The controversy over "Climategate" continues to heighten as some Pennsylvania legislators question the continuation of Penn State's current research grants -- and possibly even the appropriations the university has been waiting on since July.
State Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola (R-Halifax) said last week in a letter to Penn State President Graham Spanier that many Pennsylvania legislators have been contacted by constituents about the ongoing international fracas involving meteorology associate professor Michael Mann.
Piccola wrote that some of those in contact with legislators "have requested the Commonwealth further withhold Penn State's funding until appropriate action is taken by the university against associate professor Michael E. Mann."
Climategate surfaced Nov. 21 when hundreds of illegally obtained e-mails were leaked from a private server in the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in England.
Global warming skeptics scrutinized word usage in the e-mails that the scientists said was "understood language." Skeptics also say the leaked information suggests the scientists at the climate research unit either fabricated or manipulated the data to support their theories and research.
Piccola wrote that he personally does not believe Penn State's appropriations should be jeopardized because of allegations against one professor. But he is calling on the university to "deploy its fullest resources to conduct an investigation of this case."
Currently, the university is examining all the original e-mails. Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said last week the inquiry will determine whether or not a full investigation is required.
Penn State faculty members involved in the inquiry said they were not available to comment on the confidential situation.
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, said he believes Piccola has valid concerns, but also thinks Penn State is reacting in a very positive manner to the professor called into question.
"As a research institution, it's important they find that their research is valid," Corman said.
Spanier addressed Piccola's concerns in a letter to him Tuesday, where the president explained how the current inquiry process that could warrant the investigation the senator has called for.
The inquiry must be completed within 60 calendar days of its initiation unless an extended 90-day period is warranted, Spanier wrote. He does not believe the extended inquiry will be necessary.
If an investigation is held, a committee of at least five tenured professors "who have no conflict of interest and are competent to evaluate the issues objectively" will be created, Spanier wrote.
After the 120 days allotted for the investigation is completed, and if the committee were to find any wrongdoing on the part of Mann, disciplinary sanctions would be issued by the Senior Vice President for Research.
Eva Pell currently holds this position, although Henry C. "Hank" Foley will succeed her Jan. 1.
Spanier wrote that during the last decade, Penn State has dealt with its share of misconduct cases. He wrote that each is taken seriously, with many seeing sanctions being carried out.
"The outcomes have always fit the magnitude of the research misconduct," the letter said.