BP, Australian Research Agency Embroiled In Potential Ethics Breach

Nov. 17, 2023
Concern is over BP’s involvement in research presentations and publications relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is under scrutiny amid allegations that some of its scientists did not disclose allowing oil giant BP to review studies before publication or presentation, according to an article in Science. U.S. law firm Downs Law Group released documents indicating BP lawyers reviewed nine studies where CSIRO scientists were lead or co-authors, suggesting potential ethical lapses. The documents, obtained in a lawsuit related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, reveal BP's monitoring of scientific manuscripts apparently funded by the company, raising concerns about "ghost managing" papers without proper disclosure. CSIRO, Australia's premier research body, responded, affirming its research integrity and denying BP's final approval or ghostwriting involvement in publications on the oil spill. The situation prompts questions about the relationship between scientific research and corporate interests.

Companies often ask to review research they help fund, although many research institutions have strict rules against allowing funders to approve manuscripts for publication. [Downs Law Group Attorney Jason] Clark suspects the reviews were part of a BP effort to reduce its legal liability for the Deepwater Horizon spill. The spreadsheets and other company documents, he wrote, “point to BP manipulating science to promote the false premise in the scientific literature that the [spill] and BP’s response were less harmful to people and the environment than independent science provides.”

Read the entire Science article.

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