BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Trustees with the State University of New York are demanding answers from the University at Buffalo.
The controversy comes after the Shale Resources and Society Institute at UB released a study written by authors with ties to the oil and natural gas industry. It raises the question: Is the Shale Resources and Society Institute doing legitimate research, or is it simply using UB's reputation to the benefit of natural gas companies?
UB's new institute focuses on the controversial issue of hydrofracking and was formed in April of this year. Hydrofracking is a gas-drilling technique consisting of blasting water and chemicals deep into the ground to release natural gas.
The institute's recent study finds fracking to be much safer because of improvements in the industry and state oversight.
But many people, including environmentalists, students and faculty at UB, are calling many parts of the study - and the purpose of the institute - into question.
According to their online biographies, the study's authors and the institute's paid staff have connections to the oil and gas industry. And professors interviewed by News 4 say UB incorrectly presented the study as "peer reviewed."
Political science professor Steve Halpern says that raised questions.
"About the scholarly integrity and objectivity in particular of the first report issued by the institute," he said.
Halpern co-wrote an open letter to administration signed by 84 UB faculty members to make public all documents concerning the founding and funding of the institute. UB Provost Charles Zukosi says the institute is paid for entirely by the College of Arts and Sciences. He insists the oil and gas industry paid for no part of the study or the institute itself.
Halpern says, if that's the case, prove it to the public.
"Two things. One, disclose everything. And two, review existing policies," Halpern said.
The main thing bothering Halpern and his colleagues is that UB's reputation is on the line. And if the public doesn't believe this study was fair and objective, then that reputation is damaged.
The letter from faculty has apparently made a difference.
The SUNY governing board made a resolution asking UB to give them all the facts regarding how the institute was formed, and how natural gas companies are involved with the institute and its published study.
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