Fracking researcher wins academic freedom case against Glasgow University

David Smythe

A retired academic has won a long-running legal challenge against Glasgow University which withdrew his email address and access to online journals.

David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow, had accused the university of trying to stifle his opposition to fracking.

He said the effect of withdrawing his journals access had been to deny his academic freedom of expression and to prevent him from carrying out research on shale gas. DrillOrDrop report

The university has confirmed that he will have indefinite use of the email and journal access and agreed to pay all his costs. A senior university officer has formally regretted the dispute.

The case dates back to 2014 when, according to email correspondence, university staff attempted to distance themselves from Professor Smythe and cut his journal access. It coincided with his first objections to onshore oil and gas planning applications. He has since worked with numerous community groups opposing onshore exploration.

The final decision by the university to remove his access was made in January 2016, soon after the online publication of a draft online article in which Professor Smythe criticised UK shale gas companies.

The case went to court on 16 June 2017. The university was ordered to restore Professor Smyth’s access within 24 hours. Both sides were urged to agree an out-of-court settlement. All costs for the hearing were awarded against the university.

The two sides met in October and agreed to resolve the dispute. Professor Smythe said the university has until 14 May to settle his costs. Then the court action would be cancelled.

He has released a letter from the Secretary of the University, Dr David Duncan. In it, Dr Duncan says:

“I am writing to confirm that as an Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, College of Science & Engineering, University of Glasgow, you are entitled to continue to use that title without hindrance.”

The letter continues:

“I also confirm that you may continue to use your University email address and that your library access privileges will remain in place on a permanent basis.”

Dr Duncan says:

“For my part, I regret the recent dispute between the University and yourself, which involved the termination of your library and email access (as specified above) between January 2016 and June 2017.

“I have no reason to doubt your integrity as a scientific researcher, and hope that you will continue to be as productive in your research as you have been since your retirement in 1998.”

Professor Smythe said:

“Sense has prevailed.

“Following the day in court in June last year Glasgow University restored my access to essential online academic sources, and agreed to pay all costs to date. My principal opponents at the university have either left or retired.”



32 replies »

    • Congratulations Professor David Smythe, at last this vindicates entirely all the effort you have made since this academic victimisation.

      This just goes to show there is now a complete turn around regarding attitudes to fracking in academic circles and UK in general.

      Long may the trend continue to show the inconvenient truth of this dangerous and as now proved by NASA to be a poisonous and destructive industry.


  2. Dear Johnson. Why the abuse? I see no reference to BS at the above link. What I have noted is a courteous expression of regret. It strikes me that you are quite possibly seeing what you want to see. I myself am not sufficiently versed in relevant matters to comment, but I DO know that Professor Smythe’s analysis of the situation at the Broadford Bridge drilling site was proven by events to have been accurate. Personally I find his stance courageous. As an academic it must require a lot of self-belief to stand up pretty much alone against a much larger ‘establishment’ body of views that takes an opposing stance. I’ve been in that situation, and it’s extremely uncomfortable. Right or wrong I take my hat off to him. In my opinion his pretty much lone voice is making significant contributions to measured thought surrounding all the concerns that that many non-invested non-believers in onshore drilling for fossil fuels are wishing to express. Just because academia supports a view it doesn’t necessarily imply that it is right. Galileo was once ridiculed for asserting the earth revolved around the sun. Very best wishes, Jonathan.

    • Have you all noticed the increasingly sour and abusive language spouted by the anti antis?

      Every subject is reduced down to personal attack mode, nothing is said by the anti antis without it being drowned in derogatory and abusive terminology, name calling and direct insults?

      You may have noticed that every subject post is now filled with anti anti personal remarks and debate is little more than “you said I said” over simplification?

      This is a strategy, it’s not debate and has not been for a while.

      How many actual anti anti people actually post here anymore?, 2 or
      3? And of course many multiple id’s from one poster.

      I have said before and say so again here, if you feed the anti anti wolf it will simply grow more confident in its strategy and pour out more of the same traps, hooks and barbs.

      You have all seen how this strategy just leads to more until it’s the only thing discussed? It’s a strategy, and that is all it is, the attempt is to cripple any proper debate, because there are those who don’t want objective issues to be discussed.

      So they are diverted and defused by personal remarks. Simple but effective strategy.

      The answer to that is to strangle and starve the personalisation of issues all you have to do is stick to the facts and ignore personal comments.

      Such remarks are nothing more than hooks and barbs to trap and enmesh into more personal remarks.

      If you want to raise the standard of discussion on Drill Or Drop, then stop playing the hooks and barbs strategy game, fun though it is sometimes, but it is just wasted effort that would be better made on the actual subject in hand.

      It’s up to you of course, but do try to appreciate that personalisation of issues is diversion and you are being “played” in order to stifle real debate on important issues.

  3. I thought the Prof. was wanting to uphold his ability to state his case? So, Johnson doesn’t deserve the same?

    At least Johnson makes his point briefly and directly. Not too many “mights” in his analysis.

    I have not read all of the Profs. output but what I have meanders from analyses to speculation too readily. Maybe I am old fashioned, and that’s what science produces today. Don’t know if that was what Johnson meant-if so, he was a bit more succinct at saying it.

    • “Smythe’s ‘research’ is BS tho”(Johnson) certainly is brief … sums up the kind of analysis, blanket statements, and abuse that you’re taken in by Martin.

  4. “A senior university officer has formally regretted the dispute.” Regret, even courteous regret, is not an apology, surely to be expected from a University traditionally proud of the quality and integrity of its research.
    Professor Smythe’s academic freedom to research and publish as he wishes, without hindrance from the University or, indirectly, from other vested interests, especially in areas where other University academics might have contrary opinions, or where the interests of University research funders might be at stake, is axiomatic in a prestigious University worthy of the name.
    Professor Smythe deserves more than mere regret.

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