NSF Should Review Stimulus Grants to Scientist Involved in E-Mail Scandal

Published: Feb 16, 2010

Washington, D.C.  U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., today said taxpayers shouldn’t be funding questionable climate science and called for a review of more than $2.5 million in stimulus grants awarded to one climate researcher who is under investigation for his role in the Climategate scandal that unearthed efforts by leading climate scientists to destroy data, distort research and prevent publication of dissenting viewpoints.

In a letter to National Science Foundation Inspector General Allison Lerner, Sensenbrenner joined Issa, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in calling for an investigation into stimulus grant funds awarded to Dr. Michael Mann, director of the Earth SystemScience Center at the Pennsylvania State University. Mann’s e-mails were among those uncovered as part of the Climategate scandal, where correspondence between researchers and associates of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England showed efforts by scientists to manipulate data and research.

“The integrity questions surrounding Dr. Mann’s research make continued taxpayer funding of his work an unwise investment,” said Issa.  “Conclusions and research gained through a corrupted process can’t be trusted.  Taxpayer dollars would be better spent elsewhere.”

Mann’s involvement in the Climategate scandal prompted a review by Penn State, which resulted in the university announcing a broader inquiry into one of the charges relating to his research activity. The letter to Lerner said that despite the fact that the NSF grants were awarded prior to revelations about the CRU e-mails, the NSF should have been motivated by the Climategate scandal to conduct an independent investigation into the grants. Additionally, Sensenbrenner said that the Obama Administration has resisted any efforts at a full-scale investigation into the veracity of climate research.

“Research that doesn’t earn confidence in the scientific community shouldn’t then earn stimulus grant money from beleaguered taxpayers. This scandal is dramatically undercutting the reliability of climate science. The government should freeze these types of grants until there is a full-scale investigation that resolves these serious concerns,” Sensenbrenner said.


The letter follows:


February 16, 2010

 Allison C. Lerner

Inspector General

National Science Foundation

Office of Inspector General

4201 Wilson Boulevard

Arlington, VA 22230

Dear Inspector General Lerner:

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted that in 2009, NSF approved almost $2.5 million dollars in stimulus funds to pay for work conducted by Dr. Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at The Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Mann became a household name last November when he was identified as one of the key players in e-mails that were released about the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU).  The e-mails demonstrate a pattern of collusion among climatologists who appear to have quashed contrary views on climate change by manipulating climate data, and by pressuring journals to not publish materials from scientists they deemed “skeptics.”

As a result of these revelations, several government and educational institutions have initiated investigations into the matter, including The Pennsylvania State University’s internal inquiry into allegations of research misconduct against Dr. Mann.

The Pennsylvania State University issued a report on that inquiry on February 3 and concluded that an investigation was required as one of the four allegations warranted further scrutiny:

Given that information emerged in the form of the emails purloined from CRU in November 2009, which have raised questions in the public’s mind about Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically, the inquiry committee believes an investigatory committee of faculty peers from diverse fields should be constituted under RA-10 to further consider this allegation.

This is not the first time Dr. Mann has found himself under investigation for his academic practices.  In 2006, “similar questions were asked about Dr. Mann and these questions motivated the National Academy of Sciences to undertake an in-depth investigation of his research.”  While Dr. Mann was exonerated, it is troubling to note his reemergence within the context of the CRU e-mails.

We understand the NSF grants to Dr. Mann were made prior to the revelation of the CRU e-mails.  However, conversations with NSF staff on February 4 revealed that no steps have been taken to freeze or withdraw the stimulus funds authorized for Dr. Mann’s research.  In light of the many questions and concerns raised by the CRU e-mails, highlighted in part by The Pennsylvania State University’s decision to further investigate Dr. Mann, we encourage you to immediately initiate an independent investigation into this matter.  We respectfully request your response to our letter by March 5, 2010.



 F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.                                             Darrell Issa

Ranking Member                                                             Ranking Member

Select Committee on Energy Independence Committee on Oversight

and Global Warming                                                        and Government Reform


cc:  The Honorable Ed Markey, Chairman

The Honorable Edolphus Towns, Chairman



# # # #