This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
28 October 2012
Dear Chair McCall: Thank you for your concern for academic freedom and integrity in SUNY, and particularly regarding the Shale Resources and Society Institute at the University at Buffalo. I am writing as Chair of UB CLEAR: a coalition of UB faculty, students, alums, and other community members. We are a diverse group, with differing views on the wisdom of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, and we have taken no group 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 and deeply-flawed first publication. On 12 September, the SUNY Board of Trustees asked UB for a report on the Shale Institute. On 27 September, 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 UB Foundation documents related to the Shale Institute be made public, that the Shale Institute itself be closed, that its first publication (Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies) be formally recalled, and that UB establish clearer policies for regulating conflicts of interest and public-private partnerships. Below, we address the UB report in detail. I am authorized to consult with and speak for UB CLEAR and will gladly address any questions you might have. Thank you for your time and for your stewardship of SUNY. Sincerely,
Jim Holstun, Professor of English, University at Buffalo Chair, UB CLEAR 38 Lancaster Avenue Buffalo NY 14222-1402 (716) 884-0895
SUNY Board of Trustees Dr. Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY Chancellor Dr. Timothy Killeen, President, SUNY Research Foundation and SUNY Vice Chancellor for Research The Hon. Francis Letro, Chair, UB Foundation
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 2
UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research
Response to the 27 September Report by UB President Satish K. Tripathi Regarding UB's Shale Resources and Society Institute
28 October 2012 Sections
p. 1 UB CLEAR Letter to H. Carl McCall, Chairman, SUNY Board of Trustees p. 2 General Overview p. 5 Statements of Fact and Questions Unanswered by The Tripathi Report
This document responds to UB President Tripathi’s recent report addressing the Trustees’ 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 a comprehensive 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, to create and fund the Shale Institute the next year, and to publicize the Shale Institute’s first report in May 2012, all occurred amidst an intense public debate about whether or not to lift the State’s moratorium on horizontal, high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking” 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 is disingenuous 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, the outcome 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 received funding. We raise these realities about the origins of the Shale Institute not to condemn university-business partnerships, which can be invaluable. But given the research focus of this particular institute, the timing of the efforts to fund it and then release its first report, the intense public debate occurring during these efforts, and the substantial dollars at stake for the oil and gas industry, there was a compelling need to be vigilant to ensure the utmost independence and transparency in the work of the Shale Institute. That did not happen.
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 3
On the contrary, the facts we now know reflect a disturbing failure by the UB administration to disclose pertinent information about the founding and funding of the Shale 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 hosted eight public lectures focusing on shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking. Those lectures provided the foundation for the creation of the Shale Institute the following year. Seven of 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 association contributed nearly $13,000 to fund the lectures. Contrary to common practice when donors generously underwrite such conferences, the identities 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 a half, and not before a FOIL request and media inquiries. Failure to Disclose the Financial Ties between the Oil and Gas Industry and the Four CoAuthors of the Shale Institute’s First Report. In May 2012, just weeks after the UB administration announced the creation of the Shale Institute and in the midst of an intensifying statewide debate about hydrofracking and a seemingly imminent decision by the Governor, the Shale Institute released its first report. That report failed to disclose the extensive industry ties of each co-author and the consulting monies each had historically received from the oil and gas industry. The Tripathi Report fails to discuss whether UB has or should have policies requiring such 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 spread rapidly in news stories. Non-Institute critics quickly corrected these errors, but the four co-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. But doggedly standing by mistakes, as have the authors and UB administrators, carries us from the realm of rigorous and legitimate scholarship to the realm of public relations and policy advocacy. For this reason, we recommend that the report be formally recalled. Failure to Disclose any Financial Support from the UB Foundation. There are important unanswered questions about how the Director of the Shale Institute is paid his onequarter time annual salary of $60,000. Attachment E of The Tripathi Report simply 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 the UB Foundation itself discloses whether and in what amounts it has received contributions from the oil and gas industry and its affiliated organizations. To insist on that 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 Shale Institute. The Shale Institute’s website states that it is “an independent, nonpartisan,
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 4
