BP accused of 'buying' silence

July 23, 2010 at 10:41 PM
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LONDON, July 23 (UPI) -- An academic group says BP is trying to buy the silence of academics and scientists as part of a defense against litigation from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The American Association of Professors says clauses in contracts offered to scientists by BP would restrict them from publishing any academic research undertaken for the oil giant, sharing the results with other researchers or even talking about them for as long as three years, The Daily Telegraph said Friday.

BP said it had hired more than a dozen scientists "with expertise in the resources of the Gulf of Mexico."

While admitting it had asked the experts to treat information from BP lawyers as "confidential," the company denied placing "restrictions" on academics speaking about scientific data.

Professor Cary Nelson, the head of the AAP, said the oil giant was making "hugely destructive" decisions.

The contract clauses were "a serious restraint in the midst of an ongoing crisis," he said.

One marine scientist offered a contract said after he stipulated that his team would have complete academic freedom, he never heard from BP's lawyers again.

"We told them there was no way we would agree to any kind of restrictions on the data we collect," Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama, said. "It was pretty clear we wouldn't be hearing from them again after that."

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