University of Texas Accepts Findings on Shale Gas Development Report

Dec. 6, 2012

Statement from The University of Texas System:

The University of Texas at Austin recently received and agreed with the findings of an independent panel of national experts that reviewed the preparation and distribution of a 2012 UT Energy Institute report on Shale Gas Development, on which Professor Charles Groat served as principal investigator. The independent review was not commissioned to assess the merits or liabilities of hydraulic fracturing but the process through which the report was prepared and distributed.

It is also important to note that the content of the report — a synthesis of various white papers written about hydraulic fracturing — was not under review for validation or criticism and that the panel "found no evidence of intentional misrepresentation" by the authors.

The panel cited failures and inadequacies in several procedural areas and made six recommendations, all of which will be implemented by UT Austin. As a result of these findings, The University of Texas at Austin will work with the UT System Administration to conduct a compliance review for the purposes of improving internal procedures as they relate to the university’s conflict of interest, conflict of commitment, and financial and relationship disclosures.

In 2012, The University of Texas System and Board of Regents enhanced policies by revising conflicts rules, including reporting and management of financial conflicts of interest in research and disclosure and approvals for compensated outside work and for outside board service of faculty and administrative and professional staff at the UT System’s nine universities and six health institutions. These Rules were enhanced to position UT institutions to have the highest ethical standards and levels of transparency in higher education.

The public trust in the integrity of UT Austin’s research has always been of highest importance to the institution.  It is essential that the university’s policies, leadership culture and compliance systems work more diligently to confirm and reinforce the public’s trust in the integrity of its research. The University of Texas is proud to be one of the nation’s top research universities, and it will continue to work to enhance its numerous collaborations with individuals and companies in the private sector. It is through these generous individuals and entities that the university is able to advance the frontiers of knowledge, positively impact society, and serve the greater public good.

Industry sponsored research is among the most important activities undertaken by top tier institutions, and it is highly regarded and essential to our nation’s competitiveness and safety.

The university and the Board of Regents embrace business collaborations and investments in university research, and they aspire to be a national model with public/private partnerships. Therefore they also aspire to be a national leader in systems oversight, compliance and internal safeguards to ensure public trust, integrity of our institutions, and integrity of the research produced.

The University of Texas at Austin moved swiftly to commission the independent review when it became aware of a potential undisclosed conflict and has begun to immediately implement the reviewers’ recommendations. Last month, Dr. Groat retired from his faculty position at UT Austin, and Energy Institute Director Raymond Orbach resigned. Dr. Orbach had no direct role in overseeing Dr. Groat’s report, and he will remain at the university as a tenured faculty member apart from the Energy Institute.  A search is underway to recruit new leadership at the Institute.

The University of Texas at Austin and its administration, the University of Texas System and the Board of Regents take the report of this independent panel very seriously. The board, chancellor, and UT Austin president are studying the report and its recommendations carefully to determine what additional measures might be taken to further mitigate the possibility of an incident like this occurring again.

PDF of the panel's report: A Review of the Processes of Preparation and Distribution of the Report “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development”

Contacts: Gary Susswein, Director of Media Relations, and Tara Doolittle, Director of Media Outreach, 512-471-3151.

To view a linked PDF file in this article, you must first download the Acrobat Reader plug-in for your browser.

6 Comments to "University of Texas Accepts Findings on Shale Gas Development Report"

1.  Geoffrey Landis said on Dec. 10, 2012

I'm puzzled: this release says that UT will accept and implement the recommendations of the review panel, but doesn't say what problems were found, or what the review panel recommended.

2.  John B. said on Dec. 10, 2012

Geoffrey: there is a link to the report at the bottom of the article.

3.  Angela Clark said on Dec. 11, 2012

In response to the lst comment: the six recommendations are found on pgs 31-32 in the pdf attached above--which is the panel's analysis. Thank you to President Powers and other UT leaders for the transparency in how this was handled.

4.  A Commenter said on Dec. 12, 2012

Mr. Landis,

The review panel's report is linked at the bottom of the above press release in PDF form. I quote here from the executive summary from that PDF:

"The design, management, review and release of the study that led to the report, “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development,” fell short of contemporary standards for scientific work. Primary among the shortcomings was the failure of the Principal Investigator to disclose a conflict of interest that could have had a bearing on the credibility a reader wished to assign to the resulting work. This circumstance was exacerbated by the University policy on conflicts of interest then in force that was poorly crafted and even less well enforced. (The policy has since been revised.) Further, the subject report summary, press release and presentations did not reflect in a balanced fashion the caveats presented in the body of the report itself.

The Review Committee found no evidence of intentional misrepresentation—rather, it noted the above instance of very poor judgment coupled with inattentiveness to the challenges of conducting research in an environment inevitably fraught with conflict of interest concerns."

5.  Som Eguy said on Dec. 12, 2012

Who selects members of the independent panel, and will they also have ties to the industry they are supposed to be objectively reviewing?

6.  Soren Reid said on Dec. 12, 2012

What about Professor Groat's ethics or is that not important to the University?

I believe you have institutional rules governing unethical behavior. Are they going to be implemented against the Professor?