Wageningen University & Research is taking legal action against Hans Marijnissen, a journalist with the daily newspaper Trouw. The issue at stake is whether the results of the Wageningen study on deposit money had been agreed beforehand in a letter. The case was heard on Monday 7 November.
Between 2009 and 2012, Wageningen Food and Biobased Research did research on the recycling of household plastic waste in the knowledge centre on post-collection waste sorting. The study compared the costs of the deposit money system with those of waste sorting before and after collection. A draft paper for the supervisory committee was leaked by a client with the aim of convincing the minister responsible to scrap the deposit money system.
Trouw journalist Marijnissen followed this case closely and commented in articles that it looked very like research on demand, with the industry as client. In the TV programme De Haagse Lobby, however, he went a step further. ‘I have seen the tender document and that already said the provisional conclusion had to be that the deposit money system was too expensive,’ says Marijnissen. WUR asked him to produce this letter or withdraw his allegations. When he did neither, the institution took out a court case, claiming that Marijnissen’s allegations are ‘damaging’ and ‘unfair’, and once again demanding rectification.
Marijnissen’s lawyer claims that the leaked draft WUR paper, an A4 sheet of initial results, was the tender document in question. That paper stated that recycling was the most expensive system. This was based on a quick two-month literature study, says Trouw. Also, at that stage a WUR employee called the supporters of deposit money ‘opponents’, reports the Trouw defence lawyer. He bases this on confidential documents and email exchanges which WUR made available to the Academic Integrity Committee and which were sent to Marijnissen by email.
Trouw’s lawyer claims that the knowledge centre on post-collection sorting is a cover for the industry so it can use research to further its interests – the large-scale introduction of post-collection waste sorting. ‘The university is using its academic standing in the interests of the industry. And now it wants to whitewash this bad behaviour by suing the journalist.’
WUR’s defence lawyer claims that Trouw shows bias. The daily paper systematically interprets documents without reference to their context, he says.
The verdict is due in two weeks.