Michigan Tech Falsely Accused of Accepting Anti-Climate Change Research Funding

Contrary to allegations published in a Chronicle of Higher Education article on Feb. 22, 2012, neither Michigan Technological University nor the faculty member mentioned has been offered or received any funding from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit supported by people who are alleged to be skeptical of anthropogenic or human-caused climate change.

A letter from the environmental group Greenpeace to six university presidents, including Michigan Tech’s, indicated that faculty members at those universities had involvement with Heartland. The letter implicated impropriety in the involvement. The other universities include Harvard, the University of Missouri at Columbia and Arizona State, as well as Lakehead University and the University of Victoria in Canada. Harvard has denied that the researcher named is affiliated with the university.

David Watkins, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering who conducts research on climate change impacts, was named in the Heartland documents. “I have had no relationship with the Heartland Institute, and I do not support their agenda,” Watkins said.  “I have not accepted (nor have I been offered) any funds from them, and I am troubled by the misuse of my name in their documents.”

David D. Reed, vice president for research, confirmed Watkins’ statement. “We have checked into this thoroughly, and neither Michigan Tech nor Dr. Watkins has been offered or received any money from Heartland,” Reed told the Chronicle of Higher Education reporter who wrote the original article.  Reed has asked the Chronicle to publish a correction. 

Greenpeace’s letter came on the heels of a scandal involving the illicit acquisition and release of Heartland budget and fundraising documents.  Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, admitted that he was the source of the leaked documents. He also admitted that he had acquired some of them from Heartland by using a false name.    

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.