republicans had the monopoly over all 3 branches. Specifically here Republican senator James Inhofe, paramount climate change denier, is wrangling the scientist witchhunt to protect the oil corps. Not to mention the lockstep loyalty Republicans practice in opposition to anything Obama does. Especially when it might interfere with oil corps' vast, subsidized profits protected from the consequences of their epic destruction.

I don't know why we even have to ask "who's responsible?" Of course it's the oil corps and their wholly owned assets in the government. The government should run real investigations, try and convict the people making and executing these plans. Then anyone asking the question will have to be an obvious employee of the oil corps, making their living by trying to make it somehow questionable who's doing this to us.

Re:The Oil Corps (0, Flamebait)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429540)

Got to love this quote from your NYTimes article..

“When you come to work for the federal government, the American people expect the best of you,”

Baahahahahaha.. seriously? When I think of government workers, I think of depressed cubicle dwellers, or corrupt politicians..

Re:The Oil Corps (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429788)

I think of postal service employees, who I don't usually think of in cubicles. I think of the FBI, the US Geological Survey, the Coast Guard, the Navy, NASA.

Many of those might be depressed cubicle workers, but that's the case of most American workers. And they're probably more depressed now as the Republicans follow their own massive expansion of government labor [dailykos.com] under Bush/Cheney (but perfectly typical of all "Conservative" Republican presidents) with destroying jobs (and the product market demand those jobs create) during Obama's administration.

But despite our Republican-led attacks on government workers (and workers generally), the American people do still expect the best of them. Whether we give them an underpaid cubicle, or a space capsule, or a mail truck, to work in.

Re:The Oil Corps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429562)

Macondo, not Mocambo. The name is a reference to the novel "Cien años de soledad".

Re:The Oil Corps (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429764)

You are correct. Thanks for the correction.

Oh, I know the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429104)

Seven of ~1.571428... percent is 11 percent. What shittily-worded question.

Re:Oh, YOU DO NOT know the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429164)

wtf?

7 is the 11% of 64

Re:Oh, YOU DO NOT know the answer (1)

mestar (121800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429346)

7 of 9 is 100%.

Re:Oh, YOU DO NOT know the answer (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430258)

7 of 9 is 100%.

No, 7 of 9 is a 10 - that makes her 1000%.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429176)

Seven of ~1.571428... percent is 11 percent. What shittily-worded question.

Your text doesn't make sense.

7 of 63.6... is 11 percent. If it shall be an integer, 7 of 64 is the best approximation.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (2)

WhatAreYouDoingHere (2458602) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429298)

It is a weird question, though. It doesn't say "Seven is 11 percent of what number?" It says "Seven of what number is 11%?" The AC may have been correct. Seven of 1.571428 is close to 11. It's not a percent though, other than a percent of one hundred. Maybe the answer is 0.01571428, seven of which would yield a result close to 0.11, which is 11 percent, right?

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429394)

No, seven of is always a quotient, not a product.
11 percent is 11 of 100 is 0.11. (per cent = of hundred, literally)

The equation therefore is 7/x=11/100.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

MacDork (560499) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429716)

I agree with WhatAreYouDoingHere. It's poorly worded and strictly speaking, 7 x 1.57% is approximately 11%. If I ask you 7 of what amount equals 11 pounds, are you going to tell me 64 pounds? No. If the answer is 64, then the question is "7 is 11% of what number." So, depending on who asked the question and the expected answer, someone needs to lrn2math, specifically in the neighborhood of formulating word problems.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

blue trane (110704) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430154)

Linguistically I think it chunks like this: (Seven) (of what number) (is) (11%). The prepositional phrase "of what number" can be moved after the "11%" without changing the meaning.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429428)

Seven = 7, of = times, what number = x, is 11% is =11%, therefore 7 X x = 11%; 7 X x = 11/100; 700 X x = 11; x = 11/700; x = 0.0157

You're right, the question is worded in a very vague manner (intentional, no doubt).,

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429444)

No, of = "divided by".

If 2 of 5 people are ill, is that 20% (2/5), or 1000& (2*5)?

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429456)

Oops, 40%, of course (and that "&" should have been a "%" as well).
Reminder to self: Proofread!

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429494)

A sane person would say "If 2 out of 5 people are ill". Anyway I read the transcript now, my comment is irrelevant.

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429554)

A verbose person would say "If 2 out of 5 people are ill"

FTFY

Re:Oh, I know the answer (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429254)

Seven of ~1.571428... percent is 11 percent. What shittily-worded question.

I can see a great career for you as a government investigator

oddly-worded indeed (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430166)

I estimated 63 (7 multiplied by 9) because 11 percent is about one ninth

PEER is not a "watchdog group" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429130)

They're a lobbying group for public servants who work in environmental fields, with a very obvious stake in the outcome of this case. It'd be like the American Petroleum Institute complaining about the BP investigation.

