A campus-based environmental research group defended itself this week against a Brooklyn geology professor's charges of altering research data in a report it published 10 years ago.
The New York Public Interest Research Group, which depends partly on student volunteers and contributions, termed the charges absurd.
In a Buffalo Environmental Law Journal article, Brooklyn College geology professor David Seidemann said a 1986 NYPIRG study of waste management in New York City "inflates the city's capacity for recycling, exaggerates the existence of markets and minimizes the projected costs through the use of altered data, specious arguments and conjecture."
The report raises questions about the lack of oversight or peer review for the research of environmental groups, Seidemann argued. Because of NYPIRG's clout with public policy makers and the media, he added, bad data could lead to bad decisions.
None of the bills drafted in the wake of the "Burning Question" study was passed, countered a co-author of the report.
"Our view of it is that he's just grasping at straws," said Steve Romaleski of NYPIRG's New York office. "In this case, he's reaching back 10 years to look at things in a report that's just not used any more. We don't even distribute it, unless someone's really desperate for historical material."
In his article for the University at Buffalo Law School specialty journal, Seidemann said NYPIRG researchers made arbitrary assertions and used questionable logic in their study of recycling potential as an alternative to incinerators in New York City.
The net result of the report, the analyst said, is to underestimate costs and the number of needed recycling plants and to inflate estimates of New York's ability to recycle wastes.
Seidemann urged a system of research accreditation to review the standards and quality of work of organizations.
Romaleski denied any data falsification. Seidemann cites summary tables that simplified categories, but "for anyone who reads the report, it's clear what we're talking about," he said.