non-lobbying group aimed at objectively analyzing the development and societal impact of shale and other unconventional resources,” and that it is “committed to sustaining an environment of scientific integrity, honest investigation, and freedom from interference.” Yet it seeks money from the very industry with a huge economic stake in the outcome of the Governor’s decision and an enormous stake in the outcome of any research undertaken by the Shale Institute. And in return, it offers donors a role in Institute governance, a serious breach of traditional academic independence. There are inherent conflicts of interest built into the funding of the Shale Institute and the mandate of its Director. He is to seek funding from the industry whose practices he is to evaluate “independently” and “objectively” and whose financial contributions will determine the future success and viability of his institute. Given that reality, could one realistically expect the the Shale Institute’s research to be “objective” and “independent”? And given that reality, it is easy to understand why those hoping to fund the Shale Institute invited so many industry representatives to speak at the initial lecture series cited above. The Tripathi Report to the Trustees fails even to acknowledge, let alone address, the legitimacy of these concerns. For this reason, we recommend that the Shale Institute be shut down. Failure to Acknowledge the Source of the Controversy. This is not a dispute about academic freedom, in the sense of researchers’ freedom to choose and pursue their research, however controversial. It is about academic integrity and independence as the very foundation for academic freedom. It is about nothing less than the institutional independence of UB and of its research institutes on a matter of some import to the citizens of this state. Sadly, the rush to issue the Shale Institute’s first report looks like an attempt to hijack the imprimatur of academic scholarship and of UB’s own authority into the midst of a contentious public debate in which millions of dollars are at stake for a particular industry. Given what we now know, it is hard to shake the perception that the UB administration sought to curry favor with an industry that had money to spend on a research institute that could give that industry what it wanted. Why else would the UB administration rush to announce this report and laud it publicly in a press release within weeks of forming the Shale Institute? Why else would they tout it as peer-reviewed when, by any accepted definition of that term in the academic world, it was not? Why else would the UB administration hire as a Director, not a tenured scholar of national prominence and a distinguished academic record, but someone with close professional, personal and financial ties to the gas and oil industry? Why else would the UB administration hurry to do all these things when three of the four coauthors of the report had no institutional affiliation whatsoever with UB, while the fourth was a quarter-time recent hire who had only the most marginal prior experience in the academic world as a lecturer, adjunct assistant professor, and teaching and research assistant? If what appears to be the case is not borne out by the facts, if what really happened is a series of innocent missteps and misjudgments, then the only entity with full knowledge of and control over the facts should disclose them. The Tripathi Report to the Trustees does not do that. The Trustees should press on. UB needs your help.
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 5
Statements of Fact and Questions Unanswered by The Tripathi Report
CAS: University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. Hydrofracking or Fracking: high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing of shale. The Shale Institute Report: Timothy Considine, Robert Watson, Nicholas Considine, and John Martin, Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies (Buffalo: Shale Resources and Society Institute: 15 May 2012). The Shale Institute Report, Second Edition: Timothy Considine, Robert Watson, Nicholas Considine, and John Martin, Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies (Buffalo: Shale Resources and Society Institute: 15 May 2012 [6 June 2012]). The Shale Institute: The UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). The Tripathi Report: Satish K. Tripathi, RE: Shale Resources and Society Institute (Buffalo: University at Buffalo, 27 Sept. 2012). UB Foundation: The University at Buffalo Foundation, manager of UB’s endowment.
Marcellus Shale Lecture Series
From March to May 2011, the UB Geology Department hosted the Marcellus Shale Lecture Series, frequently cited as a first step in the formation of the Shale Institute. None of the eight lecturers in the series specializes in environmental science or public health. Seven work directly or indirectly for the oil and gas industry. All eight support hydrofracking. Rayola Dougher, Senior Economic Advisor, American Petroleum Institute. Michael Joy, Attorney with Reed Smith, all practice areas energy-related. Gary Marchiori, EnergyMark, LLC; IOGA NY Board of Directors. John Martin, Owner and Consultant at JPMartin Energy Strategy LLC. Rich Nyahay, VP for Geology, Gastem USA. Langhorne Smith, Acting State Geologist, NYS Museum. Greg Sovas, Business Manager at Lake Country FracWater Specialists, LLC. Roger Willis, Universal Well Services, IOGA NY Board of Directors. Why did the series present only views supporting hydrofracking? Were any efforts made to incorporate diverse perspectives like those of public health and environmental biology?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 6
In his introduction to the first lecture, UB Geology Chair Marcus Bursik thanks several persons for help in organizing the series, but no corporate donors. Much later, the UB Administration revealed that oil and gas corporations and their trade associations provided $12,850 to underwrite the series. Why did UB acknowledge oil and gas industry funding for the series only in September 2012, under pressure of controversy over the Shale Institute (The Tripathi Report, p. 29)? Did the donors themselves seek anonymity, and why? Did UB offer it?