Re:PEER is not a "watchdog group" (2, Informative)

esocid (946821) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430026)

How are they equivalent? PEER offers avenues of support to whistelblowers who witness violations within their field. In this case, there was a deliberate effort to defame the work of scientists, and the scientists themselves. Of course they have an obvious stake in the outcome of this case, their integrity, as well as jobs, are being called into question. And by they, I mean the scientists.

Summary (5, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429154)

"The investigation originally focused on a 2006 note published in Polar Biology based on a unique observation of four dead polar bears. The investigators acknowledged that they had no formal training in science"

So the headline would be "Dead Polar Bears had no formal science training"

We must ensure better education for the bears so they can understand the climate changes and so adapt to the conditions.

Re:Summary (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429330)

We need not only better educated bears, but bears trained to swim.

It appears that these polar bears could only dog-paddle. If polar bears are to survive the coming anti-ice age, we must be prepared to send Red Cross-approved instructors to graduate these bears for Swimming and CPR.

http://www.bearplanet.org/polarbear.shtml [bearplanet.org]

Global warming is a lie! (2, Funny)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429158)

This proves it! It's all a lie. Fox news is right! ;)

Re:Global warming is a lie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429232)

No matter how true, if Fox says it is true it is a lie.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (0, Troll)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429500)

This proves it! It's all a lie. Fox news is right! ;)

I don't trust Fox News, but a nobel laureate [humanevents.com] in physics at least gets me to listen.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429730)

Physics is not Climatology. And Nobel Laureaute status is nice, but you'd be surprised at how many Nobel Laureates fly off into cloud-cuckoo land. (For example, Roger Penrose has caused biologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers to boggle, with his consciousness-by-quantum-nanotube-therefore-free-will spiel he's been pushing. He's great at astrophysics, but this stuff he's been writing lately is weird and wrong on many levels.)

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1, Insightful)

mpe (36238) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430168)

Physics is not Climatology

But it's apparently ok for the American Physical Society to endorse claims made by "Climatologists"? That appears to be Dr. Giaever's first complaint. His second point is that that 0.8 degrees difference in the average temperature of the average temperature of a planet over 150 years is well within "experimental error". Given the huge number of measurements and cacluations which would be needed even if the measuring devices and methods had not changed at all in that time.

And Nobel Laureaute status is nice, but you'd be surprised at how many Nobel Laureates fly off into cloud-cuckoo land. (For example, Roger Penrose has caused biologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers to boggle, with his consciousness-by-quantum-nanotube-therefore-free-will spiel he's been pushing. He's great at astrophysics, but this stuff he's been writing lately is weird and wrong on many levels

But comment on climatologists in similar ways and you tend to get asked what your qualifications you have in "climatology"...

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1, Interesting)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429802)

I wonder how physicists would react to a climatologist who proclaimed that the standard model was just trickery of numbers, using statistical tricks to keep the grant money rolling in.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (5, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430050)

Did you actually read anything about why he resigned from the APS, or are you just making assumptions?

His big point was their statement that AGW is *incontrovertible*.

He's right. That's not science.

His other opinions on the matter may or may not be valid, and are irrelevant. He's right. Deciding that one sort of conclusion is correct and may not be questioned or investigated is decidedly unscientific. Is the speed of light constant at all places and times? Hey, let's do some math, let's devise some experiments! Awesome! SCIENCE! Are humans causing global warming? YES AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH, ACCEPT THAT IT IS TRUE!

Huh? The fuck?

Re:Global warming is a lie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37430160)

His big point was their statement that AGW is *incontrovertible*. He's right. That's not science. And you're wrong, that is science. The evidence is so incredibly lopsided that AGW is incontrovertible. The fact that you are unaware of the overwhelming evidence does not have any impact on whether or not it is science.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430204)

No. Just, no, Mr. AC. Nothing is so certain that it cannot bear further scrutiny. If AGW is true, if it is a fact, further investigation -- even if the initial premise is that AGW is not happening -- will eventually come to the conclusion that AGW is true and happening.

The only bad science is the science that is held above questioning. That's called faith.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430266)

Are humans causing global warming? YES AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH, ACCEPT THAT IT IS TRUE!

I'm pretty sure when Gore said that, he didn't use the "F" word.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (2)

catman (1412) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429882)

Professor Giæver's specialty isn't exactly climate science ... but he ought to be qualified to judge the evidence for AGW, assuming he ever looked at it. Somehow it reminds me of the geologist professor Ivan Rosenqvist, who - if I recall correctly - denied that the acid rain over northern Europe was due to gases transported over long distances. He did have other valid points, but later events have shown that it was indeed sulfuric and nitrous gases from central Europe that gave (most of the) acid rain over Scandinavia.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (0)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430072)

This proves it! It's all a lie. Fox news is right! ;)

I don't trust Fox News, but a nobel laureate [humanevents.com] in physics at least gets me to listen.

And the other Nobel laureates that stay in the APS because they agree with this [aps.org] , don't. Yeah, figures.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429600)

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Re:Global warming is a lie! (1)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429642)

If it was up to people like Al Gore we'd be up to our necks in Polar Bears and without jobs.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429880)

Oh I dunno. I figure the bears would keep the population of jobless humans in check.

