GISERA and the threat to independent science

Gas industry funding and direct involvement in research committees of GISERA, the research body that conducts research on social and environmental impacts of CSG, is potentially compromising the scientific independence of CSIRO.

The five main Queensland gas companies provide the lion’s share of funding to the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) – the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance. Gas industry executives sit on all the committees overseeing research projects, including making up half of the National Research Management Committee.

Funding agreements through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have led to GISERA being financially and structurally integrated with the industry they are researching.

“Industry-funded research is problematic in situations, where the industry has a lot to gain from a particular outcome,” Senior Economist at The Australia Institute, Matt Grudnoff said.

“For example, industry sponsored research into artificial sweeteners is 17 times more likely to deliver a favourable result for industry than non-industry funded research.”

“CSIRO has a long history working with industries to improve innovation or productivity. In such cases all interests are aligned – everyone wants good technology and it either works or it doesn’t.

“GISERA’s social and environmental research is completely different. Different stakeholders have different interests.  Positive findings will influence regulators and policy makers and could be the difference between the industry getting the green light as it did in Queensland, or being banned like in Victoria and Tasmania.

“The industry has a huge amount at stake and GISERA can wield a lot of influence with 15 million dollars and the trusted CSIRO brand.

“Industry representation on these committees overseeing the direction and budget of research increases the potential for GISERA’s independence to be compromised and increases the perception of bias.

“Our research found that where the industry will benefit from a predetermined outcome, that outcome is more likely in industry funded research than in independently funded research.

“Would we accept research into the health impacts of tobacco if it was funded by the tobacco industry?”

“If the gas industry is really interested in independent and impartial research, there is no reason for its representatives to sit on GISERA’s research committees.”

“In order to reduce the potential and perception of bias we’re calling on the gas industry to immediately remove themselves from all the committees that oversee the research done by GISERA,” Grudnoff said.

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