Professor launches legal challenge on fracking ban

The University of Glasgow is facing legal action for withdrawing online access from a geology professor because he was critical of fracking.

David Smythe, a prominent critic of the industry drive to frack underground shale gas, is today launching an appeal to fund court action to force university authorities to restore his email address and access to scientific journals.

The Ferret revealed in June that Smythe’s access had been cancelled after he posted a paper online critical of fracking safety and regulation. He had previously been involved in a fierce public row with Glasgow University’s energy engineering professor, Paul Younger, who has voiced support for fracking.

Internal university emails released to Smythe show that it was concern over his views on fracking that led to his access rights being removed. The university had insisted that it was part of a “routine review” of former staff members.

Now Smythe, who was made an emeritus professor of geophysics when he retired in 1998, has taken to crowdfunding in a bid to raise between £10,000 and £20,000 for a legal challenge.

“My aim is to force the university to restore my rights of access, which it cut without warning or explanation,” says Smythe. “Without such access I cannot continue as a serious scientific researcher, in fracking or any other subject.”

He argues that academic experts in earth sciences can no longer be relied upon to be free of outside influence. “The fundamental issue at stake here is freedom of academic expression,” he says.

“The fossil fuel industry has developed a pervasive and often malign influence on how the researchers that they fund behave. So pervasive is this influence that some researchers, even when funded almost entirely by the industry, still regard themselves as independent.”

Photo thanks to Antonio Pagnotta.