Response letter from University of Colorado Boulder


To the editors:                                                                                

First, thank you for contacting the University of Colorado Boulder prior to publishing your article “University research controversy exposes the perils of industry influence” on Oct. 1. I also appreciate the reporter’s efforts to check facts.

However, I must raise concerns with key points in the article. First, there is this blanket statement toward the beginning of the piece: “The correspondence also suggests the Leeds School of Business coordinated a public campaign with their clients to promote the fracking industry.”

At no time did the University of Colorado Boulder, the Leeds School of Business or its Business Research Division set out to plan and coordinate a public campaign to promote the fracking industry.

What the university did do, through its campuswide media relations office, was to accurately relay through a handful of press releases findings of public interest from the research on oil and gas development. These news releases included reference to the sponsoring parties.

CU-Boulder takes research integrity very seriously. The university has a rich portfolio of research related to oil and gas development reflecting a variety of research perspectives and lines of inquiry. This research spans areas of water quality, earthquakes and chemical make-up of fracking fluid.

I also take issue with the notion that lead researcher Brian Lewandowski allowed clients “some degree of control” over the “process of the research.” While it is typical with sponsored research to engage in give and take over the contents of reports to ensure stylistic clarity and consistency, Lewandowski at no time allowed clients to interfere with data, findings or process regarding the research at hand.

The story also implies that the business school may have purposefully left out of its reports the Common Sense Policy Roundtable’s financial ties to the fracking industry. First off, the researchers were unaware of these ties. But this is not the point. The point is that under CU-Boulder policy researchers are under no obligation to understand industry organizations’ financial ties or to report them.

As for media-ready quotes, there was a misunderstanding by our news editor who assumed a question posed by the reporter relating to “media-ready quotes” was related to quotes by industry representatives. If a quote is from a university researcher, the university – not the industry partner – has full control over that.

Finally, the following sentences are buried in this story and I’d like to end my letter with them, “According to university policies, clients can’t alter research findings or data, and there’s no evidence that clients did so in the Leeds reports.” And, “So far, no one is questioning the veracity of the Leeds Business School research.”


Bronson Hilliard, assistant vice chancellor for Strategic Media Relations at CU-Boulder

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Strategic Media Relations

Office of Strategic Relations

University of Colorado Boulder

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