Re:Global warming is a lie! (1)

Greystripe (1985692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430282)

Or the population of jobless humans would be wearing furs and eating bear steak.

Context is nice (3, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429168)

It does look like the IG investigators were way over their heads. But the point about "seven of what number is 11 percent?" seems to be taken out of context. The full section of the transcript where that occurs

CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah. Well, thats a nothing. Um,

23 yeah, 10.8. And then we said, um, four dead – four swimming

24 polar bears were encountered on these transects, in addition

25 to three.

26 ERIC MAY: Three dead polar bears?

1 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah, three dead.

2 ERIC MAY: Right.

3 CHARLES MONNETT: But the four swimming were a week earlier.

4 ERIC MAY: Okay.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: And, um, then we said if they accurately

6 reflect 11 percent of the bears present so, in other words,

7 theyre just distributed randomly, so we looked at 11 percent

8 of the area.

9 ERIC MAY: In that transect?

10 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah.

11 ERIC MAY: Right.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: In, in our, in our area there, um –

13 ERIC MAY: Right.

14 CHARLES MONNETT: – and, therefore, we should have seen

15 11 percent of the bears. Then you just invert that, and you

16 come up with, um, nine times as many. So thats where you get

17 the 27, nine times three.

18 ERIC MAY: Where does the nine come from?

19 CHARLES MONNETT: Uh, well 11 percent is one-ninth of

20 100 percent. Nine times 11 is 99 percent. Is that, is that

21 clear?

22 ERIC MAY: Well, now, seven of 11 – seven of what number is

23 11 percent? Shouldnt that be – thats 63, correct?

24 CHARLES MONNETT: What?

25 ERIC MAY: So you said this is –

26 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven/11ths this is –

1 ERIC MAY: No, no, no, no, no. This, this is, this is 11 –

2 seven is what number of 11 percent?

3 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven?

4 ERIC MAY: Yeah.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: Is what number of 11 percent?

6 ERIC MAY: Eleven percent, right.

7 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, I dont know. I dont even know

8 what youre talking about. It makes no sense.

9 LYNN GIBSON: I think what hes saying is since theres four

10 swimming and three dead, that makes –

11 ERIC MAY: And three dead.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, you dont count them all together.

13 That doesnt have anything to do. You cant – that doesnt

14 even –

15 LYNN GIBSON: So youre not saying that the seven represent

16 11 percent of the population.

17 CHARLES MONNETT: Theyre different events.

The confusion here seems to be about what metrics are being used. It looks like the IG people didn't look at things in much detail before the interview which is clearly bad. But if I'm reading this correctly the actual context of the 11 percent line seems to be a unit confusion of an easy form to occur if one isn't that used to handling percentages and isn't actually writing things down. The section does make the IG look pretty bad and like they haven't done their research. But it doesn't look as incredibly bad as the summary suggests.

Re:Context is nice (2)

mestar (121800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429326)

So, Who's on first?

Re:Context is nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429466)

Number 7. Number 11 is on second. What is 3rd base.

Re:Context is nice (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429808)

It's obvious that parent's AC author has never made it that far with a girl.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429460)

It does look like the IG investigators were way over their heads. But the point about "seven of what number is 11 percent?" seems to be taken out of context. The full section of the transcript where that occurs

CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah. Well, thats a nothing. Um,

23 yeah, 10.8. And then we said, um, four dead – four swimming

24 polar bears were encountered on these transects, in addition

25 to three.

26 ERIC MAY: Three dead polar bears?

1 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah, three dead.

2 ERIC MAY: Right.

3 CHARLES MONNETT: But the four swimming were a week earlier.

4 ERIC MAY: Okay.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: And, um, then we said if they accurately

6 reflect 11 percent of the bears present so, in other words,

7 theyre just distributed randomly, so we looked at 11 percent

8 of the area.

9 ERIC MAY: In that transect?

10 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah.

11 ERIC MAY: Right.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: In, in our, in our area there, um –

13 ERIC MAY: Right.

14 CHARLES MONNETT: – and, therefore, we should have seen

15 11 percent of the bears. Then you just invert that, and you

16 come up with, um, nine times as many. So thats where you get

17 the 27, nine times three.

18 ERIC MAY: Where does the nine come from?

19 CHARLES MONNETT: Uh, well 11 percent is one-ninth of

20 100 percent. Nine times 11 is 99 percent. Is that, is that

21 clear?

22 ERIC MAY: Well, now, seven of 11 – seven of what number is

23 11 percent? Shouldnt that be – thats 63, correct?

24 CHARLES MONNETT: What?

25 ERIC MAY: So you said this is –

26 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven/11ths this is –

1 ERIC MAY: No, no, no, no, no. This, this is, this is 11 –

2 seven is what number of 11 percent?

3 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven?

