“Frackademics” – Letter to academics who signed the Guardian open letter

To: Professor Richard Selley Emeritus professor of petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Dr Ruth Robinson Senior lecturer in earth sciences, University of St Andrews, Professor Ian Croudace Director of Geosciences Advisory Unit, University of Southampton, Dr Lateef Akanji Coordinator of petroleum and gas engineering programme, University of Salford, Dr Godpower Chimagwu Enyi Lecturer in petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor Ghasem Nasr Director of spray research group, petroleum technology research group and leader of petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor James Griffiths Professor of engineering geology and geomorphology, University of Plymouth, Associate Professor Graeme Taylor Senior lecturer in geophysics, University of Plymouth, Professor Ernest Rutter Professor of structural geology, University of Manchester, Professor Mike Bowman Chair in development and production geology, and president of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain, University of Manchester, Professor Stephen Flint University of Manchester, Professor Jonathan Redfern Chair of petroleum geoscience, University of Manchester, Dr Kate Brodie Senior lecturer, University of Manchester, Dr Rufus Brunt University of Manchester, Professor Kevin Taylor University of Manchester, Dr Tim Needham Needham Geoscience and visiting lecturer, University of Leeds, Professor Paul Glover Chair of petrophysics, University of Leeds, Professor Quentin Fisher Research director of School of earth and environment, University of Leeds, Dr Doug Angus Associate professor of applied and theoretical seismology, University of Leeds, Dr Roger Clark University of Leeds, Professor Wyn Williams Director of teaching: rock and mineral magnetism, University of Edinburgh, Dr Mark Allen University of Durham, Dr Howard Armstrong Senior lecturer in department of earth sciences, University of Durham, Dr Martin Whiteley Senior lecturer in petroleum geoscience, University of Derby, Professor Jon Blundy Professorial research fellow in petrology, university of Bristol, Dr James Verdon Research fellow, University of Bristol, Professor Adrian Hartley Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr David Iacopini Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, Dr Nick Schofield Lecturer, University of Aberdeen Professor David Macdonald Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr Andrew Kerr University Cardiff, Professor Andrew Hurst Professor of production geoscience, University Aberdeen, Dr Sina  Rezaei Gomari Senior lecturer in petroleum technology and engineering, Teesside University, Professor Agust Gudmundsson Chair of structural geology, Royal Holloway, Dr David Waltham Royal Holloway, Professor Joe Cartwright Shell professor of earth sciences, Oxford University, Professor Peter Styles Professor in applied and environmental geophysics, Keele University, Dr Steven Rogers Teaching fellow, Keele University, Dr Ian Stimpson Senior lecturer in geophysics, Keele University, Dr Jamie Pringle Senior lecturer in engineering and environmental geosciences, Keele University, Dr Gary Hampson Director of petroleum geoscience MSc course, Imperial College London, Professor John Cosgrove Professor of structural geology, Imperial College London, Professor Howard Johnson Shell chair in petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Professor Dorrik Stow Head of Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gillian Pickup Lecturer in reservoir simulation, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Zeyun Jiang Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Jingsheng Ma Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gerald Lucas Edge Hill University, Professor Charlie Bristow Professor of sedimentology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Dr Paul Grant Lecturer, Kingston University

We are writing to you in connection with our latest report, which analyses the relationships between science and academia, PR companies and the fossil fuel industry.  You and your university are mentioned specifically in relation to an open letter, published in the Guardian on Wednesday 4th June 2014, which carries your signature.

The open letter was drafted by the North West Energy Task Force, a Lancashire based lobby group which is funded by Cuadrilla and Centrica.  The content is centred around issues relating to economic hype rather than geophysical science.  Your letter came in response to, and just a few days after, an open letter from Talk Fracking signed by 150 celebrities, academics, business people and community groups, which called for a public debate on fracking. Is it normal practice for you to engage in supporting PR exercises on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, lending your credentials and those of your University to support non-scientific arguments?

Your letter cites the British Geological Survey as an independent organisation but, on the contrary, they are partly funded through NERC and are required to operate their organisation on a commercial footing – creating a dependency upon companies requiring their geophysical expertise.  Your letter also substantially misquotes the BGS findings.

Our report illustrates the dangers of the close relationships between academics such as yourself and the industry, and how this can seriously damage public confidence in the credibility of science, academia and your University, which is now under question.

Our conclusions question and undermine the four pillars (reports) that the Government and industry have relied on to support their case for exploiting shale gas in the UK.  The four scientific reviews commissioned by Government agencies are as follows:

• The Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering review of shale gas (2012);

• The Mackay-Stone review of the climate impacts of shale gas (2013);

• The Public Health England (PHE) review of the health impacts of shale gas (2014);

• The Scottish Government commissioned its own expert study on unconventional.

We would like to know whether, in light of our findings contained within the report, you would now choose to retract your signature from supporting the letter, or offer a clear explanation of why you continue to stand by its content.  We are writing to the Guardian with our report and we are certain they will be interested in its findings and your response.

We have also written to the relevant heads of faculty/department at each of the institutions cited in the report and questioned the ethics of whether academics should be allowed to risk the credibility of these institutions in connection with PR initiatives by the oil and gas industry.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Talk Fracking