WellWiki in the News

Recently, my WellWiki.org project has garnered some nice media attention.

WellWiki.org

The first article – “A Public Wiki Shines Light on North America’s 4 Million Oil & Gas Wells” — was courtesy of Lisa Song at InsideClimate News. It ran on July 30, 2014. This story was later syndicated in a variety of newspapers, from the Miami Herald to the Buffalo News.

This article prompted some follow-up stories, including two in The Edmonton Journal. Sheila Pratt’s article — “‘Wellwiki’ compendium of oil and gas info to launch in fall” — ran on August 1, 2014. A few days later, The Edmonton Journal ran a follow-up story: “CAPP welcomes Wellwiki idea.”

Carrie Gilkison of the Epoch Times interviewed me for an August 6, 2014, article entitled: “New ‘WellWiki’ to Provide Info on Every Oil and Gas Well in Canada.”

Finally, on August 31, 2014, I was interviewed by Peter Watts on “The Alberta Weekend Morning Show.” The interview aired on Corus Entertainment’s CHQR-AM 770 Calgary and CHED-AM 630 Edmonton. The interview starts about 9:35 into the program and lasts until about 15:25.

630CHEDinterview

Showing Versus Telling and the Debate Over Unconventional Shale Development

Over the past decade, it has become clear that unconventional shale development poses major challenges to the state agencies tasked with regulating it. In many cases, the concerns are related to issues of information containment and information disclosure. For instance, Pennsylvania and its state agencies have been criticized repeatedly, most recently in a scathing report by the Commonwealth’s Auditor General.

Although the Department of Environmental Protection has born the bulk of this criticism, the Department of Health has come under fire too. According to StateImpact Pennsylvania, two retirees from the Department say “its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.” The issue of “organizational silence,” or the collective-level phenomenon of saying or doing little in the face of significant problems, is an area of considerable research. Although in many cases organizational silence comes about tacitly, in this case, the retired employees claim the silence was deliberate.

Michael Wolf is Pennsylvania’s current Health Secretary. In a recent newspaper editorial, he responded to these criticisms of the Health Department. Below are some excerpts from his editorial, as well as some observations that occurred to me in the course of reading his comments:

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has specific protocols for all public health inquiries and concerns that employees must follow.

This sounds very promising. Inquiring minds want to know:

  • What are these protocols?
  • Are they adequate for handling inquiries and concerns related to unconventional shale developing and hydraulic fracturing?
  • How often are the Department’s protocols followed and ignored?
  • How do these protocols compare, such as with other state protocols and with peer-reviewed literature regarding the potential health impacts of unconventional shale development and hydraulic fracturing?

All inquiries are immediately reported to the department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, the experts who have training in controlling and preventing the spread of disease or illness, for review and follow-up. This is a strict and standard protocol for any health report the department receives, whether it’s related to Marcellus Shale or other environmental health issues. The process includes a review, investigation, data collection and a formal response to the complainant. The Bureau of Epidemiology works directly with the caller or patient’s physician in charge for follow-up, and any immediate threats to the public’s health found would be given a priority…. A log is kept of each complaint that comes in, responses are tracked, and outcomes noted.

Based on this statement, it seems that the Department of Health (unlike the Department of Environmental Protection) should be able to quickly provide answers to questions such as:

  • How many inquiries related to Marcellus Shale have been received?
  • What is the status of the review process and what responses have been issued in relation to these inquiries?
  • What are the outcomes of the investigations?
  • What “immediate threats to the public’s health” have been found and how are these being prioritized?
  • Are there any examples of situations where these procedures “controlled” or “prevented” the spread of potential health impacts related to unconventional shale development and hydraulic fracturing?

Our goal is, and will continue to be, to provide information and a forum for discourse on public health issues.

