|We anticipate that the work of the Shale Resources and Society Institute will contribute to a number of important outcomes, including the following:
- Training of students with interdisciplinary skills:Working within existing degree programs, and building on advances made through UB’s Professional Science Master’s Program, participating students will learn to understand the issues surrounding shale gas resources, and will use a fact-based, multidisciplinary approach to help solve complex problems. They will learn to interpret regulatory programs and the resulting effects on environmental, economic, social, and political systems. We plan on a mix of existing courses and new modules taught by outside experts to introduce the students to the multidisciplinary knowledge base. This knowledge will position them to become productive employees, leaders, and policymakers. Our goal is that these students will represent a new type of expertise: one that is fundamentally interdisciplinary and based on interaction among sometimes-competing interests. Federal funding agencies have long pushed multidisciplinary research, but this has proven difficult to implement — because of institutional structures within the academy, as well as the funding agencies themselves. Students who possess interdisciplinary knowledge and perspectives will eventually be able to change these structures from within. In particular, training students who are knowledgeable about energy and environment-related issues will be critical, as modern society is based on profound energy consumption; but at the same time, we must preserve the environment for future generations.
- Faculty research: The Institute’s programs will create a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment aimed at addressing important issues, responding to public concerns, and solving key problems. Thus, faculty will have an opportunity to compete for external funding, attract highly qualified students for research, and make an impact on industry and policymakers. This will be aided through multidisciplinary field courses and practicums, a speaker series bringing in outside experts for public lectures, who will be invited to participate in focused discussions with faculty, and open faculty interactions on an internal Steering Committee to give faculty forums for interaction.
- Improved communications: The Institute’s external communications should help inform fact-based decision-making by public officials and well-educated citizens. By providing multidisciplinary, data-validated information relating to shale gas development, the quality of related reporting and public understanding should improve.
- Informing industry advances: The Institute will maintain transparent, impartial communications with its industry partners, provide access to new knowledge, and facilitate dialogue with policymakers — so that industry participants can help develop and implement best practices that have been identified through research.
- Outreach initiatives: Drawing upon faculty expertise in environmental anthropology, public anthropology, cultural studies, and archaeology, the Institute offers unique opportunities for outreach and collaboration with diverse groups affected by shale resource development, including Native American communities.
Contributing to economic growth in New York State: The Public Policy Institute (the research arm of the Business Council of New York State) has estimated that the economic impact for New York of drilling 500 unconventional gas wells per year includes the potential creation of 15,500 direct jobs and up to 47,000 other jobs using a standard jobs model. These jobs would pay double the upstate New York salary average, and tax revenue for New York and local government of $214 M would be generated in 2015. Although some have disputed these numbers, the facts from neighboring Pennsylvania cannot be disputed. In 2009-2010 alone, just two of the Marcellus industries (extraction and mining support activities) resulted in the creation of 4,355 new jobs. There is no other potential source of job creation, economic growth or tax base growth for New York State that comes anywhere near the potential impact of gas development. The return on investment the Shale Resources and Society Institute will be thousands of times if the Institute is supported with the necessary resources, and is allowed to play a major role in shaping the regulatory and policy debate for New York. This return will be expressed not only in increased grant and external support, but also in the increased ability of UB students to find jobs and remain in Western New York State.