Cambridge Zero Carbon blockaded CASP on TuesdayNik Yazikov

The University removed online traces of links with CASP, a research group funded entirely by subscriptions from oil and gas companies, shortly after Zero Carbon’s recent report into Cambridge’s connections with such companies was sent out to a range of media sources.

Varsity understands that senior University figures were explicitly made aware of the removal of the CASP website.

In mid-October, Zero Carbon sent an early draft of their recent report, which specifically highlighted CASP as an example of Cambridge’s connections with the fossil fuels industry, to multiple media outlets. Some time after this, Zero Carbon learned that the University had obtained a leaked copy of their report, and had responded to various claims made within the report through a series of rebuttals.

In these rebuttals sent to national media outlets, the University specifically wrote that the suggestion that CASP is “a research group of the Department of Earth Sciences” was “False”. However, for at least 18 years – until it was deleted just last week, shortly after Zero Carbon’s report was distributed among media outlets – this organisation was explicitly listed on the Earth Sciences website under the subheading “research groups”.

CASP’s website, which was also recently deleted, was hosted on a web domain. A University spokesperson denied that this was due to any affiliation between the University and CASP. They said that they did not “know the history of how [the webpage] arrived” on the University’s web server.

They claimed that recent deletions were simply part of a broader effort to “cleaning” Cambridge’s “internet ecosphere”. However, when asked, a spokesperson for the University was unable to provide any other concrete examples of website or listing removals which had occurred as part of this “cleaning” process.

Varsity understands that senior figures within the University were actively aware of the removal of the CASP website specifically. The University did not respond to questions on this fact.

CASP, which was formerly known as the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme, is currently located at Cambridge’s Madingley Rise Site. It is a registered charity whose research consists of “carrying out field, literature and analysis-based geological research in prospective hydrocarbon basins”.

Its researchers have led searches for oil and gas in the Arctic, among other regions, and the Scientific Advisory Board of CASP includes multi-national oil and gas companies BP, Shell, Exxon, Total, Chevron, Eni and Statoil.

Speaking to Varsity, members of Zero Carbon affirmed that both CASP’s website, and its listing as a Research Group on the Earth Sciences website, which they had been reviewing as part of their ongoing research into Cambridge’s connections with the fossil fuels industry, were both taken down by 25th October, 2019.

Web archive data proves the presence of CASP’s listing on the Earth Sciences’ website from at least August 16th, 2000 to at least March 2019 (the most recent date from which archive information is available), and Zero Carbon members affirm having seen the listing in recent weeks. In total, therefore, CASP was listed as a research group on the University of Cambridge’s official Earth Sciences website for more than 18 years, at least.

Both a spokesperson for CASP and a spokesperson for Cambridge denied any affiliation between the two organisations. However, a since-deleted job listing dating to 2018, which had been listed on the CASP website, stated that the organisation is “affiliated to the Department of Earth Sciences”. Another job listing from 2016 explicitly said: “CASP is a geological research organisation that is affiliated to the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge”.

Given that both denied any affiliation, neither a spokesperson for the University, nor a spokesperson for CASP, were able to account for how, or why, the CASP website come to be – and long continued to be – registered on a domain. According to the University Information services, a domain is usually granted to “University-wide facilities” and “institutions of the University”.

Several CASP researchers have previously listed their affiliation as the Department of Earth Sciences. In 2018, for example, in the Science Direct journal, one co-author’s affiliation is printed as “CASP, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge”.

CASP was listed as a Research Group for nearly 19 years on the Cambridge’s official Earth and Sciences website. Although a spokesperson for CASP told Varsity that the group had emerged out of the University, and became “independent and unaffiliated a very long time ago”, a Cambridge spokesperson denied that the group had ever been affiliated with the University.


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Asked how they would respond to claims that CASP’s listing on a University of Cambridge webpage could have served to legitimise and endorse the group, a University spokesperson said that they would not call this an “endorsement by the University”, but that “other people are free to make that interpretation.”

They claimed that multiple organisations have “appeared” on Cambridge’s “internet ecosphere”, and that the University is in the process of removing them.

The University declined to comment on whether they had any measures in place to stop unaffiliated organisations from asserting they are affiliated to the University in things such as job advertisements.

In a statement to Varsity, a University spokesperson said: “The University is in the process of removing the websites of non-affiliated bodies from its internet ecosystem as part of a long-planned overhaul.”