Fracking researcher wins academic freedom case against Glasgow University – DRILL OR DROP?

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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.”

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