Texas Professor on Defensive After Conflict Allegation
Revelations of a conflict of interest involving a University of Texas at Austin professor are buzzing on campus today.
Charles “Chip” Groat has been on the board of a drilling company that engages in fracking since 2007. And he’s been paid over $1.5 million in cash and stock in that time.
He also led a study released earlier this year on safety and environmental risks from fracking. In that study, Groat didn’t disclose his financial relationship with the drilling company. The information wasn’t on his bio or resume on the UT website, either. The link was exposed Monday in a report by a watchdog group.
Dean Sharon Mosher of UT’s Jackson School of Geosciences is Groat’s boss. She says she was surprised to read about the news this morning.
“I was not aware that he was still a member of the board,” Mosher said. “And if I had known he was a member of a board of a company like that and was paid, I would have insisted that he disclose it.”
Groat did not agree to an interview, but in an email to StateImpact Texas, he called the report “a mixture of truths, half truths, and unfounded conclusions based [on] incorrect interpretations of information. I don’t want to discuss it.”
Any time a university employee has a potential financial conflict of interest, they are supposed to submit a form to their superior. While Groat had submitted this form in years past disclosing his financial ties, he did not do so this year, Mosher says. And the forms do not indicate how much Groat is being paid.
“There’s no question that I will review it, and be talking to Dr. Groat,” Mosher said.
Steven Leslie, Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of Texas at Austin released a statement late today saying that “the most important asset we have as an institution is the public’s trust. If that is in question, then that is something we need to address.” Leslie said the University will find a “group of outside experts” to review the original study. “We believe that the research meets our standards, but it is important to let an outside group of experts take an independent look,” Leslie says.
Leslie also says that “Dr. Groat has been reminded of his obligations to report all outside employment per university policy. If the university had known about Dr. Groat’s board involvement, the Energy Institute would have included that information in the report.”