4 ERIC MAY: Yeah.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: Is what number of 11 percent?

6 ERIC MAY: Eleven percent, right.

7 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, I dont know. I dont even know

8 what youre talking about. It makes no sense.

9 LYNN GIBSON: I think what hes saying is since theres four

10 swimming and three dead, that makes –

11 ERIC MAY: And three dead.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, you dont count them all together.

13 That doesnt have anything to do. You cant – that doesnt

14 even –

15 LYNN GIBSON: So youre not saying that the seven represent

16 11 percent of the population.

17 CHARLES MONNETT: Theyre different events.

The confusion here seems to be about what metrics are being used. It looks like the IG people didn't look at things in much detail before the interview which is clearly bad. But if I'm reading this correctly the actual context of the 11 percent line seems to be a unit confusion of an easy form to occur if one isn't that used to handling percentages and isn't actually writing things down. The section does make the IG look pretty bad and like they haven't done their research. But it doesn't look as incredibly bad as the summary suggests.

It does look like the IG investigators were way over their heads. But the point about "seven of what number is 11 percent?" seems to be taken out of context. The full section of the transcript where that occurs

CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah. Well, thats a nothing. Um,

23 yeah, 10.8. And then we said, um, four dead – four swimming

24 polar bears were encountered on these transects, in addition

25 to three.

26 ERIC MAY: Three dead polar bears?

1 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah, three dead.

2 ERIC MAY: Right.

3 CHARLES MONNETT: But the four swimming were a week earlier.

4 ERIC MAY: Okay.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: And, um, then we said if they accurately

6 reflect 11 percent of the bears present so, in other words,

7 theyre just distributed randomly, so we looked at 11 percent

8 of the area.

9 ERIC MAY: In that transect?

10 CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah.

11 ERIC MAY: Right.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: In, in our, in our area there, um –

13 ERIC MAY: Right.

14 CHARLES MONNETT: – and, therefore, we should have seen

15 11 percent of the bears. Then you just invert that, and you

16 come up with, um, nine times as many. So thats where you get

17 the 27, nine times three.

18 ERIC MAY: Where does the nine come from?

19 CHARLES MONNETT: Uh, well 11 percent is one-ninth of

20 100 percent. Nine times 11 is 99 percent. Is that, is that

21 clear?

22 ERIC MAY: Well, now, seven of 11 – seven of what number is

23 11 percent? Shouldnt that be – thats 63, correct?

24 CHARLES MONNETT: What?

25 ERIC MAY: So you said this is –

26 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven/11ths this is –

1 ERIC MAY: No, no, no, no, no. This, this is, this is 11 –

2 seven is what number of 11 percent?

3 CHARLES MONNETT: Seven?

4 ERIC MAY: Yeah.

5 CHARLES MONNETT: Is what number of 11 percent?

6 ERIC MAY: Eleven percent, right.

7 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, I dont know. I dont even know

8 what youre talking about. It makes no sense.

9 LYNN GIBSON: I think what hes saying is since theres four

10 swimming and three dead, that makes –

11 ERIC MAY: And three dead.

12 CHARLES MONNETT: Well, you dont count them all together.

13 That doesnt have anything to do. You cant – that doesnt

14 even –

15 LYNN GIBSON: So youre not saying that the seven represent

16 11 percent of the population.

17 CHARLES MONNETT: Theyre different events.

The confusion here seems to be about what metrics are being used. It looks like the IG people didn't look at things in much detail before the interview which is clearly bad. But if I'm reading this correctly the actual context of the 11 percent line seems to be a unit confusion of an easy form to occur if one isn't that used to handling percentages and isn't actually writing things down. The section does make the IG look pretty bad and like they haven't done their research. But it doesn't look as incredibly bad as the summary suggests.

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18 NIGEL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429694)

...These go to eleven.

Re:Context is nice (1)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429728)

When describing a ratio, 7 of 63 is about 11%,

Re:Context is nice (2)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429814)

But it doesn't look as incredibly bad as the summary suggests.

Actually, it's worse than the summary. I could take the summary to mean that someone had to take a second to get their bearings straight about figuring how many polar bears there are when 7 bears is 11% of the total.
The real problem is that the interviewer thought that if you surveyed 11% of the area one day and saw 4 swimming bears, and surveyed another 11% of the area a week later and saw 3 drowned bears, that you should add the two numbers together to get 11% of the total population of bears.

Re:Context is nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429862)

right. so its 7 bears which is 11% of 200% (since the flights were done twice).
you can understand the confusion though.

Re:Context is nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429824)

The IG seems to have some confusion about the way biological sampling is done. IIRC, if you have a 100 square meter area, and you sample all the flora in a 10 square meter area, it's accepted to extrapolate that the sampling concentrations of the plants found will apply to the larger area by multiplying by 10. I think that's what the scientist was saying, was they found 4 swimming bears and 3 dead in the sample area, and the sample area size was 11% of the larger area being investigated.

