Sustained Outrage

Does WVU want to distance itself from these?

Fresh from a 2009 tour of a simulated underground coal mine at the WVU Academy for Mine Training are, from left: Chris Hamilton, executive vice president, WV Coal Association; WVU President Jim Clements; Engineering Dean Gene Cilento; and Bill Reid, Coal News.  WVU photo.

We had a story in Saturday’s Gazette-Mail detailing efforts by West Virginia University officials to distance themselves from research being conducted by the university’s faculty. In an e-mail request to local media, WVU spokesman John Bolt said:

… We’re asking those who write about our faculty’s research to refrain from describing those as a “WVU study” or using other phrasing that would imply or could be interpreted as the institution taking a position on any particular issue. Other phrasing might be “a study conducted at WVU,” or “a study by WVU faculty member …”

Bolt said the request “was not developed in reaction to any particular research being conducted on campus.

But as we noted in our story:

The move comes as a series of peer-reviewed papers by a WVU faculty member about mountaintop removal’s potential negative public health effects are receiving widespread media coverage and intense criticism from the coal industry.

The story was picked up The Ticker, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog.

A glance through WVU’s many websites, though, provides a fascinating look at a variety of studies that the university claims as its own:

— A “WVU Report” that concludes increased oil and gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation will open the door to a “new energy economy” for the region.

— Another “WVU study” that promotes the Marcellus Shale as having the “potential for significant economic development in West Virginia.”

— A “WVU forecast” that projected an economic recovery is underway in West Virginia.

— A report in which WVU claims all sorts of economic activity by its faculty, staff and students as the university’s contribution to the state’s economy.

— A news release that tells us, “WVU eagle research goes nationwide.”

After receiving WVU’s e-mail message on Friday, I had some questions. But so far, WVU hasn’t answer them … here are the things I wanted to know:

1. When did WVU start work on this particular statement or policy?

2. Who was involved — who wrote it and who was consulted in developing the policy?

3. Were faculty members or the faculty senate consulted and did they approve the language?

4. Do other universities have similar statements or policies? Can you give me some examples?

5. Do you really expect the public to believe that this has nothing at all to do with the high-profile research being conducted by some WVU faculty about, for example, the coal industry?

Stay tuned …