Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Critics Question Research of Professors Tied to Shale Industry

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Critics Question Research of Professors Tied to Shale Industry

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Professors funded or compensated by the shale gas industry have produced influential research supporting the industry at major institutions including Penn State University and the University of Texas at Austin and don't always disclose where that money is coming from.

There's a growing backlash against the practice. State University of New York trustees last week ordered a review of the University at Buffalo's shale gas institute after faculty members complained that authors of a controversial report were tied to the industry.

The University of Texas at Austin last month named a panel of experts to review its own controversial study. The Texas report found no evidence of groundwater contamination from "fracking," the process of injecting high-pressure water and chemicals underground to free gas inside shale rock. But the professor who led the study, Charles Groat, failed to mention he's on the board of a company engaged in fracking that paid him $400,000 last year.

Penn State is under fire after putting out influential shale industry-funded research without disclosing who paid for it. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is reviewing Penn State's accreditation because of the child-sex-abuse scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, said it is considering a request from the advocacy group Responsible Drilling Alliance that it also look into the university's ethics regarding shale gas research.

"I would certainly be very concerned about industry-funded research at academic institutions, which always has the potential for having strings attached to it," said Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors. "In a number of cases there's a clear conflict of interest and these corporations have a direct interest in research results that support their goals."

Faculties are under increasing pressure to get private funding with cutbacks in government money, he said. …

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