Wrong People for the Job (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429836)

if one isn't that used to handling percentages

Sorry but percentages are primary school maths. We are exposed to them frequently in the news, with interest rates etc. I'm sure the investigators in this case are well equipped to handle the average idiot criminal but if you are going to investigate a science-based case you should send someone with at least a basic grasp maths and some clue as to how science works if for no other reason that you have no context in which to evaluate the statements made by the person being investigated. It is not a proper investigation if you cannot evaluate whether the actions taken are reasonable or whether the statements being made are correct. He could probably have just sat there and told them that 11% was a calibration constant based on the aircraft they were using and they would not have had a clue.

Re:Context is nice (5, Insightful)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429868)

But it doesn't look as incredibly bad as the summary suggests.

Did you stop reading the transcript at some point ?

The investigators were using the Richelieu technique, just trying to get Monnett to say enough so they could find something with which to hang him. I'd really like to know why Monnett didn't tell them to fuck off.

The investagiators clearly had no fucking idea what they were talking about. They spend pages asking him how he knew the polar bears were dead. they spent pages asking him more questions about the dead polar bears. Monnett responded in detail, and in exactly the fashion I would expect an experienced researcher to answer in. Details about how they gather the data, details as to how he came to the conclusions that he did. Deails, not generalizations. All they did was badger and needle him - it's like a 5 year old asking "why ?" all the time.

There's nothing here to suggest any wrong doing on Monnett's part.

So instead of the FBI going after the fucking banksters they're spending time and money going after a guy who made a valid and reasonable claim about the significance of dead polar bears in the artic.

Re:Context is nice (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430078)

I am guessing that Dr. Monnett was extrapolating the total number of polar bears. He estimated he flew over 11% of the area that he wanted to cover and saw 7 polar bears total (4 swimming, 3 dead). Extrapolating there should be (7 /0.11 or 7 *9 as 1/0.11 =9) approx. 63 bears in the total area. Mind that extrapolation is not always 100% certain. But it seems the investigators did have trouble with math.

"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429182)

What does that mean? (Not a native speaker, I honestly don't know. Maybe it's asking for the solution to 7x = 0.11? I read the transcript excerpt, but it's not clear there either.)

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429228)

I believe they are asking for X in the equation: 0.11 * X = 7

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429338)

I think the question was meant to be 7/11 = X%, but it was worded extremely poorly and confusingly. So, yeah, none of us here would have been able to answer that question without clarification. And you'll note that the person being questioned is thoroughly confused by it, and tries to express that the question makes no sense, but the questioner doesn't seem willing to clarify...

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429842)

No, that is not the confusion at all. Dr Monnett was saying that it made no sense to use the number 7 when he saw 4 swimming bears on one survey of 11% of the area and 3 drowned bears on a separate random survey of 11% of the area.

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429360)

What does that mean? (Not a native speaker, I honestly don't know. Maybe it's asking for the solution to 7x = 0.11? I read the transcript excerpt, but it's not clear there either.)

You got it correct. They encountered 7 polar bears. They assumed they have seen 11% of all bears. The question was the total number of bears under this assumption. Eric May correctly got 63 by approximating 0.11 by 1/9 -- 64 would be a better estimate, but since it's an estimate, one bear more or less doesn't make a big difference anyway -- after Charles Monnett, also correctly, estimated the number of dead bears to 27 (3*9).

What followed is obviously a case of failed communication, and confusion arising from it. Lynn Gibson is trying to clear that confusion. From the last lines quoted by JoshuaZ (I didn't go to the original source, since the relevant part seems to be covered in that post), I conclude that the confusion obviously was caused by Charles Monnett making the 11% assumption only for the three dead bears (which may be related to the fact that the four living ones had been observed a week earlier, which he noted before; but that's speculation).

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429410)

Oops, I misread your equation. It's not 7x, but 7/x, of course. But apart from my first sentence (which claims you had been correct), I don't have to take away anything from my post.

Re:"seven of what number is 11 percent?" (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429864)

I conclude that the confusion obviously was caused by Charles Monnett making the 11% assumption only for the three dead bears (which may be related to the fact that the four living ones had been observed a week earlier, which he noted before; but that's speculation).

Read it again. The part that makes no sense is the interviewer adding 4 swimming bears from one survey and 3 dead bears from another survey a week later to get 7 bears and trying to extrapolate the total population of bears from that sum. That, as was said, doesn't make any sense at all. Dr Monnett was not confused, neither did he add to any confusion on the part of the interviewer.

Eppur si muove. (-1, Troll)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429184)

Is it just my contrariness, or does "Inspector General" sound remarkably similar to "Holy Inquisition"?

"Signore Galilei, you have been accused of publishing your hypotheses despite the prohibition of Mother Church. This Consistory of learned fathers find you guilty. (Unfortunately you have some powerful protectors so we can't cook you.) You are sentenced to house arrest for the rest of your life."

"Signore Monnett, you have been accused of publishing your hypotheses despite the prohibition of Mother Exxon. This committee of lobbyists finds you guilty. Since that wackjob is in the White House we can't have you burned at the stake but we can shut you up."

