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Fuel for Energy Research

Tue, Apr 30, 2013

Stories

Carbon Sink, an art installation at University of Wyoming that was removed after state leaders and industry supporters perceived it was critical of coal development and energy exploration in the state (University of Wyoming)

Carbon Sink, an art installation at University of Wyoming that was removed after state leaders and industry supporters perceived it was critical of coal development and energy exploration in the state (University of Wyoming)

The collision of environmental research and energy industry funding has earned the derisive moniker of “frackademia,” and been clouded by questions over industry’s bias at state universities and academic programs.

My January 21, 2013 story, “Oil and gas companies pour money into research universities,” in High Country News explores the deepening relationship between the energy industry and university research, and how colleges are trying to maintain their scientific integrity, research funds and even their aesthetics — a task some are handling better than others.

From the story:

The pace and scope of industry-academy alliances — which sometimes include delayed stock options for professors, or give corporate funders significant control over studies and results — have outstripped many schools’ policies on financial conflicts of interest, disclosure of past work and intellectual property, says Cary Nelson, past president of the American Association of University Professors and co-author of a recent report recommending guidelines for such relationships. Some schools and professors now simply refuse energy money. “The fracking industry has acquired some of the reputation of the tobacco industry,” says Nelson, referring to cigarette companies that sponsored studies refuting the links between smoking and cancer.

 

As part of my reporting, I interviewed Ed Warner, an outspoken and libertarian-leaning geologist whose natural gas findings in Wyoming boosted fracking in the West and the world and also enabled him to endow Colorado State University’s natural-resources college (where I also happen to teach communications).

You can also hear me talk about my reporting, including how I managed any of my own conflicts of interest via KDNK’s “Sounds of the High Country” radio program.

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