Can Industry-Funded Research Lead To Solid Scientific Results?
In light of the University of Texas’ recent failure to disclose a researcher’s ties to the natural gas drilling industry, the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin weighs in on the issue of industry-funded drilling research:
I’ve seen studies of this kind that have robust findings. The “Future of Natural Gas” analysis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Institute, while undertaken with some industry money and (marginally disclosed) relationships of authors to energy companies, appears to have held up well to independent scrutiny, for instance.
But there are troubling instances in which an undisclosed financial tie has created after-the-fact problems for substantial research projects. This was the case with the report and bundle of related material produced last February by the University of Texas Energy Institute assessing risks from gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” in both environmental and industry shorthand).
The university is assembling a panel to evaluate the report’s findings in the wake of a report from the Public Accountability Initiative that found substantial financial ties between a lead investigator, Prof. Charles G. Groat, and a drilling company.
Last year, StateImpact Pennsylvania examined how difficult it is for researchers to find unbiased funding sources for natural gas-related studies.