Statement of Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) on the closing of UB’s Shale Resources and Society Institute*
The University at Buffalo took an important stand for principles of academic integrity and transparency with its decision to shutter the Shale Institute today. The decision sends a strong message to the oil and gas industry: SUNY is not for sale. Sham science that peddles industry myths has no place in the fracking debate, and it does not deserve the imprimatur of the University at Buffalo or that of any other credible academic institution. This is a major victory for faculty, students, staff, and SUNY trustees who led the fight against this corporate takeover.
The problem of “frackademia” extends far beyond Buffalo, and the Shale Institute is now a cautionary tale for universities around the country passing off industry-sponsored propaganda as academic research, from Penn State to the University of Texas and beyond. This is an important chapter in a much larger fight for academic integrity and transparency.
* Background: In May, UB’s Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) issued a controversial study in May claiming that fracking is getting safer in Pennsylvania. PAI responded with a report that identified serious flaws in the study, including basic math errors that threw its central claim into question, passages copied from another report, false claims of peer review, and serious, undisclosed conflicts of interest. PAI’s report was covered by numerous media outlets and helped lead to a groundswell of opposition to SRSI, including the formation of the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR), a group of faculty, staff, and students advocating transparency at SRSI. As a result of the controversy, SUNY trustees asked UB to report on SRSI’s founding and funding in September. PAI responded by highlighting problems with UB’s response to the trustees, including significant gaps in its disclosure. Today, with a SUNY trustees meeting looming in two weeks, UB President Satish Tripathi announced that he was closing SRSI.