Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oil and gas companies giving millions to universities for research, raising questions about credibility

It's not unusual for academic researchers at land-grant universities to partner with industries to get funding. But as oil and gas companies pour money into land-grant universities during the U.S. natural-gas and oil boom, questions about academic integrity research credibility are forcing schools to "navigate new ground," Joshua Zaffos of High Country News reports.

Industry research money comes to land-grant schools at a time when government funding continues to decline. In 2010, the Center for American Progress, a liberal organization, identified more than 50 partnerships between universities and energy companies, with funding ranging from $1 million to $500 million. The partnerships "helped foster critical advancements in technology," the report said, but it warned the energy companies could have a "distorting influence" on research.

Industry is pouring so much money into land-grant schools so quickly that many schools are working with outdated policies on financial conflicts of interest, disclosure of past work and intellectual property, American Association of University Professors President Cary Nelson told Zaffos. Some schools simply refuse energy-industry money to avoid trouble taking it might cause. Nelson referred to cigarette-company sponsored studies that refuted the link between smoking and cancer: "The fracking industry has acquired some of the reputation of the tobacco industry." (Read more)

A recent high-profile story about possible linkage between a professor and natural gas companies made news last year when the researchers ties to the industry were made clear. University of Texas professor Chip Groat accepted more than $400,000 in compensation from a natural gas company of which he was a director and owned more than $1 million in stock. The school withdrew the study from its Energy Institute website in December. 

No comments: