It’s easy to cry “corporate stooge” at scientists without actually looking at the complex sets of social, cultural and economic negotiations they engage in. That isn’t to say journalists and campaigners should not “follow the money” and investigate the impact of industry funding on science. But the key word here is “investigate”. So said the Science Media Centre last week, and I agree. But we do need to do that investigative work.
A bit of citizen science policy research launched by Platform and People & Planet this week offers the chance to do some such digging. The two NGOs share an interest in campaigning against the fossil fuel industry and want to learn more about the links between oil and gas companies and UK universities. They are hoping to crowdsource information from those who know these institutions best: students, staff and alumni.
The project wants to track whether universities have staff, buildings, research projects, events (including careers events), courses or publications sponsored by fossil fuel companies. They also want to know about secondments, honorary degrees and if there is research undertaken into unconventional gas and oil (whoever funds it). They provide examples and tips on where to look for such information, including making freedom of information requests.