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.
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.
Alum, Solar Century chairman, campaigner
Alum, founding director of Forum for the Future
CMG, Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, author, journalist, former director of communications in the executive office of the United Nations secretary-general
Alum, Transnational Institute fellow and Red Pepper co-editor
Alum, Greenpeace chief scientist
Alum, Greenpeace head of communications, Arctic campaign, Greenpeace International
Alum, Founder of Landman Economics
Alum, author and commentator
Alum, senior researcher in Global Health Ethics, University of Oxford Department of Public Health
Alum, Editor of open security at www.opendemocracy.net
Alum, associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies
Alum, director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Alum, Energy researcher, Durham University
Anne Marie O’Reilly
Alum, Campaign Against the Arms Trade campaigner
Lecturer in English, St Anne’s
Lecturer, School of Geography and the Environment
Alum, campaigns manager, People & Planet
Alum, oil campaigner, Platform
Alum, climate change researcher and author of the No Nonsense Guide to Climate Change
Alum, former staff member (access officer, Wadham College) and SU president (2008/09)
Alum, network organiser, New Economics Foundation (nef)
Alum, Co-director, UK Tar Sands Network
Alum, Campaigner, UK Tar Sands Network
Alum, human rights project officer, Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Bradley L Garrett
Researcher, School of Geography and Environment
Dr Hugo Reinert
Dr Uri Gordon
Dr Frances Mortimer
Evelien de Hoop
Graduate research student
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
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