Why Didn't NDSU Let Heidi Heitkamp Know The Study She'd Requested Was Withdrawn?

heidi heitkamp

Earlier today I wrote about North Dakota State University withdrawing a study concerning the economic impacts of rail delays on the agriculture industry which had been requested by Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

It just hit the news today, but according to this update from Grand Forks Herald reporter Brandi Jewett NDSU pulled the study “in May days after it was published” because it was inaccurate just days after it was issued.

That creates a problematic timeline both for NDSU and for Senator Heitkamp. I’ve contacted both professor William Wilson at NDSU and Senator Heitkamp’s office and so far I’m not getting any answers. It’s not clear yet when specifically the issue was first made public, or when it was withdrawn. It’s also not clear what, specifically, was wrong with the study.

But even without those answers, there are some very specific issues.

Senator Heitkamp first announced this study on May 2nd by way of a press release. One would assume that NDSU had concluded the study for her just previous to that.

According to Jewett’s report, NDSU withdraws the study “days” after it was made public, but on May 6th the author of the study – Dr. Frayne Olson – appeared on 6:30 Point of View with Chris Berg touting the results of the study. You can watch that segment here. Nowhere during the interview does Olson suggest that the study’s findings are in question.

Did Olson not know his study had problems at that point?

What’s more, even months after the study had apparently been withdrawn, Senator Heidi Heitkamp continued to cite it. She referred to it in press releases sent out on August 11th and August 28th.

Also, Governor Jack Dalrymple cited the study during a recent hearing hosted by the Surface Transportation Safety Board. I’ve contacted Governor Dalrymple’s office as well asking when they knew of the study being withdrawn.

But remember, Senator Heitkamp requested this study. Nobody told her that it had been withdrawn days after it was released? Or did she continue to use an inaccurate study because the findings were politically convenient?

Here’s what we know:

  • NDSU withdrew the study days after it was issued
  • Senator Heitkamp and others continued to cite the study as valid months after it had been withdrawn

Either NDSU didn’t notify anyone that they’d withdrawn the study – including Senator Heitkamp who requested it – or Heitkamp and possibly others continued to cite an inaccurate study in their debate over rail delays.

I’m working on getting those answers.