This is an admirable goal. As one check on how the Department has done with regard to its goal of providing information and a forum for discourse on public health issues related to unconventional shale development and hydraulic fracturing, I used the “search Agency” box on the Department website to search for terms such as “Marcellus,” “shale,” “hydraulic fracturing” and “fracking.” The results below suggest that the Department is not providing any such information on its website:

  • For “Marcellus” there were 23 results. Of these, 22 reported on the number of newborn children who were named “Marcellus.” The other document was entitled “Final Progress Report for Research Projects Funded by Health Research Grants.” The document refers to a $66,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation for “Use of information in Marcellus Shale environmental and health quality public discourse debates.”
  • For “shale” there were 8 results. Of these, 6 reported on the number of newborn children who were named “Shale.” Another result was to the same Final Progress Report referenced above. The final result was entitled “Boron Fact Sheet,” according to which, “Boron is a naturally occurring element found in many types of rocks including shale.”
  • There were no results for the terms “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking.”

We may not have a multi-million dollar health registry right now at the department as some have called for, but the records are kept, the proactive follow-up and coordination is happening and we are leveraging the talents and resources we have to get the job done.

The expression “show, don’t tell” is well known among writers of all kinds. By comparison, the Secretary’s editorial is long on telling and short on showing. Perhaps in the future, the Department of Health will provide evidence of its claims? After all, the strongest rebuttal to the allegations that have been made would be evidence to the contrary. But on that point the Department of Health remains … silent.

2015 Research Internships

For the second year, I have hired research interns through the University of Alberta Research Experience. In 2013, I supervised Christopher Lee from McGill University. This summer, I am supervising Chloe Prosser from the University of Wisconsin, Kailun Hong from Technische Universität München, and Songjingyi Liang from Fudan University. Hard to believe, but it is already time to begin recruiting for summer 2015! I will be recruiting students for the following positions.

  • MySQL Database Assistant
  • Social Media Programmer
  • Mediawiki Programmer
  • Stata Research Assistant
  • Legal Research Assistant
  • Sustainability Research Assistant
  • Literature Review Assistant
  • WellWiki Content Writer

Institutions participating in the University of Alberta Research Experience include: UNICAMP, USP, UFRJ, Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Technische Universität München (TUM), Seoul National University (SNU), ITESM Guadalajara, University of Western Australia (UWA), Auckland University, Penn State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas Austin, IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, University of Hyderabad, Fudan University, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang Univeristy, Sichuan Univeristy, East China Normal University (ECNU), and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST).

Appointed to the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta

icaaOn May 7, 2014, I was appointed as a public member to the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta (ICAA).

The ICAA Council consists of nine chartered accountants and three public members, and is responsible for fulfilling the mandate set forth in the Regulated Accounting Profession Act (RAPA). All regulations, bylaws, Council resolutions, rules of professional conduct and related guidelines are passed in accordance with this legislation. The ICAA Council is also responsible for setting the strategic direction of the CA profession in Alberta, and is committed to serving the interests of the public and the profession.

Already, I have participated in several Council meetings as well as a joint meeting of all three accounting bodies. Additionally, last week I had a chance to attend the ICAA’s annual general meeting. The photo below was taken after the meeting.

CA Council 2014 800 px

From a governance perspective, this is a particularly strategic time to be involved, as the ICAA is in the process of merging with the Certified General Accountants of Alberta (CGA Alberta) and the Certified Management Accountants of Alberta (CMA Alberta). Among other benefits, the unification is expected to result in a single designation, the Chartered Professional Accountant, for the accounting profession in Alberta. This unification is part of a similar effort underway throughout Canada.

ARCS Conference People’s Choice Award

arcsI’m pleased to report that my working paper, co-authored with Dror Etzion (McGill University), on “An Exploratory Analysis of Cultural Vulnerability and Opportunity Exploitation in Marcellus Shale Drilling,” won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) Conference. Hosted by Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, this year’s attendees selected three papers for the award from among the 39 papers presented.

