Head of UN sponsored science initiative asked to uphold scientific evidence

Tue, Dec 1, 2015


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

Scientists and civil society organisations from around the world are asking Prof. Paul Shrivastava, a professor at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business and a long-time consultant to multi-national corporations, to uphold scientific evidence and human health.

Shrivastava has been appointed Executive Director of Future Earth, a major international research and policy initiative coming out of the UN Rio+20 conference. Future Earth will, it states, be  “the world’s largest research program — over 60,000 researchers — to address the greatest challenges facing humanity.” Its mission is to achieve a world where decision-making is informed by the best available scientific evidence and knowledge so as to bring about “equitable, sustainable solutions to the most pressing issues currently confronting humankind.” Its governing council is comprised of the International Council for Science, the International Social Science Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University and other leading organisations.

Clearly, it is of critical importance that the Executive Director of Future Earth demonstrates commitment to scientific and ethical standards.

Concordia University has been made the international headquarters of Future Earth. If Future Earth is committed to upholding scientific evidence and helping humanity, it must clearly uphold those values at Concordia.

In a letter sent November 14, 2015, scientists and civil society organisations ask Prof. Shrivastava to support their request that Concordia retract and hold an independent investigation into a 2015 report, Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings?, which Concordia’s John Molson School of Business commissioned, funded, approved, published and praised as excellent. The report promotes the export of asbestos to the global South and states that the scientific evidence and the World Health Organization support the use of chrysotile asbestos. This is the opposite to the truth. The world scientific community and the WHO oppose the use of chrysotile asbestos.

The report was written by John Aylen, a lecturer at Concordia, who was hired as a public relations consultant by asbestos industrialists in 2011-2012 to promote their project to export millions of tons of asbestos from Quebec to Asia. This project is the subject of the report. Aylen’s ties to the asbestos industrialists are not disclosed.

The report is full of false information from beginning to end. It reprints information taken directly from the now-closed Chrysotile Institute and the International Chrysotile Association, a lobby organisation for the global asbestos industry that still operates out of Quebec and actively promotes the sale of asbestos in the global South and works to defeat UN regulations governing asbestos.

The information published by Concordia has been totally rejected as dangerous misinformation by scientists and health authorities in Quebec, Canada and globally, as well as by the World Health Organization.

Concordia stated that it commissioned the report  in order to provide public relations advice to industries, particularly in the energy sector, who are promoting projects that are facing opposition.

Shrivastava has not, to date, responded to the request to uphold scientific evidence

In an email of November 25, 2015, Shrivastava provided no answer to the request that scientists and civil society organisations had submitted to him.

A second message was therefore sent to Shrivastava, repeating the request that he support the call for the report to be retracted and an independent, transparent investigation to be held.

A letter was also sent to Dr. Mark Stafford Smith, Chair of Future Earth’s Science Committee, and copied to Shrivastava.

The message to Shrivastava notes:

“It is not possible to, at the same time, tell the public that you are committed, and can be trusted, to uphold the best scientific evidence and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the publication of false scientific information by your business school and by your university that contributes to harming people and the planet. The credibility of yourself, Concordia University and Future Earth are on the line here, as to whether the commitment is genuine.”

“It is in the best interests of Concordia University and the JMSB to act ethically to properly address this serious matter. It is particularly important that you do so, since your role as Executive Director of Future Earth requires you to uphold the best scientific evidence, even if this is inconvenient to powerful entities, such as the asbestos industry and top officials of Concordia University.”

“As someone who has written a chapter in a book, Management Education For The World: A Vision for Business Schools Serving People and Planet, you have a special ability and responsibility to assist Concordia’s JMSB to act ethically in this matter so that Concordia University’s business school serves, and does not harm, people and the planet. Business schools and JMSB have power and influence to shape public policy. As I trust you agree, with that power and influence comes a responsibility to act ethically.”

To date, the President of Concordia University, Alan Shepard, has refused to address the issue of the false information Concordia has published, that causes harm to humanity.

The question is whether the Executive Director of Future Earth will do the same.

See also: Montreal Gazette, Concordia prof under pressure to denounce colleague’s pro-asbestos paper


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2 Responses to “Head of UN sponsored science initiative asked to uphold scientific evidence”

  1. Tran Tuan Says:

    Very clear and sharp idea. Hope with this letter, this time Shrivastava will not keep silence as before.

  2. Dina Hanson Says:

    On first reading this RightOnCanada piece, I was puzzled that someone with a business, rather than a scientific, background had been selected to lead a global organization, Future Earth, where the research will address scientific issues of global environmental change and global sustainability.

    As I read further, and discovered that several top leaders, including President Alan Shepard of Concordia University, have not addressed the concern of lack of transparency regarding promotion of the asbestos industry by that university’s faculty and staff, I determined that Mr. Shrivastava is simply not the right person to head such an important international agency as Future Earth.

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