A controversial study of hydraulic fracking will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts. The study, released in February, was criticized earlier this week when an advocacy group highlighted the financial ties of its lead author to an energy company.
In a statement released yesterday, Steven Leslie, provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas, Austin, said he hoped to have a review of the study completed in a few weeks. "We believe that the research meets our standards, but it is important to let an outside group of experts take an independent look."
Charles Groat, the associate director of the university's Energy Institute, coordinated the report while serving on the board of PXP, a company that uses fracking. Leslie said that report would have included that fact, if it had been known.
In an e-mail to ScienceInsider, Groat said he thought his board membership wasn't relevant to the project and he didn't have an actual conflict of interest. "Free from apparent conflict of interest is in the eye of the beholder and tougher to deal with," he admits. "My choice was to avoid actual conflict, but clearly many have perceptions of conflict that they feel are important even if there was no actual influence of my energy company relationship."
Groat added: "Others feel I should have disclosed my industry relationship and I respect their opinions which will likely lead to disclosures in the future."