Organisation - December 11, 2014

Kropff calls for clarity on sidelines

Albert Sikkema

The executive board has called for all Wageningen UR staff to report clearly on we@wur any sideline activities they take on. This is in response to various reports about such activities and conflicts of interests in Dutch universities.

‘We want maximum  transparency and visibility when it  comes to additional positions held  by our staff, to prevent any hint of a  conflict of interest,’ states rector  Martin Kropff.  A major article about enterprising  professors appeared in De Groen  Amsterdammer recently, suggesting  a link between professors’ sidelines,  conflicts of interest and the steering  of research results. This link was not  actually demonstrated. But the investigative  journalists did conclude  that by no means all professors in  the Netherlands declare their additional  positions.

So Kropff has called on all Wageningen  UR scientists to do exactly  that. This appeal follows an earlier  decision by the executive board in  2008 to publicize all additional  posts held by Wageningen professors.  According to the Code of Conduct  for Scientific Practice, scientists  must publish their sideline activities  on the website. The HRM department  is working on an easier  system of registration.

In recent weeks there has been a  lot of interest in the press in sideline  activities and the funding of university  research. Investigative journalists  at Follow the Money, De Onderzoeksredactie  (which wrote the article  in De Groen Amsterdammer), Yournalism  and De Volkskrant approached  Wageningen scientists for information  about their research financiers  and their sideline activities. Staff are  free to participate in these kinds of  investigations, says the executive  board.