Gov’t-Funded Antarctic Researcher Was Using His Lab To Brew Beer

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Here’s how you know Antarctica can be a boring place. A government watchdog report details how employees at a taxpayer-funded research station in the South Pole were storing and brewing beer in their office.

While visiting the U.S. Antarctic Program’s South Pole station, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Office of Inspector General investigators found “large quantities of bottled beer stored under a desk and in the refrigerator in the science lab” which violates the program’s policy against having alcohol in work centers.

Investigators were also told by a “subcontractor employee that a researcher was brewing the beer at the station” which is, unsurprisingly, also against Antarctic Program policies, according to a recent report by the IG’s office.

“Because the incident involved a researcher, no action had been taken to address these violations of the Code of Conduct prior to our arrival, even though the beer was in plain sight,” investigators found.

According to the IG’s report, researchers hoarding beer shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The IG found that “breathalyzer tests are rarely administered to determine if employees are intoxicated.”

“If breathalyzer tests are not administered, as required, to employees suspected of being under the influence, employees who are intoxicated may be returning to work,” the IG noted. “NSF officials acknowledged that alcohol consumption in the USAP can create unpredictable behavior that has led to fights, indecent exposure, and employees arriving to work under the influence.”

Employees at Antarctic research stations — which amounts to about 3,200 people annually — may be flouting federal alcohol policies because of lax enforcement, the IG worries. Investigators also worry there’s inconsistent enforcement of rules depending on whether employees work for the government, a contractor or a subcontractor.

“This raises a concern about lax enforcement of the USAP Code of Conduct, which requires compliance with the USAP Alcohol Policy,” the IGs noted. “It also raises a question about consistent discipline, as a similar infraction by a contractor employee would likely have been dealt with swiftly and with significant consequences.”

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