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UB Closes Shale Institute

Satish K. Tripathi, president of the State University of New York at Buffalo, sent an email to all university employees this afternoon, announcing his decision to close the much-criticized Shale Resources and Society Institute at UB—less than eight months after its existence was revealed to the public.

Dear University Community:

            Issues related to energy and the environment represent a critical, broadly defined area of inquiry in the 21st century, one of tremendous and growing scientific, social, and economic importance.  There is therefore a vital need for the highest quality of research, scholarship, and educational initiatives in these areas.

            Given our geographic situation as well as our extensive faculty expertise in issues related to energy, water, and the environment, the University at Buffalo is positioned to play a leading research role in these areas.  Understanding and addressing these issues effectively therefore requires a program of sufficient scale to encompass the scope and complexities of this topic.

To fulfill UB’s mission of academic excellence, it is imperative that our research is of appropriate scope, and that it has strong faculty presence.  Moreover, conducting research that has such profound environmental, societal, public health, and economic implications requires that we adhere to the utmost standards of academic integrity and transparency.  It must be remembered that the issues associated with natural gas production from shale are broad and complex, with extensive public implications.  It is with these considerations in mind that we must assess the mission and practices of the Shale Resources and Society Institute.  

After consultation with faculty and our academic administration, Provost Zukoski, Dean Pitman and I concur that:

·         Research of such considerable societal importance and impact cannot be effectively conducted with a cloud of uncertainty over its work.
·         While UB’s policies that govern disclosure of significant financial interests and sources of support are strong and consistent with federal guidelines, these policies are in need of further clarification and because of this lack of clarity were inconsistently applied. (To remedy this, UB has established a committee with participation of the faculty senate with the goal of developing recommendations to strengthen and clarify our policies in these areas.)
·         The institute lacks sufficient faculty presence in fields associated with energy production from shale for the institute to meet its stated mission.
·         Conflicts-both actual and perceived-can arise between sources of research funding and expectations of independence when reporting research results.  This, in turn, impacted the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute’s research.
 
The university upholds academic freedom as a core principle of our institutional mission. With that being said, academic freedom carries with it inherent responsibilities. The Shale Resources and Society Institute’s May 15, 2012 report, “Environmental Impacts during Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts, and Remedies,” led to allegations questioning whether historical financial interests influenced the authors’ conclusions.  The fundamental source of controversy revolves around clarity and substantiation of conclusions. Every faculty member has a responsibility to ensure that conclusions in technical reports or papers are unambiguous and supported by the presented data.  It is imperative that our faculty members adhere to rigorous standards of academic integrity, intellectual honesty, transparency, and the highest ethical conduct in their work.  

Because of these collective concerns, I have decided to close the Shale Resources and Society Institute.

To leverage our university’s considerable faculty expertise in the area of energy and the environment and to address these issues with appropriate breadth and complexity, UB will establish a comprehensive program of scholarship and education that addresses issues in this broadly defined area of research.  Accordingly, I have asked Provost Zukoski to work with academic deans, the vice president for research and economic development, and the faculty researchers across the disciplines who have expertise in this broad field to create a faculty-driven process that provides appropriate scope and scale for UB’s scholarship in energy and environmental sciences.

As a leading research university with a long history of leadership in sustainability, water, and energy-related issues, the University at Buffalo has the potential to be a leading voice in this national and global conversation.  Across the disciplines, we have a number of faculty experts who are conducting vital research in these areas.   We need to bring these faculty together and harness their intellectual energy in order to address these issues in an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and focused way.  UB can be a key institutional leader in this critical field of energy and the environment.  To do so, we need to be deliberate and thoughtful, with an eye toward the long-range implications of this research, which has tremendous local, national, and global impact.
 
Sincerely,
 
Satish K. Tripathi
President

The Shale Resources and Society Institute—or SRSI—became public on April 5, 2012, when it was first reported by Artvoice. Opposition to the institute grew after its first and only report was thoroughly debunked by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI). Their critique was picked up by media outlets across the country, drawing increased scrutiny on a national scale. On top of this, a well-organized group of UB faculty, staff, students and concerned community members called the Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR)—came together to keep the concern focused on academic integrity at UB. Last week, PAI followed up with another report sent to SUNY Trustees, criticizing president Tripathi’s failure to disclose information pertaining to the founding and funding of SRSI. Over the weekend, an online petition calling for the closure of SRSI had collected over 10,000 signatures.