(Well, the "no formal training in science" bit certainly seems to apply in both cases.)

Re:Eppur si muove. (2)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429270)

Is it just my contrariness, or does "Inspector General" sound remarkably similar to "Holy Inquisition"?

No, it doesn't. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inspector_General#United_States [wikipedia.org]
In the United States, an Inspector General (IG) leads an organization charged with examining the actions of a government agency, military organization, or military contractor as a general auditor of their operations to ensure they are operating in compliance with generally established policies of the government, to audit the effectiveness of security procedures, or to discover the possibility of misconduct, waste, fraud, theft, or certain types of criminal activity by individuals or groups related to the agency's operation, usually involving some misuse of the organization's funds or credit. In the United States, there are numerous Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) at the federal, state, and local levels.

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429592)

Sounds like the perfect organisation to examine Senator Inhofe's [wikipedia.org] misuse of government resources to conduct his personal witch hunts [google.com.au] .

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429706)

Except that Congress has exempted itself from IG oversight.

Re:Eppur si muove. (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429404)

More likely that your natural reaction is showing the biases that are embedded in the brain. If the inspector general were investigating the evils of Walmart and McDonald's, would you have had the same first reaction? You might want to do some introspection and check on that and see if you can clean out some of the mental traps that are keeping you from seeing the world clearly.

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429520)

Might you have one of those wonderful machines for measuring the engrams that are plaguing me?
Perhaps a helpful audit of my personality and a large cash donation from me would help.
Help me to "see clearly"

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429548)

Yes, it is called a LART. Please come over so I can apply it correctly, you are in desperate need.

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

MimeticLie (1866406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429724)

Except that's not what an inspector general does. They are responsible for investigating misconduct in a government agency (in this case, the Department of the Interior).

And that's where the problem lies. if you read the transcript [carbonbrief.org] , Monnett worked for the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Yes, that [wsj.com] MMS.

So, when a government agency is working in the interests of the citizens of the United States, then yes, the inspector general preforms a valuable function. When the agency is in bed with the industry it is supposed to be regulating, then the office of the inspector general becomes a tool to stifle people who oppose the pro-industry narrative. Look at this case. If you read the transcript, the issue is that someone who can't do math reported Monnet to the OIG for scientific misconduct. Rather than checking the peer-review process or consulting with an expert, the investigators repeated the same flawed math and suspended him. You want to talk about "embedded biases"? Take a look at the OIG.

Re:Eppur si muove. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429904)

If your response to hearing about an investigation on a topic you are interested in is knee-jerk thinking that the investigator must be an inquisitor, then yes, you have a cognitive problem. Inspector general is a neutral word. The bias must be coming from within your own mind.

Re:Eppur si muove. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429722)

No. It sounds like some gay guy from Pirates of Penzance.

OK, but not gay (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429966)

I seem to have trodden on a lot of toes there! - obviously people who don't actually know any history.

However, the person you are thinking of is the "modern Major-General". Interestingly, Gilbert got it utterly wrong. It was a satire on the ridiculous (to Gilbert) idea that trainee Army officers needed an education. Yet he mentions mathematics as one of the (to him) useless things now to be learnt, and doesn't realise that gunnery depends heavily on mathematics - which brings me back to Galileo, who of course was investigating dynamics with a view to improving the use of artillery.

Gilbert was amusing, but history has shown that most of his prejudices were quite, quite wrong.

But (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429264)

Least we forget the research was shit. The polar bears are doing great... Unless your an al gore minion in which case, reality is subjective

Re:But (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429354)

Polar bears can, as a general rule, swim for 80 Km in frigid water. After which, they remain active and vigorous.

If they are drowning, it is because of Arctic tsunami!

Re:But (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429372)

Either way ... polar bears are good eatin'

Re:But (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429470)

Either way ... polar bears are good eatin'

I prefer not to be eaten by one. :-)

Re:But (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429484)

Reality is always subjective, that's why politics and religion work. Al Gore just happened to transcend one into the other.

Re:But (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429906)

Least we forget the research was shit. The polar bears are doing great...

The polar bear note wasn't the research. It was a report of an observation made while doing other reasearch, and it was a valid observation and note. The research was on whales, and the report on it (at least one of the reports on migration) was shit, which is why Dr Monnett refused to sign it. Read the transcript.

Does not compute (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429388)

'seven of what number is 11 percent?'

Is that way of asking the question confusing to anyone else? Guaranteed if someone asked me that out loud I would wallow in confusion. It's taken me several times reading it to figure it out even here, I believe they are asking .11 * x = 7, which I would have phrased in words as '7 is 11% of what number?' Maybe in other parts of the country people talk like that, but it sounds very awkward to me.

Re:Does not compute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429512)

Agree totally. The question is phrased awkwardly. I would have been very confused too.

Re:Does not compute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37430038)

Well, yeah. However, this is a formula from grade school arithmetic in the US.

