Industry Money Corrupts Science at University of Calgary Research Centre

Oil and gas industry funding has corrupted research at the University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE), according to former head of the centre, climate scientist David Keith.

In an interview with CBC, Keith said the research institute has been unable to balance corporate interests with its environmental research. Keith also told the CBC that the University of Calgary removed one of its academic employees after bowing to pressure from Enbridge.

“That just fundamentally misconceives the university's role,” said Keith, who now works at Harvard University.

Enbridge responded to the charge, saying the company plays no role in university recruitment and “any claims to the contrary are categorically false.”

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into this institution,” Keith said. “A lot of good will effort. A lot of good people at U of C worked hard and we basically fumbled this institution.”

Liberal MLA David Swann from Calgary Mountain View released a statement on his website, saying Keith's statements “confirmed rumors that have circulated for years regarding industry influence over decisions made at the Institute.”

“Finally, a senior world-renowned energy researcher has had the courage to name when university management is complicit, or turns a bling eye to the inappropriate influence of money on energy research and policy. Dr. Keith describes the multi-million dollar Institute as a 'failure' essentially unable to produce meaningful alternatives to the fossil fuel agenda in Alberta.”

The University told CBC the Institute's mandate involved finding cost-effective ways to resolve the environmental challenges of energy production. “We believe ISEEE is delivering on that mandate,” a prepared statement reads.

But as Swann suggests, the role industry money plays at ISEEE represents a growing trend of corporate power in Alberta.

“While there may be explanations—a government that has cut funding to research while wanting desperately to look like it is “leading” in energy and environment research and policy—there is no excuse for university management to ignore the growing influence of industry on both the research agenda and the results, as these results influence government policy. This Alberta government corporate largesse seemed like a good idea to those who dismiss science and don’t understand the importance of independent, unbiased, publicly–funded research.”