On April 5, 2012, the University at Buffalo administration announced the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute. The Institute’s formation violates UB procedures for creating centers and institutes. Its funding sources and plans are obscure. It solicits gas industry funding by presenting itself as a committed advocate for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” In exchange for contributions, it offers corporations privileged access to research and a special role in Institute governance. And its abrupt debut suggests not the independent search for knowledge proper to a university but a frantic and servile willingness to sell academic legitimacy to a public relations campaign for the gas industry.
On May 15, an official UB press release accompanied its first publication: “Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies.” This report is fatally compromised. It was announced as peer-reviewed when it wasn’t. It fails to note its authors’ financial connections to the gas industry. And it is riddled with procedural flaws and errors of fact, including basic arithmetic errors.
The ensuing controversy includes a widely-distributed AP story and an article in the June 11th New York Times. It has damaged UB’s hard-won reputation and credibility as a major research university. In response, a group of SUNY faculty, students, alums, and other citizens have established the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR).
Suspend all funding, publications, and other operations of the Shale Resources and Society Institute.
Release all documents bearing on the formation of the Institute, its staffing, governance, oversight, and funding. Explain how and why the Institute’s first report came to be described publicly as “peer edited” and associated with the University itself and not just its authors. Practice full and active transparency, not just the minimum disclosure required by law.
Establish a genuinely independent body, outside UB and the oil and gas industry, to investigate the Institute’s formation and its relations to industry and other donors.
Hold a forum in which all interested UB and other community members can raise their concerns about the Institute, receive candid answers, and offer advice.
Please do not delay in addressing these concerns.