Thursday, September 6, 2012

UB Must Investigate Its Shale Institute

Letter to the Editor of The Buffalo News - August 30, 2012 ~
By David Kowalski ~

University administrators, the press and the public are being duped by industry-backed studies masquerading as objective academic research. Specific examples involve studies released by the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute, University of Texas and Penn State University. At all three public universities, authors of studies on the impacts of shale-gas extraction by fracking did not disclose gas industry ties, which were discovered only after their industry-biased conclusions were reported. The lead UB author also failed to disclose industry ties in a Penn State study that was later retracted by the university. The University of Texas is investigating its study's principle author. The absence of an investigation of the UB study damages the university's credibility and erodes public trust.

Publication of academic research in science requires disclosure of industry affiliations and funding sources to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. Also required is anonymous peer review mediated by a journal editor, which generally results in revision and resubmission, and ultimately, in acceptance or rejection for publication. University studies resulting from industry-affiliated research should likewise undergo rigorous peer review and be published in a journal prior to their release to the press.

The UB press release contained authors' conclusions that were not peer-reviewed, not supported by the data and were biased in favor of the gas industry. At this critical time in determining policies on shale-gas fracking, it is outrageous that invalid conclusions in the UB press release were made public and promptly cited as an authoritative source in Congress in order to influence policy makers.

The lack of transparency and academic rigor is appalling and intolerable. The UB administration should uphold academic standards and initiate an industry-independent investigation of the Shale Resources and Society Institute and its research findings. 
Editorial Cartoon by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News - August 14, 2012

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