Re:Does not compute (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430164)

No, they were asking "7 / x = 11%" which yes, is mathematically identical to your phrasing, but when one literally translates the divide and equal sign to English one gets "seven of what number is 11%"

The problem isn't you, and it isn't them; English just sucks in general for expressing mathematics.

why is science so mistrusted? (2, Insightful)

markhahn (122033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429424)

What's odd in this case is there there's so little respect for science and the scientists that do it. and the idea that the government should hire its own scientists is just absurd - scientists need to report to an academic institution. the interview demonstrates that the agency involved (and this Eric May character) has a giant axe to grind - a political agenda.

agenda is corrosive to science.

but why do so many people feel that they're being misled by scientists? is it just that they don't want to believe what science says?

it's also kind of appalling that they still do these transects with some guys in a bush plane: no continual video record, no constant gps track, etc.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429518)

because unlike government, academic institutions aren't driven by politics, agendas, contributors and don't have cronyism and nepotism? Bwahahahaha!

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (1)

Gary Perkins (1518751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429652)

but why do so many people feel that they're being misled by scientists? is it just that they don't want to believe what science says?

Yes and no. I think it also quite often has to do with people not really understanding the science. I know when something new that piques my interest comes around, I get quite confused very quickly once I get around to looking at the nitty gritty of it. At some point, the lay person simply has to place some faith in the scientists.

The problem is, every time a scientist is found to have abused the scientific method, plagiarized, or basically cheated or found plain wrong in some way, it discredits the entire profession in the lay persons' minds. Sure, this is why we rely on peer reviews, but there have been plenty of documented cases where bad science has gotten past that as well.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (0, Flamebait)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429714)

It's because scientists spent the last 5 centuries trying to DESTROY trust in institutions, including academic institutions. Furthermore, it continues to teach that trust in institutions is a bad thing, and that what matters is the evidence. Thus scientists have no charismatic leaders (do you count Al Gore?). What they do is correct.

If you want to correct people on global warming, then show them the evidence. I've never found anyone who I couldn't convince that adding CO2 has a positive radiative forcing, because there is tons of evidence for that. Where you run into trouble is when you start saying ".....therefore, if we don't replace all our coal power plants right now, millions of people will die." There just isn't the evidence to support that.

We can apply the same principle to evolution. It's rare to find someone who won't agree with natural selection when it is carefully explained (those people do exist, but they are rare examples of idiots). When you carefully explain the evidence for an old earth, you can usually get most people around to believing that as well (once again, that has been my experience). However, if you try to further draw the conclusion, "......therefore, god doesn't exist." People are going to start ignoring you, because evolution arguments don't prove that.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429866)

The problems come when the evidence is so complicated that it requires years of specialist education to become fully informed. In that situation, the scientist with a mountain of studies to back him will lose public debate to the charismatic speaker with a few catchy soundbytes. That's the problem here: The public is stupid, always has been, and always will be. Because each individual is highly knowledgeable only in their own small field, which means that the majority is ignorant of every field. This combines with the natural tendency of humans to vastly overestimate their own knowledge. I recall there was a survey that circulated in the news a few years ago for finding that somewhere more than ninety percent of drivers thought they were a better driver than most.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429922)

That's the problem here: The public is stupid, always has been, and always will be.

Here is your problem: when you think the people you talk to are stupid rather than poorly informed, you are never going to be able to convince them of anything. Let me guess, you are one of those that think they are more intelligent than most?

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (5, Insightful)

SlideGuitar (445691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429896)

Nonesense on every count. Scientists have largely supported trusting institutions that support science, and institutions that make conclusions that are based on scientific skepticism.

Nobody IS saying that "replace coal now or millions will die" is a scientific conclusion. It is a policy conclusion based on a scientific conclusion. What they do say is that carbon increases heat absorption, we're increasing carbon output, and the temperature and weather is measurably changing. But policy is never a conclusion of the scientific method. Policy is the logical conclusion that rational people make in the face of scientific evidence and in light of facts revealed by the scientific method. The very idea that there should be evidence to support a policy conclusion, as opposed to the fact conclusions upon which the policy conclusion is based, indicates that you basically have no understanding of either science or policy.

I don't know, likewise, any scientist who has ever used any evidence derived from the scientific method to conclude that in a scientific sense that "god doesn't exist." What scientists typically and rightly say is that we don't need god to explain the evidence, that god is not a testable hypothesis, and that god is basically irrelevant to our theories and ideas. Only in the fevered imaginings of fundamentalists are scientists drawing the conclusion from scientific evidence and methods that god doesn't exist. They just don't do that, because by and large they know that this would be absurd.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429978)

Nonesense on every count.

lol oh really? Every count? Surely there was SOMETHING I said that you didn't find objectionable?

Here's your problem, you're getting close to a "No true Scottsman" fallacy. The fact is, there are scientists have said that we need to make drastic changes in our energy policy. There are scientists who have tried to use evolution to prove that God doesn't exist. Which (among other things.....think of Linus Pauling's vitamin C fiasco. Great guy, but wrong) is why science doesn't make decisions based on the prestige of the scientist, but rather based on the evidence presented.

