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UB CLEAR Report to the SUNY Trustees, 10-28-12

UB CLEAR Report to the SUNY Trustees, 10-28-12

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Published by: Jim Holstun on Oct 31, 2012
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H. Carl McCall
Chair, Board of Trustees, State University of New York 
28 October 2012
Dear Chair McCall:Thank you for your concern for academic freedom and integrity in SUNY, and particularly regardingthe Shale Resources and Society Institute at the University at Buffalo. I am writing as Chair of UBCLEAR: a coalition of UB faculty, students, alums, and other community members. We are a diversegroup, with differing views on the wisdom of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, and we have taken nogroup stand on it. Rather, we have worked since this spring to bring transparency to the founding,funding, and governance of the Shale Institute as well as to expose the Institute
s unscholarly anddeeply-flawed first publication.On 12 September, the SUNY Board of Trustees asked UB for a report on the Shale Institute. On 27September, UB President Satish K. Tripathi sent you that report. On 12 October, you made it public.
 We believe President Tripathi’s report to you fails to respond candidly to your request and the
questions posed by New Yorkers since this spring. Consequently, we recommend that all UB and UBFoundation documents related to the Shale Institute be made public, that the Shale Institute itself beclosed, that its first publication (
 Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling:Causes, Impacts and Remedies
) be formally recalled, and that UB establish clearer policies forregulating conflicts of interest and public-private partnerships. Below, we address the UB report indetail.I am authorized to consult with and speak for UB CLEAR and will gladly address any questions youmight have.Thank you for your time and for your stewardship of SUNY.Sincerely,Jim Holstun, Professor of English, University at BuffaloChair, UB CLEAR 38 Lancaster AvenueBuffalo NY 14222-1402(716) 884-0895
cc: SUNY Board of TrusteesDr. Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY ChancellorDr. Timothy Killeen, President, SUNY Research Foundation and SUNY Vice Chancellor forResearchThe Hon. Francis Letro, Chair, UB Foundation
UB Clear Response to
The Tripathi Report 
UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research
Response to the 27 September Report by UB PresidentSatish K. Tripathi Regarding UB'sShale Resources and Society Institute
28 October 2012
p. 1 UB CLEAR Letter to H. Carl McCall, Chairman, SUNY Board of Trusteesp. 2 General Overview p. 5 Statements of Fact and Questions Unanswered by 
The Tripathi Report 
General Overview
This document
responds to UB President Tripathi’s recent report addressing theTrustees’ concerns about UB’s Shale Resources and Society Institute. We believe that this
report fails to address those concerns. We begin with a general overview, then move to acomprehensive statement of the facts and issues in this controversy.The Origins of the Shale Institute. It is imperative to appreciate the origins of this
controversy. UB’s efforts to fund
an initial lecture series on hydrofracking in 2011, tocreate and fund the Shale Institute the next year, and to publicize the Shale Institute
first report in May 2012, all occurred amidst an intense public debate about whether ornot
to lift the State’s moratorium on horizontal, high
-volume hydraulic fracturing
or “fracking”
, and the Governor’s statements that, before making that
decision, he would review the scientific evidence about its safety.Given that context, and contrary to suggestions in
The Tripathi Report 
, it isdisingenuous to think of the Shale Institute as just another UB institute. It is an institute whose mission placed it at the center of that ongoing public debate. Moreover, theoutcome of that debate was one in which companies in the oil and gas industry stood to
gain substantial profit, if the Governor’s decision went their way. And these companies
and their industry associations were the very entities from which UB sought and receivedfunding. We raise these realities about the origins of the Shale Institute not to condemnuniversity-business partnerships, which can be invaluable. But given the research focusof this particular institute, the timing of the efforts to fund it and then release its firstreport, the intense public debate occurring during these efforts, and the substantialdollars at stake for the oil and gas industry, there was a compelling need to be vigilant toensure the utmost independence and transparency in the work of the Shale Institute.That did not happen.
UB Clear Response to
The Tripathi Report 
On the contrary, the facts we now know reflect a disturbing failure by the UBadministration to disclose pertinent information about the founding and funding of theShale Institute, about its first report, and to explain those omissions to the Trustees. A few obvious failures:Failure to Disclose Industry Funding of the Initial Lecture Series. In 2011, UB hostedeight public lectures focusing on shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking. Those lecturesprovided the foundation for the creation of the Shale Institute the following year. Sevenof the eight presenters worked directly or indirectly for the oil and gas industry. We now know that a half dozen oil and gas companies and their industry trade associationcontributed nearly $13,000 to fund the lectures.Contrary to common practice when donors generously underwrite such conferences, theidentities of the donors were not acknowledged publicly at the time of the conference.Rather, the UB administration delayed disclosing their identities for almost a year and ahalf, and not before a FOIL request and media inquiries.Failure to Disclose the Financial Ties between the Oil and Gas Industry and the Four Co- Authors of the Shale Institute
’s First Report
. In May 2012, just weeks after the UBadministration announced the creation of the Shale Institute and in the midst of anintensifying statewide debate about hydrofracking and a seemingly imminent decision by the Governor, the Shale Institute released its first report. That report failed to disclosethe extensive industry ties of each co-author and the consulting monies each hadhistorically received from the oil and gas industry.
The Tripathi Report 
fails to discuss whether UB has or should have policies requiringsuch disclosure contemporaneous with the release of such reports. Irrespective of any official UB policies, it also fails to discuss whether each of the four authors or UB officials who oversee the Shale Institute had an ethical obligation to disclose those ties.Failure to Correct Undisputed Errors. Basic errors of fact marred the report, and spreadrapidly in news stories. Non-Institute critics quickly corrected these errors, but the fourco-authors neither conceded nor contested most of these corrections in the June revision
of the report. Making mistakes isn’t the issue—
mistakes are a given for scholars. Butdoggedly standing by mistakes, as have the authors and UB administrators, carries usfrom the realm of rigorous and legitimate scholarship to the realm of public relations andpolicy advocacy. For this reason, we recommend that the report be formally recalled.Failure to Disclose any Financial Support from the UB Foundation. There are importantunanswered questions about how the Director of the Shale Institute is paid his one-quarter time annual salary of $60,000. Attachment E of 
The Tripathi Report 
notes that he is paid from the “Arts and Sciences General Fund UBF” (95).
 Astonishingly,the Institute Co-
Director refers to its UB Foundation account as a “slush fund.”
 It will be impossible to dispel the persistent questions about the Shale Institute until theUB Foundation itself discloses whether and in what amounts it has receivedcontributions from the oil and gas industry and its affiliated organizations. To insist onthat disclosure is not to engage in a fishing expedition based on speculation. Given the
UB administration’s repeated failure to disclose critical information in this matter, there
are compelling reasons to insist on full disclosure by the Foundation.Failure to Acknowledge the Conflicts of Interest Inherent in the Structure of the ShaleInstitute. The Shale Institute
’s website states that it is “an independent, nonpartisan,

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