Carnegie Mellon Effort Puts Shale Data Online
24 September 2012
By Matthew Santoni
Tribune-Review Staff reporter Matthew Santoni can be reached at
Faced with a scattered body of research and background information
about the booming Marcellus and Utica shale industries, officials
and students at Carnegie Mellon University have compiled a
searchable “bibliography” of more than 1,000 documents online.
Professor Robert Strauss enlisted a pair of graduate students to
compile the database, available at http://rpstrauss.pairserver.com/marcel
lusshale, over the course of a year. It is searchable by keyword,
category, geographic region, source, year or author affiliation,
and it includes links such as testimony before legislatures,
academic studies, maps compiled by regulators and industry
sources, and explanatory materials provided by drilling companies
on the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” process.
“It’s for anybody curious about the Marcellus shale exploration.
... I think there should be some legislators and policymakers in
Harrisburg who find it informative,” said Strauss, a professor of
economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. “I think it’s
going to be a useful tool for all kinds of people.”
The database was funded with about $6,000 from the
Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs.
“We have 958 member boroughs, and a number of our members are in
the 26 or 27 counties where gas drilling is taking place,” said
Edward Knittel, the association’s senior director of education and
sustainability. “They were coming to us with questions about its
impacts, and, in many cases, we weren’t able to really give them
In some cases, research that would answer local officials’
questions had been done, but it wasn’t easy to find or available
to the public, Knittel said. Through the University of Pittsburgh
and Carnegie Mellon libraries, Strauss’ team dug into databases
that most boroughs could not get to and made the information
searchable by keyword and category.
Dividing the database into categories shows not only the
drilling-related topics with lots of information but also those
with a lack of information, Strauss said.
While the bibliography has more than 200 documents in the category
of “economic impacts,” for example, just two are in the “crime and
Those gaps in knowledge can point the association to areas where
it can sponsor further research, Knittel said. The database
includes sources that have a stated pro- or anti-drilling stance,
Strauss said, but the team’s goal was simply to compile as much
information as possible, not to weigh the merits of the reports or
“You can sort it by source, but we make no judgments about the
importance, the objectivity or the scientific accuracy of a
particular study,” he said.
Officials could seek additional funding to keep the database up to
date as more articles are published.
Knittel said he hasn’t heard any reactions yet from borough
officials because the database was announced to the public last
week. Strauss will demonstrate how to use the browsing and
searching functions during the association’s annual meeting in
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.