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Opponents of Oxford’s partnership with Shell

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 09.07.55Shell’s research money is also buying legitimacy for its unconscionable activities globally. These include human rights abuses in the Niger delta, reckless drilling plans in the Arctic, fracking in South Africa, and carbon-intensive tar sands extraction that undermines indigenous rights in Canada.

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Thursday 9 May 2013

Today sees the launch of a new partnership between the University of Oxford and Shell. As Oxford alumni, staff and students, we are united in our opposition to this new partnership and the growing trend of oil companies funding, and thus influencing, the research agenda of our universities. Shell is a particularly inappropriate choice of funder for an Earth sciences laboratory. Shell’s core business activities and political lobbying are pushing us towards a future with a global temperature increase well in excess of 2C. Oxford’s own climate scientists are warning us that we need to leave the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground, and yet this new partnership will undertake research that will help Shell to find and extract even more hydrocarbons.

Shell’s research money is also buying legitimacy for its unconscionable activities globally. These include human rights abuses in the Niger delta, reckless drilling plans in the Arctic, fracking in South Africa, and carbon-intensive tar sands extraction that undermines indigenous rights in Canada. Worryingly, the government is endorsing this partnership, with energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey attending the launch.

The government appears to be comfortable that its cuts to research funding are pushing our best universities into partnerships with the world’s worst companies. We urge Oxford University to lead by example and dissociate itself from Shell before its own reputation is tarnished and its students’ futures are jeopardised by runaway climate change.

Jeremy Leggett
Alum, Solar Century chairman, campaigner
Jonathon Porritt
Alum, founding director of Forum for the Future
Edward Mortimer
CMG, Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, author, journalist, former director of communications in the executive office of the United Nations secretary-general
Hilary Wainwright
Alum, Transnational Institute fellow and Red Pepper co-editor
George Monbiot
Alum, journalist
Doug Parr
Alum, Greenpeace chief scientist
Paul Kingsnorth
Alum, writer
James Turner
Alum, Greenpeace head of communications, Arctic campaign, Greenpeace International
Howard Reed
Alum, Founder of Landman Economics
Oliver Tickell
Alum, author and commentator
Salla Sariloa
Alum, senior researcher in Global Health Ethics, University of Oxford Department of Public Health
Jo Tyabji
Alum, Editor of open security at
Oscar Reyes
Alum, associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies
Rachel Stancliffe
Alum, director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Tom Henfrey
Alum, Energy researcher, Durham University
Anne Marie O’Reilly
Alum, Campaign Against the Arms Trade campaigner
Sam Thompson
Lecturer in English, St Anne’s
Sam Geall
Lecturer, School of Geography and the Environment
Louise Hazan
Alum, campaigns manager, People & Planet
Kevin Smith
Alum, oil campaigner, Platform
Danny Chivers
Alum, climate change researcher and author of the No Nonsense Guide to Climate Change
Will McCallum
Alum, former staff member (access officer, Wadham College) and SU president (2008/09)
Stephen Reid
Alum, network organiser, New Economics Foundation (nef)
Emily Coats
Alum, Co-director, UK Tar Sands Network
Ruthi Brandt
Alum, Campaigner, UK Tar Sands Network
Chris Garrard
Doctoral candidate
Helle Abelvik-Lawson
Alum, human rights project officer, Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Bradley L Garrett
Researcher, School of Geography and Environment
Antione Thalmnann
Undergraduate student
Lucie Kimchin
Tom Shooter
Dr Hugo Reinert
Danielle Paffard
Linda Stewart
Jim Price
Dr Uri Gordon
Rosalind Gray
Harriet Young
Tina Valentine
Jon Leighton
Colin Guildford
Dr Frances Mortimer
Evelien de Hoop
Anna Appleby
Undergraduate student
Chiara Vitali
Rebecca Quinn
Dan Whiteley
Sophie Sturup
Hannah Schling
Dan Jeffries
Graduate research student
Alice Lacey
Marloes Nicholls
Adam Elliot-Cooper
Rowan Livingstone
Leoni Löwenherz
Amber Murrey-Ndewa
Madeleine Perham
Undergraduate student
Abigail Motley
Undergraduate student
Eleanor Cross
Bethan Tichborne
Tim Davies
Anna Wolmouth
George Roberts
Nadira Wallace
Mathura Umachandran
Ben Pritchett
Sophie Lewis
Sara Jansson
Finn Jackson
Ellen Gibson
Undergraduate student
James Davies
Undergraduate student
Rowan Borchers
Undergraduate student
Guy Cochrane
Undergraduate student


Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 16.34.09Comment from a Shell related source

The problem with Shell providing research funding is that the people receiving the funding are thereby compromised in terms of their objectivity.
On the one hand, input to research from companies such as Shell ensures that the research is relevant to real world needs and provides researchers with access to data and resources. Of course, many researchers would prefer to have complete freedom to undertake research in any area which interests them, even if the subject is of no interest to their sponsors (or perhaps anyone else) and therefore resent commercial “interference”.
However, when the same researchers are providing input to government policy decisions, their opinions should be considered to be those of an “interested party” and possibly compromised in the same manner as the opinions of any other Shell employee.
In many instances, academic researchers are relied upon by the courts to provide independent expert opinions. However, when researchers are effectively Shell employees, their opinions cannot be regarded as independent.
When looking for expert assistance for a case, how many plaintiffs have received the response, “you may be in the right, but I cannot help you because it would cost me next year’s research budget, the university would be very unhappy, and I would lose my position”?
There is an urgent need for investment in research in all aspects of energy production and use which the major energy companies are well placed to guide and sponsor. However, this may prevent the researchers and their institutions from providing the impartial advice on which the government policy and the courts rely. To ensure transparency, opinions and research results must show clearly any affiliations and sponsorship from organisations with vested interests.

RELATE ARTICLE by Chris Garrard, a composer and doctoral candidate at Oxford University. He is also an active environmental campaigner

Partnership between Oxford University and Shell condemned


The arguments against Shell – whether ethical, environmental or economic – are beginning to stack up to the extent that they will begin to weigh down heavily on the company’s image and possibly the reputation of Oxford University too – warns academic

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