Research Centers and Institutes
In 2006, the NYS Comptroller audited a controversial grant to UB’s Center for Applied Technologies in Education (CATE). In 2011, UB was forced to withdraw an illegal political campaign contribution made by the UB Foundation for the UB Engineering School’s Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE). What policies have been instituted to protect against integrity problems with industry-affiliated centers and institutes? Which of the Centers or Institutes listed in The Tripathi Report (pp. 2-3, 6-7) publish the research they conduct? Are these publications, if any, accompanied by UB press releases? What UB policies govern outside researchers presenting their research as UB reports? Why has UB violated its own policies and governance procedures in the formation of the Shale Institute? 1. UB policies on the “Establishment and Review of Centers and Institutes at the University at Buffalo” state that “at the time of formation,” decanal institutes like the Shale Institute must nominate an “external advisory board.” The Shale Institute website lists no such board, and a pdf provided in response to FOIL requests reveals that UB formed an “Interim Founding Advisory Board” only in the summer of 2012, after the April inauguration of the Shale Institute and public discussion of the missing board. Members include five UB faculty members and three UB alumni employed, directly or indirectly, by the oil and gas industry. 2. UB CAS charges its Committee for Centers and Institutes to “consult, review, report, and recommend to the Policy Committee matters special to the crossdisciplinary Centers and Institutes within the College of Arts & Sciences.” This committee was not consulted about the formation of the Shale Institute. 3. The Charter of the UB Faculty Senate states that “The Voting Faculty [i.e., the body represented by the Senate] shall advise the administrative officers of the University and other appropriate persons and bodies regarding any matters affecting the instructional, research, and service programs of the University” (II.1). The organization of the Shale Institute affects the institutional, research, and service programs of the University. President Tripathi has acknowledged that the Senate was not consulted regarding the organization of the Shale Institute.
Oil and Gas Company Role in Forming and Governing the Shale Institute
Mr. Dennis Holbrook serves as Executive Vice President of Norse Energy and as a Director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA NY). On 31 October 2011, at an oil and gas industry convention in Houston, he advised attendees to “seek out academic studies and champion with universities—because
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 7
that again provides tremendous credibility to the overall process. We tend to be viewed, as I said earlier, very skeptically. We’ve aligned with the University at Buffalo—we’ve done a variety of other activities where we’ve gotten the academics to sponsor programs and bring in people for public sessions.” At an oil and gas industry-sponsored program in Buffalo in the summer of 2012, Mr. Holbrook said the Shale Institute began when the UB Geology Department asked him to help them counter arguments by hydrofracking opponents in the Ithaca area. UB issued a document1 telling corporate donors they will “participate on the Institute’s Advisory Board, ensuring focused alignment of purpose and deliverables” and “gain first-mover access to emerging knowledge through collaboration with industry and academia.” A related Shale Institute document tells “contributing partners” they “may designate a representative to serve on the Institute’s Advisory Board or other working groups, to suggest research directions and topics,” and “receive early access to emerging knowledge” (p. 4). Who received these appeals, which promise corporate contributors a role in governing the Shale Institute?
Shale Institute Funding
An August WBFO news story states, “The institute will accept donations from anybody—alumni, grants and the oil and gas industry, say SRSI organizers. But plans call for the money to be housed in a blind fund [at] the UB Foundation, which [Shale Institute Co-Director Robert] Jacobi says will ensure researchers are not influenced by the identity or intent of funders. ‘We’re trying to put that money into a slush fund that’s mixing it up,’ says Jacobi. ‘Like a Slurpie. . . . You don’t know what’s ice and what’s taste. It’s all mixed up” (emphasis added). Is this slush fund already established? Whose oversight does it aim to avoid? A Geology Department prospectus for the Shale Institute states that “we have already been successful in local corporate funding through the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of NY, and have good contacts with National Fuel, their wholly owned subsidiary Seneca Resources, and other resource companies involved in the Northeastern play. . . . IOGA of NY is keenly aware of our plans and has not only aided us with funding, but also organizational help” (p. 1). The Tripathi Report explains that much of the funding for the Shale Institute flowed through a UB Foundation account “set up by Development for the Institute” (p. 95). CAS Dean E. Bruce Pitman, Provost Charles Zukoski, and President Satish K. Tripathi (p. 9) have denied that the Shale Institute has received oil and gas company money. They have not denied that the UB Foundation has received oil and gas company money, and then transferred it to CAS or the Shale Institute. The Foundation lies beyond the reach of FOIL, and claims independence from UB and the SUNY Trustees, who once appointed its Directors and Trustees. Since discussions of the Shale Institute began in October 2007, have oil and gas companies, or their trade associations such as IOGA NY, made any contributions to UB, CAS, the UB Foundation, or UB Foundation affiliate organizations? If so, were there any understandings that these contributions be used to underwrite the Shale
PDF originally hosted at UB Giving website and taken down in the Spring 2012.
