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UB Group Asks For Investigation of Shale Institute

A group of faculty, students, alumni, and other New York State citizens calling itself the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR) is holding a press conference at noon, Thursday (6/27), at the corner of Main and Bailey on the SUNY at Buffalo South Campus.

The coalition formed in response to the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI)—the formation of which, they argue, “violates UB procedures for creating centers and institutes.”

“Its funding sources and plans are obscure,” according to the group’s press release. “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.”

The first SRSI report, “Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies”—which gathered widespread criticism from the Public Accountability Initiative, and was reported on widely by the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other big media outlets—is “fatally compromised,” according to UB CLEAR.

“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 group maintains. “It has damaged UB’s hard-won reputation and credibility as a major research university.”

They are calling on UB administration to take steps “to prevent further damage and regain public trust in the university.” Among their demands are the suspension of all funding, publications, and other operations of SRSI; as well as the release of all documents bearing on the formation of the Institute, its staffing, governance, oversight, and funding. The group calls for “full and active transparency, not just the minimum disclosure required by law.”

Among the UB CLEAR speakers scheduled to appear are Leslie Nickerson, a doctoral candidate in UB’s English Department; Stephen Halpern, a professor of political science; David Kowalski, professor emeritus of cancer genetics at Roswell Park and of cellular and molecular biology at UB; Sarah Buckley, UB alumna and registered nurse; Adam Drury, another doctoral candidate in UB’s English Department; and Cayden Mack, a doctoral candidate in UB’s Media Studies program and labor organizer for the Graduate Student Employees Union.

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