CONTENTS
Introduction
Case study 1: University funding and NERC’s CDT for Oil and Gas

Case study 2: Academic involvement in major shale gas studies

Case study 3: The Mackay-Stone shale gas climate impacts study

Case study 4: The Science Media Centre and the ‘seeding’ of articles

Case study 5: Guardian ‘open letter’ from academics

Case study 6: The interrelationship between the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil and The Task Force on Shale Gas

Conclusion
Appendix: Information sources for case study diagrams

Introduction

This study examines the relationships between academia, the fossil fuel industry and public bodies – and how these relationships might influence the public debate over “fracking”.

The purpose of reviewing the connections between different agencies is to understand the nature of the environment which defines and constrains those decisions, and to explain the context within which recent decisions or policies have been framed. It traces the potential mechanisms by which the public debate over unconventional gas and oil may be manipulated, and how that fits in to the Government’s promotion of their policies on unconventional gas and oil.

In scientific debate, all issues should be open to objective examination. In practice, however, the conditions defining the terms of that examination often skew that process [1]. People holding senior academic positions are also used to influence these discussions – even when they have their own vested interest in promoting an issue.

In the context of the modern public debate over the complexities of scientific information, this skewing of evidence can be exacerbated by the need of governments, or their public relations advisers, to ‘accentuate the positive’ behind their case [2]. For example, the deliberate use of ‘scientists’ to provide a more positive view of unconventional gas and oil production was revealed in emails released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) under the Freedom of Information Act [3]. In a discussion with DECC, a Centrica employee stated –

Our polling shows that academics are the most trusted sources of information to the public so we are looking at ways to work with the academic community to present the scientific facts around shale.

The connections which define the environment for the debate on unconventional gas and oil are complex. In order to bring a clearer view to this information, six specific case studies have been selected to highlight different aspects of this issue. Each outlines different ways in which the scientific evidence for the safety, or not, of unconventional gas and oil may be manipulated to favour the ‘pro’ side of the argument (currently it is difficult to show an ‘official’ bias the other way).

Each study is illustrated by a diagram which provides a visual representation of the relationships which characterise the issue. Extensive, clickable references are provided at the foot of the page.

[1]    Science, Policy, and the Transparency of Values, Kevin Elliott & David Resnik, Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/politics/elliot_resnik_2014.pdf

[2]    Testing Theories of American Politics, Martin Gilens & Benjamin Page, Perspectives on Politics, 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/politics/gilens_page_2014.pdf

[3]    Email from Centrica to DECC, 19th September 2013 – Correspondence and meetings between the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil, UKOOG, Centrica and IGas, DECC, 15th January 2014 – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/correspondence-and-meetings-between-the-office-of-unconventional-gas-and-oil-ukoog-centrica-and-igas

 

CONTENTS
Introduction
Case study 1: University funding and NERC’s CDT for Oil and Gas

Case study 2: Academic involvement in major shale gas studies

Case study 3: The Mackay-Stone shale gas climate impacts study

Case study 4: The Science Media Centre and the ‘seeding’ of articles

Case study 5: Guardian ‘open letter’ from academics

Case study 6: The interrelationship between the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil and The Task Force on Shale Gas

Conclusion
Appendix: Information sources for case study diagrams

 

This report has been commissioned by Talk Fracking

Produced February 2015 by Paul Mobbs Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN – http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/

© 2015 Paul Mobbs/Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations
Released under the The Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 2.0 Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 UK) – England & Wales – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/fraw/by_nc_sa-uk-2.html

All Internet links listed in this report were accessed during late January/early February 2015.