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 8
Institute? Were oil and gas industry donors among the sources of “unrestricted gifts” to the Shale Institute (The Tripathi Report, p. 9)? What criteria determine that a gift is sufficiently “unrestricted”? How is “focused funding” (The Tripathi Report, p. 10) distinguished from restricted gifts to the UB Foundation? Would an industry donor be permitted to donate anonymously through the UB Foundation to a targeted research area, with no disclosure? Would that donor be able to contribute to the Shale Institute, with no explicit restriction but with an understanding that future funding will follow certain research outcomes? The UB Administration turned down the Geology Department’s 3E Proposal for the Shale Institute. The proposal projects a $696,245 donation from “philanthropy” for the three start-up years of the proposed Institute. If this was actual money promised by actual philanthropists, did any UB administrator encourage them to fund the Shale Institute by directing donations to the UB Foundation, after the proposal’s failure?
Selecting the Shale Institute Directors
The timeline notes that discussions of the Shale Institute began as early as October 2007 (The Tripathi Report, p. 31). Did scholarly concerns drive the 2012 appointment of an Interim Director and the self-publishing of a report, instead of publication in an established, peer-reviewed journal? Or was the motive a desire to intervene in the high-stakes public debate over the Governor’s highly-anticipated 2012 decision on whether or not to lift the NYS moratorium on hydrofracking? The Tripathi Report states that “Criteria for directorship included service management experience, understanding of the oil and gas industry with particular emphasis on shale technologies, and a reputation for independent scholarship.” Outside candidates were deemed necessary for a “broader pool of expertise in energy geology” (p. 8). Why make industry and energy geology expertise a criterion but not environmental science or public health expertise? How and when were candidates solicited? Were there internal and external postings? What attention was paid to UB’s AA/EOE goals? How many candidates from this “broader pool” were interviewed? Who selected Professors Martin and Jacobi, and by what process? Both Shale Institute directors work for the oil and gas industry, while devoting 25% time (Professor Martin) or 15% time (Professor Jacobi) to work for UB. Does UB specify any lower limit to the part-time UB work that allows private contractors to continue claiming UB faculty status?
Shale Institute Director John P. Martin.
Despite the search criteria listed above, Professor Martin does not have an advanced degree in energy geology. And his university appointments are temporary, 1-2-year, non-tenure-track positions, none of them at research universities. So if “UB attracts and retains world-class scholars. . . by sustaining extraordinary standards of excellence,” how did Professor Martin qualify as Director? What recommendations from established scholars in the field vouched for his “reputation for independent scholarship” (The Tripathi Report, pp. 35, 13, 8)?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 9
Professor Martin’s CV collapses “Publications, Published Abstracts and Accepted Conference Presentations” (The Tripathi Report, pp. 35-41). Which, if any, are fulllength, peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles that he authored or co-authored? Why does Professor Martin’s biography (The Tripathi Report, pp. 8-9) fail to mention his consulting work for the oil and gas industry or his consulting firm, J. P. Martin Energy Strategy LLC? What criteria were used for evaluating and managing the conflict between this work and his 25% appointment as Director of an institute focused on independent research? On top of his $60,000 quarter-time salary, Professor Martin receives a “flat rate” $1,000 a month expense account paid from the UB Foundation through his paycheck for “travel support of the SRSI and other personal expenses related to your appointment as Director” (p. 4; see also The Tripathi Report, p. 95). Does the UB Foundation make this payment regardless of actual expenditures and without documentation? If so, does this represent standard practice and policy of the UB Foundation or CAS? Does it comply with state policies for management of foundation or state expenditures? If this is not a regular practice, why was an exception made for Professor Martin? Does this method of payment reduce oversight of travel and entertainment expenses for Shale Institute fundraising that might, if separately documented, raise questions about independence or ethics? CAS Dean Pitman has said, “Does [Professor Martin] have industry connections? Yes. Can he be bought off for a couple thousand dollars from industry? C’mon. This guy has his reputation and credibility. His livelihood is dependent on his reputation and credibility.” How persuasive is this argument, given that Professor Martin’s livelihood depends on attracting oil and gas industry clients, as in his recent consulting work for Plains Exploration and Production Company, which is working to hydrofrack Los Angeles’s Inglewood Oil Field?
