Today, SUNY Buffalo closed the doors of its Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI), what we at DeSmog have described as an epicenter for “frackademia” and a public relations front for the oil and gas industry to promote hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) under the guise of scientific legitimacy that a university offers.
A letter from SUNY Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi said that the nail in the coffin for SRSI was what we coined its “shill gas study,” the first paper published by SRSI. All of the co-authors of this paper had direct ties to the oil and gas industry, as did four out of five of its peer reviewers.
Tripathi explained his rationale behind slamming the door shut on SRSI, writing,
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 May 15, 2012 report…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.
Tripathi's announcement comes shortly before the upcoming SUNY Board of Trustees meeting set to take place in Albany, NY on Dec. 3-4.
New Yorkers Against Fracking proclaimed the announcement a “victory for real science over junk science peddled by the gas industry.”
Update: Public Accountability Initiative, which has written many reports on SRSI, issued this statement from its Executive Director, Kevin Connor:
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.
Photo Credit: Davidhar | Wikimedia Commons