/ Ethics of a PhD funded by the oil industry

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
bob_999 on 21 Jun 2012 - host81-136-206-159.in-addr.btopenworld.com
Hi all,

I am a regular poster on here but have decided not to post from my usual account because I haven't told my current employer about any of this yet and I was worried if might get back to them. Also I didn't want anyone at the uni to see that I was anything but 100% committed!

Anyway its looking likely that I might get offered a PhD which is funded my a major oil company. The project sounds interesting but something about being funded by the oil industry to do a project that benefits them does not sit easy with me. Am I just being silly or should I let this bother me.

Bob
Miss Piggy on 21 Jun 2012 - 94-192-157-178.zone6.bethere.co.uk
In reply to bob_999: Companies put people through training everyday, why is your situation different??
IainRUK - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999: You're being silly.. a PHD is minimal investment, they won't give a shit anyway. A huge amount of marine science, and valuable stuff, is funded by the oil industry: pre post surveys, impact assessments. They do want to minimise impact.. they have to pay clean up costs.. its all basic economics of course.
bob_999 on 21 Jun 2012 - host81-136-206-159.in-addr.btopenworld.com
In reply to IainRUK:

Thanks that makes me feel better about it:)
lowersharpnose - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

Sounds like a great opportunity.
EZ on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

If you have ethical concerns about petrochemical then stop filling your car with terror juice, don't by plastic anything, unplan that extension, grow your own food etc etc

Just take it if the subject matter and career opportunities that it creates interest you.
Blue Straggler - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

If you turn it down someone else will do it so your turning it down would not stop the oil industry from benefitting, it would merely stop you from benefitting from them.
lowersharpnose - on 22 Jun 2012


What is the problem with an oil company benefiting from some PhD work?
mutt - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

you are being silly. oil industry r&d is based on every phd and research paper published in the scientific press, not just what they pay for. I don't really understand your problem anyway, why shouldnt we have an oil industry, which for now supports pretty much all the movement, food and electricity our population needs.
Wonko The Sane - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999: I am in no way being sarcastic, but the computer you're typing on contains plastics, no? as I'm sure do many of your household items. You've probably been in a car or bus?


You get the point? You use the oil industry products every single day of your life. Why be prissy about working for one? Strikes me as a little hypocritical not to!

Also, if you feel the oil industry has some questionable practices (and what industry doesn't?) Surely the best way to serve your conscience would be to try to change that, and you won't do that by simply refusing to work for them.

So take the opportunity I say.
NorthernGrit - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

The only balance I would add to the other replies is as long as you are are conducting research you believe in then go for it. If it turned out that you were being paid to find the results the funding company wants you to find out... well that's between you and your conscience.
toad - on 22 Jun 2012
n reply to bob_999: When I was an nature reserve warden I was briefly funded by BNFL, if that makes you feel any better (young people - ask an adult who BNFL were ;) )
Scarab9 - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999:

unlike some of the above I understand where you're coming from. While there is little choice but to use the products created by the oil industry it doesn't mean you have to feel good about it or want to do anything to make them more money. It is a very ethically questionable industry and the more you research it the more horrifying it appears.

However unless your phd is going to involve research and findings which will directly help them do something you find immoral (as someone said above they also put money into researching ecologically beneficial fields) I'd say go for it. Fact is the have such a wide influence it's hard to avoid them, and if they want to fund something you agree with then it's still money going to a good cause.
antdav - on 22 Jun 2012
Just think that you are going to be doing your bit to improve the industry or reduce the environmental impact of it.

I'm a touch biased as I work in refining and offshore but if it wasn't you or me doing it, it would just mean someone else gets the role, and there's a decent chance they could be a idiot who would cause a spill/explosion.

Exxon went crazy with research into energy from algae, they never planned to use it but it gave them a lot a press which they needed after Valdez and when their boss went on TV and said climate change was made up. So what you're doing may have no impact on the environment/ecology, just money from a company don't like.
Fultonius - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Scarab9: While a lot of areas in the Oil&Gas industry are, undoubtedly pretty unethical, it's a bit unfair to tar the entire industry with the same brush!

My current job, for example, deals with preventing leaks on process pipework due to vibration induced fatigue. On the one hand we will be helping the operators to make more money, but we are also preventing hydrocarbon leaks (lives saved, environment protected).

I'd much rather work in another industry, but if we stopped what we're doing the environment would not be any better off...

Looking forward to an oil-free world!
Scarab9 - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to Scarab9) While a lot of areas in the Oil&Gas industry are, undoubtedly pretty unethical, it's a bit unfair to tar the entire industry with the same brush!
>
> My current job, for example, deals with preventing leaks on process pipework due to vibration induced fatigue. On the one hand we will be helping the operators to make more money, but we are also preventing hydrocarbon leaks (lives saved, environment protected).
>
> I'd much rather work in another industry, but if we stopped what we're doing the environment would not be any better off...
>
> Looking forward to an oil-free world!

don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone in the industry is evil, but the motivations of the industry (coming from the guys at the top) are about making money at the cost of anything in their way.
peterd - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Scarab9:
> (In reply to Fultonius)
> [...]
>
> don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone in the industry is evil, but the motivations of the industry (coming from the guys at the top) are about making money at the cost of anything in their way.

So not very different to just about any other industry....
ben b - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to bob_999: That's a very interesting question. However <sound of worm-can opening> it's not as if your PhD was funded by Phillip Morris. In my line if I had received funding from a tobacco company I would be barred from membership of most professional societies, unable to present or publish research in reputable journals etc. Or indeed, live with my conscience.

Despite what some may say I wouldn't equate oil and tobacco (although 30 years ago neither were pariahs, and in 30 years time the situation may be different).

b
Postmanpat on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Scarab9:
> (In reply to Fultonius)
> [...]
>
> don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone in the industry is evil, but the motivations of the industry (coming from the guys at the top) are about making money at the cost of anything in their way.

And you know this because you've met them. What a load of utter nonsense.

Incidentally if it morality the OP is worried about the moral thing to do us to take the sponsorship. Almost immoral not to.
Scarab9 - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Scarab9)
> [...]
>
> And you know this because you've met them. What a load of utter nonsense.
>
> Incidentally if it morality the OP is worried about the moral thing to do us to take the sponsorship. Almost immoral not to.

go do some reading rather than writing pathetic insults like normal. Does your computer chair have a spike bit around the nutsack or are you as unpleasant and irritable offline as you are on? The oil industry in it's many guises is responsible for an enormous number of ecological and humanitarian problems in the world and has the power to bully through just about any restrictions that would normally apply.
IainRUK - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Scarab9: Its also responsible for a hell of a lot of advantages.. we are reliant on oil. they provide it.. when oil prices go up.. we complain..

I've worked with consultancy firms doing pre-post surveys connecting with wells. I've got to day in 95% of incidences the oil companies are very helpful in providing access..

And allowing publication.
Postmanpat on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to Scarab9:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> go do some reading rather than writing pathetic insults like normal. Does your computer chair have a spike bit around the nutsack or are you as unpleasant and irritable offline as you are on? The oil industry in it's many guises is responsible for an enormous number of ecological and humanitarian problems in the world and has the power to bully through just about any restrictions that would normally apply.

There was no insult from me unless you can point it out. I try and avoid them unless provoked although I did regard your comment as a bit provocative and offensive hence a blunt description of it. To say that the oil industry has caused ecological and humanitarian problems and has a lot of power is not at all the same as saying that "the motivations of the industry (coming from the guys at the top) are about making money at the cost of anything in their way."

I think the latter statement is wrong and said so. Nothing personal.

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.