Now the institute—which was made up of individuals with ties to the natural gas industry, and whose only report was riddled with incorrect math—is no more.

 


  • Mary/Bruce Beyer

    Buck,

    There’s another guy in town who claims to be an “investigative journalist” whose recent work simply can’t hold a candle to the effort you have made to expose SUNYAB’s charlatan shale scientists.  Thanks for continuing to flip over the rocks and exposing these creatures to light.  I suspect that Satish and Company will establish a similar corporate “Institute”, with an entirely different name but with a similar intent of obfuscation and disinformation.  Thank you Buck and Artvoice!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MLNOZGBAQJRIGWV43NCLEHLVAE ClayBlasdel

    About a year ago the Buffalo News’ David Robinson published a story announcing the Shale Institute and it’s’ study that seemed to give fracking a favorable review.   I criticized Robinson (and the NEWS) on the News comment blog  for not doing its research.  I had simply googled the chief researcher who  whose name and work connected to other oil and gas industry sponsored studies.  He appeared to be working for the industry even when at the U of Colorado.

    It’s good to see the Institute gone. Good ridance. And you’re welcome.  

  • BufChester

    I think it’s probably safe to say that if Buck Quigley and PAI hadn’t been such nuisances about this the Shale Institute would still be going strong.

    • Jim_Holstun

       You’re right. Now, the question is whether or not the UB Faculty Senate will have the good grace to be ashamed that somebody else has been doing its job for it, and doing it so well. I’m not holding my breath. Note that this isn’t the first time Buck Quigley has done this: his “The Great UB Heist” actually changed legislation, mitigating the bad effects that would have been introduced in UB’s version of UB 2020, and getting some financial conflict of interest language into the bill that finally passed, NYSUNY 2020.

      Perhaps the UB Faculty Senate should put Buck on retainer?

      • ninatruth

        No put Howarth and Ingraffea on retainer and further minimize the already pathetic academic reputation of UB.

  • ninatruth

    Actully UB is not even a nationally recognized research institution in any topic let alone qualified to do research into oil and gas exploration, development and engineering. And actually there is not even a single NY university with any expertise in petroleum engineering. So no wonder the SUNY administration would be so confused and not able to make proper decisions since it doesn’t even know what the topic is all about. Give the grants to Penn State, West Virginia, UT, Stanford and the other premier reserach petroleum institutes on the subject. NY will fade into the abyss as usual and stick with the junk science of Howarth and Ingraffea which is the laughing stock of the scientific community.

    • Jim_Holstun

      Really Ninatruth?  Why didn’t you frackers suggest your grave misgivings about UB before yesterday afternoon? Are we feeling ever so slightly sour grapesy, today? “You can’t fire us–we quit! and you stink!” The scattershot dismissal of UB is simply nonsense–and the way you reduce the status of a research university to its willingness to provide fracking propaganda is a beautiful thing to see.

      I keep hearing this unsubstantiated charge against Howarth and Ingraffea from speakers with suspicious oily bulges in their pockets: “Junk science! stupid! discredited by the scientific community!” But the argument never goes much beyond this. while the scientific community is providing more and more confirming evidence of their initial findings of significant methane leakage caused by fracking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.kauber David Kauber

    Glad to see ol’ UB come to its senses.  The shills for The Industry will go after any scientists who do real science.  Professors Ingraffea and Howarth welcome genuine criticism of their work, and thus far, their research has stood up quite well.  And don’t forget Dr. Sandra Steingraber, of Ithaca College, disclosing the disruptive actions of small quantities of toxins to the human endocrine and hormone systems. 

    Meanwhile, The Industry is pumping up our New York State politicians with Bucks$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, in hopes of getting them to do the dirty work of making our life and lives not worth living in this state.

    Never doubt how cheaply some people will sell their souls for, and there are plenty of soul-less shills and prostitutes blasting their vacuous words  in hopes of turning New York State into an industrial wasteland.