Getting back to my original point, which you seemed to have missed, most people become convinced of reality when you can present the evidence to them uncoupled from incorrect conclusions.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429756)

>but why do so many people feel that they're being misled by scientists? is it just that they don't want to believe what science says?

The people who make their living or get their authority from telling other people what to think are directly threatened by science, so they tell the people under their control not to trust science and scientists.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429792)

What's odd in this case is there there's so little respect for science and the scientists that do it.

The first clue would be that less than 40% of Americans believe in 'the natural selection of the species' (a.k.a. evolution) [gallup.com] . If people reject something that is so widely accepted in the scientific community, it isn't surprising that they will willingly choose to ignore scientists in other areas when it suites them. Especially if the people they elect (e.g. George W. Bush) are proud of the fact that they are uninformed or selective in what they want to hear. [slate.com]

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429884)

Sometimes the truth is just so inconvenient, people choose subconsciously to reject it. Climate change is a very good example of this. If the claims of scientists are true, then something has to be done - and whatever the something is will be horribly expensive, economically disadvantagious, personally inconvenient for millions of people and politically difficult in a time when any form of regulation meets with popular resistance. Far easier simply to deny anything is wrong, and thus remove the need to do anything. It isn't even something people realise they are doing.

Misrepresentation.... (0)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429988)

  • horribly expensive - as compared to doing nothing? I think not.
  • economically disadvantageous - creating new jobs in new industries with lower future costs
  • personally inconvenient for millions - ah there it is. You didn't add "of North Americans and Australians", though
  • -politically difficult...popular resistance - you mean "resisted by lobbyists for rich corporations"

Re:Misrepresentation.... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430234)

1. There is a reason fossil fuels are so popular. It's because they are cheap. Really cheap. Super-incredibly-cheap. And with that cheapness comes a whole economy driven by cheap energy - where things can be made in China and sold in the US, because it costs next to nothing to have them shipped halfway around the world. Where workers can live out in the comfort of suburbia, and each day be transported in their own personal car to the city and back again. Where people can go where they want, when they want, without worrying too much about the cost of transport.
2. If country A is using cheap screw-the-planet oil and coal, and country B is using expensive renewables, guess which one is going to have all the businesses move there?
3. And sure enough, North America is the main source of climate change denial. The people want their cars. Cars are more than a means of transport - they are a symbol of freedom. The power to travel where one wants, unbound by the dictates of others. People want the comfort of air-conditioning, and the luxury of low-cost everything from that economy driven by cheap energy.
4. That too, of course. But right now, the popular support in the US has turned towards small government. While neither political party is actually doing very much to actually shrink the government, the republicans at least need to pretend they care.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37430120)

It is both hilarious and depressing when people accept manipulative framing of arguments. Improving our means of energy production can provide huge benefits aside from carbon dioxide emissions reduction. The disruption does not have to be expensive or even significant for most people. If handled properly it WILL increase the possibility that a currently wealthy beneficiary of present arrangements may not continue to have some economic advantage. That is true of any situation where technological advances have an influence on markets.

Obama recently shelved air quality standard improvements saying it would cost business billions. Those billions aren't vanishing into thin air. They are going to other businesses. The benefits of improved standards are both quality of life and economic. The economic benefits are known and measurable.

If I were a psychopath and making a killing off of the current arrangement, then I would try to convince you that the sky would fall and you would go to hell if any changes were made. If we discard the need to keep current fat cats fat, then a nationwide plan to nearly eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from electrical production using current technology is almost ridiculously inexpensive. The benefits from just reducing the other ill effects of burning coal would justify that expense. Money spent improving things is a part of our economy too.

We have been led around by the nose.
 

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430058)

Because other people say they should be mistrusted, and fools listen. If you've ever looked into the numbers of people fabricating evidence, it's very few and far between, but people are often led to believe it's so common, and that scientists create some sort of money circle. See our research means we need more money to do this! If people understood the funding process, and how little most scientists get paid, I don't think they would have the same view. The easier method would be to get an MBA.

Re:why is science so mistrusted? (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37430130)

It's absurd for the government to hire its own scientists? How will we replace the government scientists employed by the NIH, NSF, FDA, USDA, DOE, DOD (uniformed services and civilians both), NOAA, NASA, EPA, and many other agencies? For that matter why must any scientist report solely to an academic institute? Are the tens of thousands of PhD's employed in research capacities in private enterprise not scientists?

Follow the money? (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37429542)

The Auditor General of Victoria Australia just released a paper showing that the local traffic cameras are working as desired and there is absolutely no question of their accuracy at all. I found 17 technical errors on 7 pages that I can cite counter evidence from their own sources and I expect there are hundreds of errors in the document. They are supposed to be auditors yet their statement about the money seems to indicate they forgot who gets lots of the cash.

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