How do my peers regard industry funding? (Part 2)

This is the second of three posts on an informal survey conducted at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, to gauge attitudes among the postgraduate cohort to industry funding of School activities.

The following links, when live, will direct you to parts 1 and 3:

Part 1: Aggregated School of Geosciences responses to Questions 1-8
Part 2: Responses to Questions 1-9, broken down by Research Institute (this post)
Part 3: Selected comments from Question 10

Part 2: Responses to Questions 1-9, broken down by Research Institute

Please refer back to Part 1 for the list of questions, although each graph displayed below includes the question in the title. To begin with, in answer to Question 9 “What is your Research Institute” 54 responded Earth and Planetary Science (EPS), 30 from Geography and the Lived Environment (RIGLE), 56 from Global Change (GC), and 6 Other, Fig. 1.

Figure 1. Count of respondents by Research Institute. n=146

Figure 1. Count of respondents by Research Institute: Earth and Planetary Science (n=54), Geography and the Lived Environment (n=30), Global Change (n=56) and Other (n=6). Total responses=146

Using this information, the responses to the questions can be assessed by research institute (RI). There is a presumption by many within the School that views are significantly coloured by the RI in which you reside, specifically since RI’s tend to cluster in physical locations e.g. the Geography building on Drummond Street, the Grant Institute, the Crew Building, etc. I say tend to, since this is not exactly the case, with students in Global Change spread around the entirety of the School’s locations. But does this have a bearing on people’s responses to the survey?

Figure 2, below, indicates that RIGLE and GC are much more in agreement to the notion of Edinburgh University fossil fuel divestment than EPS. EPS represents the ‘traditional’ School disciplines of geology and geophysics, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that these students would be less likely to support divestment from industries strongly related to their career prospects. An acute awareness of the effects of pollution and climate change within GC and RIGLE no doubt strengthens opinion against investment in FF companies, although I should add that this is my speculation rather than based on any hard evidence.

Figure 2. Response to question on Edinburgh University Divestment, grouped by RI. n=146

Figure 2. Response to question on Edinburgh University Divestment, grouped by RI. n=146

Figures 3-5 relate to fossil fuel (FF) funding in the School. Again, unsurprisingly, EPS disagree/strongly disagree with the removal of FF funding from School activities while RIGLE, whose members have been most vocal about removing FF funding strongly agree with this notion. GC, which as noted are spread throughout the School and represent a wide variety of research, have a fairly even spread of opinion, although there is some increased support for no longer accepting FF sponsorship for Gradschool, Fig. 5.

On attitudes to mining funding within the School, Figures 6-8 show EPS support mining funding, RIGLE oppose and EPS views are spread throughout. Also, as seen in the aggregated School views, there is a shift to more neutral attitudes toward mining companies compared with FF companies.

And finally, in response to whether the School should cut links with industry more widely, both EPS, GC and Other oppose cutting these links, with views in RIGLE more spread across the spectrum of available responses. Two respondents from RIGLE chose not to answer this question.

Figure 9. Responses to other general industry or commercial links within the School, grouped by RI.

Figure 9. Responses to other general industry or commercial links within the School, grouped by RI.

In summary, then, the Earth and Planetary Science RI largely disagrees that the School and Gradschool should no longer accept financial support from fossil fuel and mining companies, which would be expected from a ‘traditional’ geosciences department. Geography and the Lived Environment respondents, among whom are the most vocal opponents to fossil fuel and mining funding, chose largely to agree with the notion of no longer accepting funding from these organisations. Interestingly, however, their views on industry in general is more evenly distributed across all viewpoints. Global Change and Other support continued industry ties, but opinions are more evenly divided between agreeing and disagreeing with fossil fuel and mining funding of School activities, but perhaps with a leaning towards opposing this funding.

The final post, Part 3, will be a selection of quotes of personal interest to me, taken from the comments box on the survey. You can navigate there when the blog is live by clicking here.

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One thought on “How do my peers regard industry funding? (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: How do my peers regard industry funding? (Part 1) | Vitamin CCS

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