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. 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.