Shale Institute Co-Director Robert Jacobi
From February 2008 until September 2011, during the Marcellus Shale Lecture Series and the planning for the Shale Institute, Professor Jacobi served as Director of Special Projects for Norse Energy, Mr. Dennis Holbrook’s firm. (See “Oil and Gas Company Role in Forming the Shale Institute” above.) Why does Professor Jacobi’s biography (The Tripathi Report, p. 9) omit his “long-term, 85% leave” from UB which enables this kind of industry work? From 1998 to 2008, Professor Jacobi received sixteen NYSERDA grants totaling $2,162,926, with the final one being paid out in 2008-2011. Professor Martin served as Senior Project Manager for NYSERDA from November 1993 to December 2010, and as “point person for a series of technical studies looking on all aspects of hydraulic fracturing” (The Tripathi Report pp. 63-5, 34, 9). Was Professor Martin involved in awarding these grants to Professor Jacobi? If so, did Professor Jacobi disclose this potential conflict of interest during the selection of Professor Martin?
UB Conflict of Interest Policy
What “international norms” and “national best practice” for disclosure does UB follow? What counts as “sponsored research” (The Tripathi Report, p. 3)?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 10
The Tripathi Report states that “practices of disclosing potential conflicts vary across disciplines” and that “we have every expectation that the faculty will conduct their public and policy-related activities as professionals” (pp. 11, 3). Does the UB leadership believe that individual self-regulation sufficiently protects academic integrity? Neither The Shale Institute Report nor The Shale Institute Report, Second Edition acknowledges the extensive corporate consulting by the four report authors. A separately issued biographical statement omits one co-author and most corporate consulting by the others. The Tripathi Report addresses disclosure and management of conflicts of interest in industry funding in only one policy (14-19). It requires disclosure only to the UB administration, which internally manages conflicts of interest and disclosure at its discretion without specific criteria for public disclosure, and without an independent review process. Doesn’t this keep the public from using this information to evaluate the reliability and independence of UB research? When UB published The Shale Institute Report under its own name, what disclosure policies did it have in place for its three non-UB co-authors? Where do UB policies address conflicts by such researchers, or by part-time UB researchers like Professor John Martin? UB policies do not address institutional disclosure and conflicts of interest, leaving them unregulated as long as industry funding, outside obligations, and control focus on a UB unit rather than a named individual researcher. Would oil and gas company contributions to the Shale Institute be screened out? With regard to internal support, UB’s Investigator Disclosure Policy “applies only to those internal programs which require formal application in response to a request for proposals” and “does not apply to unrestricted gifts and donations to support the activities of administrative units . . . where individuals are not named” (The Tripathi Report, p. 15). So do any disclosure or conflict policies pertain to a UB administrator who decides to channel UB Foundation money to specific research quietly favored by an outside funding source? UB’s Investigator Disclosure Policy, requires that the whole UB community be informed of the Policy on an annual basis, and that it be reviewed every two years (The Tripathi Report, p. 18). How is this information shared, and where can the three most recent reviews be found? Please give examples of any UB decisions to reject corporate funding due to conflict of interest.
UB Taking Pro-Hydrofracking Positions
The Tripathi Report says that UB “does not adopt an institutional position on the outcomes of policy debates” (p. 4). But UB belongs to two of the state’s most powerful political advocacy groups: the Business Council of New York State and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. President Tripathi is a Director of the BNP. Both take strong positions on the outcomes of policy debates, and they have spent hundreds of thousands to lobby for hydrofracking, including state moneys paid by the UB Administration as dues. How does UB avoid conflict between this political advocacy for industry interests and its core academic goal of political neutrality?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 11
How does UB avoid chilling the academic freedom of any faculty, staff, or students who wish to consider policy outcomes contrary to the policy views of the BCNYS and BNP? Why does the Shale Institute website not link to this 2010 study by a UB Geology professor mentioned by The Tripathi Report (p. 5), which asserts that hydrofracking may result in uranium contamination of groundwater? In view of the Shale Institute’s stated mission of scholarly objectivity and neutrality, please explain the dearth of references on its website to the burgeoning scholarly literature critical of hydrofracking.