The two other winners included:

  • A dynamic process model of contentious politics: Activist targeting and corporate receptivity to social challenges, by Mary-Hunter McDonnell (Georgetown), Brayden King (Kellogg), and Sarah Soule (Stanford)
  • Can firms pay less and get more…by doing good? Field experimental evidence of the effect of corporate social responsibility on employee salary requirements and performance, by Vanessa Burbano (UCLA)

ARCS is a consortium of member universities, including the University of California, Berkeley (Haas School of Business), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Anderson School of Management), Cornell University (Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management), Dartmouth University (Tuck School of Business), Duke University (Nicholas School of Environment), Erasmus University (Rotterdam School of Management), Harvard University (Harvard University Center for the Environment), Indiana University (Kelley School of Business), INSEAD (INSEAD Social Innovation Centre), the University of Michigan (Ross School of Business), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management), Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship), the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership), the University of Virginia (Darden School of Business), Western University (Ivey School of Business) and Yale University (Yale Center for Business and the Environment).

SONGS Meets the Market

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is an inoperative nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast of the United States, near San Diego, California. The plant was closed in June 2013 and is in the early stages of being decommissioned. According to Think Progress, the decommissioning process will go on for at least two decades, and the radioactive waste will be stored onsite for the foreseeable future.

Southern California Edison owns 78.2% of the plant; San Diego Gas & Electric Company 20%; and the City of Riverside Utilities Department 1.8%. The plant’s first unit, Unit 1, operated from 1968 to 1992. Unit 2 was started in 1983 and Unit 3 started in 1984. Units 2 and 3 underwent upgrades in 2009 and 2010 that were intended to last 20 years. However, both reactors had to be shut down in January 2012 due to premature wear found on over 3,000 tubes in replacement steam generators that had been installed in 2010 and 2011.

SCE announced on June 7, 2013 that it would “permanently retire” Unit 2 and Unit 3, citing “continuing uncertainty about when or if SONGS might return to service” and noting that ongoing regulatory and “administrative processes and appeals” would likely cause any tentative restart plans to be delayed for “more than a year.”

Some 100,000 people live within ten miles of SONGS and nearly nine million within 50 miles. In an effort “to keep residents engaged in the decommissioning process” Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Company recently organized a Community Engagement Panel. The first meeting was held in late March, and attended by around 300 people. David Victor, director of the University of California San Diego Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, chaired the panel “because of his proven leadership abilities and experience bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders.”

At first blush, this account suggests a real effort is being made to cultivate a public space for fostering discussion and debate among interested social groups. This idea resonates with the notion of “hybrid forums” proposed by Callon and colleagues as a solution to the governance of complex socio-technical issues (e.g., Callon et al., 2009; Callon and Rabeharisoa, 2003). Forums, “because they are open spaces where groups can come together to discuss technical options involving the collective,” and hybrid, “because the groups involved and the spokespersons claiming to represent them are heterogeneous, including experts, politicians, technicians and laypersons who consider themselves involved. They are also hybrid because the questions and problems taken up are addressed at different levels in a variety of domains, from ethics to economic” (Callon et al., 2009, p. 18).

Some of my work has explored and theorized the potential role of hybrid forums. For example, in “Boundaries, Breaches, and Bridges: The Case of Climategate,” we consider the possibility of hybrid forums in the context of climate science and concerns related to climate change. In “Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys: Evolutionary, Relational and Durational,” we propose the possibility of hybrid forums as an approach to sustainability-related policy formulation and governance.

In addition to signalling a possibly interesting case study of hybrid forums in the making, there was another quote in the Think Progress that caught my eye, on a completely different topic. The quote comes from an earlier piece by Joe Romm, and has to do with the role of markets.

The countries where nuclear has dead-ended are market-based economies where the nuclear industry has simply been unable to deliver a competitive product.

I’ve been studying nuclear power for several years now. For instance, in “Categorization by Association: Nuclear Technology and Emission Free Electricity,” we studied the ongoing efforts to (re)categorize nuclear power from 1945 to 2010. More recently I have been studying the diverse and continuing responses to the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown by countries around the world. In the course of this work, one of the discourses that I have found really fascinating relates to the role of markets in nuclear power. Last fall, the topic even came up during class discussions with MBA students.

Some time ago, I blogged that “the preponderance of the evidence from both the US and the rest of the world suggests that heavy governmental subsidies, loan guarantees and/or liability exemptions — either explicitly or de facto — are essential to the development of nuclear power. By comparison, all of the literature I have read on the topic suggests that the market has yet to build a single nuclear plant.”

