By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University is asking Fitzgerald Glider Kits, Congressman Diane Black, and the Environmental Protection Agency to withhold from any further use of or reference to an emissions research study it completed for the glider kit company back in 2016.
The university sent letters to the three earlier this week requesting that they each refrain, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigations into allegations of misconduct in research.
Those letters, signed by university president Philip Oldham, read, in part:
“Please be advised that regarding the ‘Environmental & Economic Study of Glider Kit Assemblers’ report, knowledgeable experts within the university have questioned the methodology and accuracy of the report. Therefore, Tennessee Tech University is actively pursuing a peer review of the report and supporting data to assure its validity.
“The university is also investigating an allegation of research misconduct related to the study. We request that you withhold any use or reference to said study pending the conclusion of our internal investigation … We sincerely regret any inconvenience this imposes, but our aim is to ensure the absolute integrity and objectivity of any scholarly product of Tennessee Tech.”
The results of the research study and the university’s relationship with Fitzgerald, as well as Fitzgerald’s political ties, have received sharp criticism from faculty and media in recent weeks. Some of the university’s faculty senate members have expressed concerns that the research study has called the university’s reputation into question.
A complaint filed under Tennessee Tech Policy 780 – Misconduct in Research – ultimately prompted the investigation into the allegations surrounding the study.
The contents of the Fitzgerald-funded emissions study have not been released. Dewayne Wright, the university’s Senior Director of Public Relations, says that under Tennessee state law, (TCA 49-7-120 (b) (5)), Tennessee Tech cannot release a sponsored research project without the permission of the sponsoring organization.
“At this time the university does not have this permission,” he added.
The UCBJ has submitted a request to Fitzgerald Glider Kits for a copy of the research study compiled by Tennessee Tech but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Wright says sponsored research is actually pretty common. While organizations contribute dollars to research, there are other opportunities for funding research.
“At Tennessee Tech, research is funded through many avenues: university funds, state or federal funds, grants from nonprofit organizations, as well as private funds,” Wright explained.
That money covers the costs of equipment, personnel and materials used in research studies. Last year alone, the university received $16.9 million for sponsored research.
When the UCBJ asked how the study and resulting investigation have impacted the integrity of past, current, and future research studies performed by the university, Wright responded: “It does not.”