The Shale Institute Report: Conflicting Claims for Funding
Since its May 15 publication, UB and the report co-authors have offered contradictory accounts of its funding: the University itself, the University at Buffalo Foundation, UB CAS. One news story states “Considine told the Associated Press in an e-mail that the University of Wyoming paid him and two other lead authors.” An analysis by the Public Accountability Initiative revealed the Manhattan Institute as a prior publisher of large sections of the report. Provost Zukoski has recently said that “if the non-UB authors received industry funding for their work on the report, sound academic practice would dictate that they disclose it in the report.” The report contains no such disclosure.
The Shale Institute Report: False Claims of Peer Review
Academic peer-review of scholarship is nearly sacred in the university. While it is the object of ongoing discussion and debate, its basics are uncontroversial: it always empowers independent scholarly experts, named or anonymous, to accept a manuscript for publication, reject it, or demand revisions. The Shale Institute website states “SRSI will ensure that supported data and research undergo independent peer review by qualified experts. . . . Also, it is SRSI policy to encourage its researchers to publish their research findings in peerreviewed, professional, or scholarly journals.” A press release accompanying The Shale Institute Report describes it as “peer reviewed, a process of self-regulation” (emphasis added). The Shale Institute Report thanks five persons who provided “comments.” Shale Institute Co-Director Professor Robert Jacobi is one of two academics among the five, all of whom have been employed by the oil and gas industry, either directly or as consultants. These five seem to have been asked for comments, not judgment as to whether or not to publish. In what sense was this loose comment process equivalent to academic peer review? For a time, UB stopped claiming peer review, saying instead that “drafts of the report were reviewed by several individuals with expertise in related areas, who provided comments to the authors.” In October, Provost Zukoski reaffirmed the original claim, saying the report “followed an open peer-review method.” President Tripathi followed suit. How does UB reconcile the apparent contradictions with standard scholarly practice and terminology? Was the process of review under the control of the co-authors themselves?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 12
The Shale Institute Report: The Rush to Publish
Shale Institute Co-Director Robert Jacobi explained the rush to publish: “Ultimately, issuing the study so quickly after SRSI’s launch was meant to put the institute on the radar by generating attention, interest and donations. ‘We’ve been told by a lot of people that we had to come out of the blocks racing,’ says Jacobi. ‘We had to show that we could do something right away.’” The Shale Institute selfpublished without peer review because it “‘simply did not want to wait,’ says Jacobi. . . . ‘Every research institute does it now. It’s a way to get one leg up on the competition, and therefore get a leg up on the granting cycle or wherever the money is coming from.’” The Tripathi Report says “Establishing a track record is often a prerequisite for receiving external funding. Toward this end, SRSI co-directors undertook a process of identifying potential funding streams; one outcome of their early work was the first SRSI report” (10). Are all important perspectives on hydrofracking capable of providing such funding streams? How can such a goal avoid being compromised by the oil and gas industry? Who decided to issue the report as a product of the Shale Institute and UB? Which other academic centers at UB have published reports claiming to represent independent scholarship? Did UB issue press releases at the time of publication? UB published The Shale Institute Report on the web with a widely-circulated press release, at a time when the Shale Institute had only a Director (one of the report authors) and a Co-Director (one of the report “open peer reviewers”). Why then does The Tripathi Report characterize it as an “internal” report (p. 12)?
The Shale Institute Report: Factual Errors
The Shale Institute Report contains five significant and undisputed factual errors: 1. It refers to billion cubic feet (BCF) rather than trillion cubic feet (p. 3). 2. The “Conclusion” states that the “number of environmental violations and subsequent environmental events that caused some physical impact on the environment steadily declined over the past four years” (p. 30). In fact, the report’s own data show the number increased from ninety to two hundred and sixty (iii). 3. It states that the Lycoming Creek Discharge, one of twenty-five “major environmental events,” occurred in 2009 (p. 34). The cited authority says it occurred in 2010. 4. The Executive Summary states that regulation reduced the odds of “major environmental events” from 2008 to 2011 (iii). In fact, the report’s own data show that the odds increased by 36% in this period. 5. The Conclusion repeats error 4 (p. 30). Since errors 2-5 were all from either the Executive Summary or the Conclusion of the report, they were widely quoted in the media in the early days after publication of The Shale Institute Report, for instance, here in Bloomberg/Businessweek.
