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Guest Post: BP Controlling University Research, and Professor Who Downplayed Oil Spill Called a “Shill” By Fellow Professor

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Washington’s Blog

LSU professor and oil spill expert Ed Overton has been all over the news saying that fears of the BP oil spill were overblown.

But as Raw Story reports, Overton has been a lead NOAA consultant for decades, and a fellow LSU professor calls him a “shill”:

Overton’s prominent position as the chief chemist and principal architect of NOAA’s Hazardous Materials Response Division dating back to the early eighties, along with his tendency to provide rosier-than-average assessments of the effects of the Gulf oil spill since the catastrophe began –- opinions often in line with those of BP, NOAA and other federal officials –- have raised questions about the omission of his contracting work and the scientific objectivity of his public statements.

Additionally, as professor emeritus, Overton confirmed to Raw Story that he officially retired from LSU and no longer receives a salary from the university; all his income tied to his university association since May 2009 has come through grants and contracts, and mostly through his work for NOAA. The latest NOAA funding for his work was a $1.3 million five-year grant.

***

A fellow senior sciences professor at Overton’s own LSU, also noted that Overton “does not appear to be an unbiased source of information” and found it laughable that the head of NOAA’s chemical hazard assessment team is purporting to provide public comments as an “independent scientist.”

The LSU professor, who spoke with Raw Story on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the university, explained, “The issue is that everybody who is involved in investigating this event and its effects needs to be upfront and honest about the sources of funding that they receive.”

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I think that Dr. Overton comes across as being an industry shill,” the professor offered bluntly. “He has never said anything that was not in favor of what the industry was saying and continued to minimize the effects from day one about how bad this spill and its effects would be.”

Raw Story also notes that BP is controlling what LSU researches:

Raw Story also found that, while all studies performed by the university will be scientifically peer-reviewed, BP decides what areas LSU will research.

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16 comments

  1. paper mac

    Washington- your last quote is a bit out of context and hence a little more sensationalist than it needs to be:

    “Raw Story also found that, while all studies performed by the university will be scientifically peer-reviewed, BP decides what areas LSU will research.”

    This appears to refer to research funded through the $500 million fund that BP set up to study the effects of the spill. It’s still outrageous that this money isn’t being independently administered, don’t get me wrong, but the quote as is implies that ALL research at LSU is BP-controlled, which impugns the work of many independent scientists working there.

    1. attempter

      It isn’t commentary like this which impugns them. It’s their own colleagues, and the university which engages in such corporatism.

      At a corporatized university we have to assume bad faith is the norm, just like with the corporate MSM. It’s the same dynamic.

      1. paper mac

        As much as I agree with you that the corporatization of research is deeply pernicious, the suggestion that all LSU research is BP funded in this case makes this story difficult to understand, as it suggests that the professor criticizing Overton is himself BP funded and therefore has identical conflicts of interest, which I don’t think in this case is true. Assume bad faith all you want, but in this story there’s clearly a distinction being drawn between BP-funded research and federally-funded research which is obscured by the way the last quote was presented.

        1. attempter

          Fair enough, except that I think you’re wrong about the dissenter himself being logically implicated. His action demonstrates his desire for things to be different.

          (Of course, if he has tenure he ought to speak publicly and not anonymously.)

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Additionally, as professor emeritus, Overton confirmed to Raw Story that he officially retired from LSU and no longer receives a salary from the university; all his income tied to his university association since May 2009 has come through grants and contracts, and mostly through his work for NOAA. The latest NOAA funding for his work was a $1.3 million five-year grant.

    Prof. Overton fools himself if he believes that his LSU connections have nothing to do with his ability to obtain funding. Just because he no longer receives an LSU salary does not in any way imply that he no longer benefits from the association. His self-serving excuse does no credit to him.

  3. dan

    So what’s new?

    How many financial reports extolling the safety of derivatives or the financial health of whole countries have been written by paid shills from the universities in the U.S.?

    Go see the movie “Inside Job” if you get a chance, read Yves or Nomi Prins books. This country is in the hands of traitors and thieves, and the above is just one more in a long line of transgressions that we are letting them get away with.

  4. Sufferin' Succotash

    I wonder if Overton had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get the grant, which means that even if he did discover something embarrassing to BP he’d have to keep it zipped.

  5. Doc Holiday

    Re: professor emeritus

    Say no more … well, ok, that does indicate that he’s been on the take for many years and has nothing to offer anyone (at all). Nonetheless, he could probably offer a theory on what the odds will be for him chocking on too much gravy next week .. gooble gooble gooble

    1. Yves Smith

      I’m not short. If you insist on reading posts on topics you aren’t interested in, that’s your problem, not mine.

  6. Ted K

    A lot of people with legitimate complaints have been called “shill” in the last 3 years. I think the word has lost a lot of its power. How about just using the word FALSE??? The phrase “unduly influenced by industry hush money” comes to mind although I suppose that’s also a little cliche. But you know I have a hard time feeling sorry for the American people after Alan Grayson lost the election. I have about come to the point where I believe a good deal of Americans should be forced to view pictures of Beijing 1989 for 10 minutes, and then asked if they think reading a newspaper is so much to ask from them. I mean I honestly don’t see myself as a sick sadistic person, but how can I work up sympathy for such a group??? After the swings Alan Grayson did for this country and he gets sent home packing??? How can I work up sympathy for the idiots who voted for “W” Bush TWO TIMES??? TWO TIMES!!!!!! I just can’t manage it ANYMORE. Period.

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