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UB CLEAR Calls for Closure of Shale Institute

On September 12, SUNY trustees requested a report from UB administrators, explaining the university’s widely ridiculed Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). Two weeks later, UB president Satish Tripathi filed that report, and two weeks after that, SUNY and UB made the report public.

Now, the group of UB professors, staff, students, and alumni known as the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR) has submitted to SUNY trustees a 14-page response to the Tripathi report. The response is copied to SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher, SUNY Research Foundation president Timothy Killeen, and UB Foundation chairman Francis Letro. It concludes that SRSI should be closed.

“We raise these realities about the origins of the Shale Institute not to condemn university-business partnerships, which can be invaluable,” the response states, “but given the research focus of this particular institute, the timing of the efforts to fund it and then release its first report, the intense public debate occurring during these efforts, and the substantial dollars at stake for the oil and gas industry, there was a compelling need to be vigilant to ensure the utmost independence and transparency in the work of the Shale Institute. That did not happen.”

The UB CLEAR document points to gas industry funding of the 2011 lecture series during which SRSI was allegedly conceived; financial ties between the four authors of SRSI’s first and only report and the oil and gas industry; failure to correct undisputed errors in that report; failure to disclose funding from the UB Foundation; failure to disclose conflicts of interest in the structure of SRSI—and on and on. The densely referenced response builds to a question: “The Shale Institute has flagrantly violated professional norms and scientific standards. Does its continued existence pose a genuine, long-term threat to academic freedom?”

UB Clear is co-sponsoring a lecture by Professor Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), entitled “What to Do When the Devil Offers You a Deal.” The event takes place on Monday (11/5) at 3pm in the Cellino & Barnes Conference Center on the fifth floor of O’Brien Hall on the Amherst campus.

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