Documenting the obvious is, seemingly, full-time work for some academics. There are any number of websites offering lists of ridiculous studies funded by government or conducted at major universities. There was, for example, that Stanford University study finding “athletes who get an extra amount of sleep are more likely to improve their performance in a game.” Then, there was the study showing “teenagers’ use of cell phones after bedtime contributes to poor sleep.” There are hundreds of these superficial studies and you can find several more here.
These make-work research projects, while wasteful, are typically otherwise harmless. Nevertheless, when such a study of the obvious is used as an excuse to launch what are essentially political arguments designed to grab cheap headlines, it is quite a different matter. Sadly, for me as a Penn Stater, I am forced to conclude this is exactly what we’re seeing from the university’s Center for Economic and Community Development with its recently released Marcellus Shale: Land Ownership, Local Voice, and the Distribution of Lease and Royalty Dollars. It offers nothing new and is a little more then a platform from which to launch broadsides against owners of mineral rights. Worse, while it focused on the obvious, it simultaneously ignores the most obvious point of all. It’s like a new review of an old movie titled King Kong that somehow fails to mention the giant gorilla.