Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

We must clarify our guidelines

Media coverage of the DCA's collaboration with external stakeholders on the climate impact of beef has demonstrated a number of unsatisfactory circumstances behind the production of the report.

2019.08.30 | Prodekan Kurt Nielsen

Science and Technology. Photo: AU Foto

Photo: AU Foto

Unfortunately, the report does not live up to the requirement that we be independent of interest organisations. We must make it clear, both internally and externally, that responsible conduct of research also entails research integrity and independent communication of research, not just academic substance. To this end, I note that the researchers and the DCA still stand by the academic content of the report. 

When we publish a report with the Aarhus University logo and with Aarhus University researchers listed as authors, it is vital that the researchers have also written the report themselves. In collaborative projects, it can be useful to have specialist comments from partners, but as soon as these comments assume the nature of actual co-authorship without this being visible, such contributions become unacceptable. This applies even if the researcher can vouch for the overall academic content of the text. 

If we fail to live up to the principles that we as a university establish and follow, we cannot expect our surroundings to have confidence in the substance. Among other things, the principles relate to the way in which collaboration with government agencies and businesses is to take place, and all concerned should be familiar with them. The principles stress that there must be an arm's length between researchers and clients, and any contribution from the commissioning party must be clearly stated. 

We will clarify our principles on this basis. As a minimum, this will include the following: 

  • Science and Technology will review our current portfolio of contracts with private players to ensure that they all live up to our principles 
  • We will not allow the faculty's units to publish research reports if external stakeholders are responsible for project management. 
  • We will not allow external players to write texts for reports published in the name of our researchers. In cases where external comments are included, the report must clearly state who has contributed what, and for which parts of the report. 

We can, must and will continue to work with external parties, and we will ensure that our principles regarding the work are complied with. We affirm that collaboration is an important social task – including collaboration with the private sector. Collaboration is necessary to ensure that research-based knowledge can support the development of society. However, if there are legitimate doubts about our integrity, as there are in this case, collaboration will not benefit the university, external partners, or society as a whole. 

As stated in the Rector's announcement today, this case will be thoroughly investigated, and we will prepare a statement for the Minister for Higher Education and Science.

Kurt Nielsen, vice-dean for knowledge exchange at Science and Technology

Staff, Public / media