Romm’s recent quote re-contextualizes this basic thesis, but pivots the emphasis from reactor construction to “dead-ends” (a well-known possibility in any innovation journey; see Van de Ven, Polley, Garud & Venkataraman, 1999). The SONGS experience is yet one more example of the role of the market in nuclear power. It shows that while markets cannot build nuclear power plants, they can “dead-end” them.

Whether this market performativity is a good or a bad thing, is another question entirely…

Sources

Callon, M., Lascoumes, P., & Barthe, Y. 2009. Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Callon, M., & Rabeharisoa, V. 2003. Research “in the Wild” and the Shaping of New Social Identities. Technology in Society, 25: 193–204.

Garud, R., & Gehman, J. 2012. Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys: Evolutionary, Relational and Durational. Research Policy, 41: 980–995.

Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Karnøe, P. 2010. Categorization by Association: Nuclear Technology and Emission-Free Electricity. Research in the Sociology of Work, 21: 51–93.

Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Karunakaran, A. 2014. Boundaries, Breaches, and Bridges: The Case of Climategate. Research Policy, 43: 60–73.

Van de Ven, A. H., Polley, D. E., Garud, R., & Venkataraman, S. 1999. The Innovation Journey. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sustainability and the AACSB

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits business schools around the world. As of December 2013, 687 schools were AACSB accredited in 45 countries and territories (or less than 5% of the estimated number of schools offering business degrees worldwide).

Recently I was perusing the AACSB’s Business Standards, which are the basis for business school accreditation, and was surprised at the extent to which sustainability and related themes (e.g., corporate social responsibility) are an integral to the revisions adopted in 2013, from the opening paragraph of the document, through to the AACSB’s three core values and guiding principles, and into its expectations regarding undergraduate educational content. Below are some excerpts:

From the Preamble:

The business environment is undergoing profound changes, spurred by powerful demographic shifts, global economic forces, and emerging technologies. At the same time, society is increasingly demanding that companies become more accountable for their actions, exhibit a greater sense of social responsibility, and embrace more sustainable practices. These trends send a strong signal that what business needs today is much different from what it needed yesterday or will need tomorrow.

From Part 1: Core Values and Guiding Principles:

The following three criteria represent core values of AACSB. There is no uniform measure for deciding whether each criterion has been met. Rather, the school must demonstrate that it has an ongoing commitment to pursue the spirit and intent of each criterion consistent with its mission and context.

A. The school must encourage and support ethical behavior by students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff. [ETHICAL BEHAVIOR]

B. The school maintains a collegiate environment in which students, faculty, administrators, professional staff, and practitioners interact and collaborate in support of learning, scholarship, and community engagement. [COLLEGIATE ENVIRONMENT]

C. The school must demonstrate a commitment to address, engage, and respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues (e.g., diversity,  sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and globalization of economic activity across cultures) through its policies, procedures, curricula, research, and/or outreach activities. [COMMITMENT TO CORPORATE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY]

 Diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and other emerging corporate and social responsibility issues are important and require responses from business schools and business students.

 The school fosters sensitivity to, as well as awareness and understanding of, diverse viewpoints among participants related to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues.

Guidance for Documentation

 Demonstrate that the school addresses current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues through its own activities, through collaborations with other units within its institution, and/or through partnerships with external constituencies

From Standard 9: Curriculum content is appropriate to general expectations for the degree program type and learning goals. [CURRICULUM CONTENT]

Curriculum content refers to theories, ideas, concepts, skills, knowledge, etc., that make up a degree program. Content is not the same as learning goals. Learning goals describe the knowledge and skills students should develop in a program and set expectations for what students should do with the knowledge and skills after completing a program. Not all content areas need to be included as learning goals.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs and Higher

General Business and Management Knowledge Areas

 Economic, political, regulatory, legal, technological, and social contexts of organizations in a global society

 Social responsibility, including sustainability, and ethical behavior and approaches to management

In sum, sustainability and related themes are now apparently integral to the AACSB business school accreditation process. Given the disciplinary power of ratings agencies, it will be interesting to see whether and how business schools respond.