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 13
On 25 May 2012, Mr. Bob Applegate publicly corrected error 3, adding that “This kind of error would be insignificant in other contexts. But in a report that purports to study the reduced frequency of gas industry environmental violations over time, it is unacceptable.” On 24 May 2012, noting conflicts between the report’s conclusions and its own data, the Public Accountability Initiative publicly corrected errors 2, 4, and 5. They also showed that The Shale Institute Report borrows without credit from a 2011 Manhattan Institute report by three of the same authors, a scholarly lapse known as “self-plagiarism” or “recycling fraud” (pp. 1, 7-8). UB released The Shale Institute Report, Second Edition in June. Why did the co-authors neither rebut nor concede and incorporate these offered corrections? In this Manhattan Institute report, three authors of The Shale Institute Report define “major spills” as “spills of over 100 gallons of hazardous chemicals, fuel, or produced drilling fluids” (p. 8). In 2012, without explanation, The Shale Institute Report redefined major spills as those “>400 gallons” (p. 10). Aside from a desire to minimize the scope of the problem by manipulating terminology, was there any reason for this redefinition? The day after The Shale Institute Report appeared on the Web, Mr. Scott Anderson, one of its five listed pre-publication commenters, expressed concerns about its characterization of the data. How then can The Tripathi Report state that “no concerns were raised by the relevant scientific community about the data used in developing the report’s conclusion” (p. 10)? On 25 May 2012, CAS Dean Pitman dissociated the University at Buffalo from the conclusions of The Shale Institute Report, saying that its findings “are the work of the authors, and any conclusions drawn are their views, not the views of the institution.” A 28 May article says Professor Timothy Considine “doesn’t dispute” the PAI corrections, but he does not directly accept them either. In June, the coauthors corrected errors 1 and 2 in The Shale Institute Report, Second Edition, calling them “typographical errors” that “do not affect the conclusions of the report.” How is this possible, given that error 2 was in the report’s “Conclusion,” as was error 5 (p. 30)? To date, no co-author of the report or UB Administrator has acknowledged or corrected errors 3, 4, or 5. On 30 August 2012, CAS Dean Pitman characterized criticism of the Shale Institute and The Shale Institute Report as “nonsense.” On 4 September, the Public Accountability Initiative reiterated its corrections. Dean Pitman has joined President Tripathi (11) and Provost Zukoski in saying that the report’s errors were no more than “typos,” “typographical errors,” or “wording errors” that have been corrected. Why the misleading suggestion that all errors have been corrected?
Geology, Centers and Institutes, and Corporate Sponsorship
The Tripathi Report spends half of its length defending UB’s Geology Department, research centers and institutes, public-private partnerships, and the concept of academic freedom itself, including the freedom to consider controversial topics. Is this an attempt to suggest that anyone raising questions about the founding, funding, and governance of the Shale Institute has thereby attacked these things?
UB Clear Response to The Tripathi Report 14
If so, what evidence supports this view of the controversy? In Recommended Principles & Practices to Guide Academic-Industry Relationships (2012), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has warned that “The public trusts that universities and faculty members will remain professionally independent and maintain the highest standards of research and teaching. Universities cannot allow flagrant violations of professional academic norms and scientific standards to go unchecked lest the very foundation of academic freedom— indeed the justification for its existence—will become unstable, and eventually collapse” (p. 36). The Shale Institute has flagrantly violated professional norms and scientific standards. Does its continued existence pose a genuine, long-term threat to academic freedom?
In 2008, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trust, evaluated the UB School of Medicine for the freedom of its educational and research programs from pharmaceutical industry influence. It received a rating of “D,” among the lowest in the nation. Rather than defend this deplorable grade, the School re-evaluated its curriculum, rewrote its conflict of interest policies, and cleaned up its research funding to clarify, for students and the public, its industry relationships. By 2012, the Medical School received a “B” rating and was singled out as a school with “model policies” that “boasts an impressive improvement.” Why couldn’t this experience be a model for the whole university?
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.