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Are University reports really as trustworthy as you thought?

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In this week’s Gossage Gossip, our columnist exposes the potential breach in trust coming from Universities with their biassed research papers. 

Like me, do you assume that, if a report is published by a university, its conclusions are trustworthy, and will show no commercial bias? If so, like me, I fear you are now in for a rude awakening.

For those of my devoted readers who for some reason never see that esteemed journal Nature & Climate Change, let me tell you about a study paper that is summarised in the current edition. In essence, it concludes that university departments that receive their primary funding from fossil fuel companies “are more favourable in their reports towards natural gas than towards renewable energy, and tweets are more favourable when they mention funders by name”.

The authors have examined the policy positioning of university-based energy centres towards natural gas, by conducting sentiment analysis on more than a million sentences in more than 1,700 reports from 26 different universities with faculties covering energy policy. The Nature & Climate Change authors conclude that centres with less dependence on fossil funding have a “far more neutral sentiment towards gas, favouring solar and hydro power.”

In other words, this purity of thought in academia is a total myth. The piper paying still plays all the tunes.

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