Finding Answers Together

Scientific integrity and responsibility are central in Wageningen University & Research’s (WUR) research and partnerships.

WUR’s goals are to develop knowledge in collaboration with partners and to foster active dissemination of knowledge in society. This specialised expertise can be deployed to provide a substantiated basis for decision-making (by the government or business sector, for example). Thus, safeguarding high-quality knowledge is a prerequisite for WUR.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) considers transparency and Corporate Social Responsibility to be of the utmost importance. This web page, which is continuously updated and revised, offers accountability.

Integrity

Independence of scientific research is a key principle for our university and research organisations. It is this autonomy that we convey continuously in our contacts with clients and partners, employees and suppliers, and in assessing the impact of our conduct as a scientific organisation. Responsibility and integrity are the fundamental basis of both economic and scientific success. If a study is not sound, or there are doubts as to the independence thereof, the organisation forfeits credibility and trustworthiness. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) operates according to strict standards to guarantee the independence of research.

Today’s societal challenges demand solutions from a wide range of perspectives. WUR offers fundamental and applied research from many different disciplines as part of our collaboration with a variety of stakeholders in many types of projects. We are aware that collaboration with the private sector may occasionally give rise to questions regarding autonomy and integrity. We ensure clarity about roles through strict compliance with our rules in this respect. WUR is proud of the diversity in our research. We develop and have extensive knowledge and are eager to work in a transdisciplinary manner to solve complex issues. It is up to governments, businesses and civic organisations to decide how they apply our knowledge. Our research mainly shows what the (positive and negative) consequences of certain choices may be.

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Collaborating with WUR

We face major global issues: the energy transition, sustainability of agriculture, recovery of biodiversity, urbanisation and climate adaptation. Significant changes are needed to face the rising sea levels, periods of extreme weather and the increasing demand for food, and the need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.

To address these immense societal challenges, collaboration is more critical than ever. As a society, we need all players involved to solve these issues. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) plays an important role in contributing, along with others, to solving these issues: ‘Finding answers together’. WUR contributes by developing scientific knowledge in the form of research results and studies. These results only have societal value when applied. This is why WUR does not just conduct research in isolation but collaborates with businesses, governments and other knowledge institutes, civilians and civic organisations. They apply the knowledge and challenge us to make substantiated changes possible. This approach is key to our strategic plan ‘Finding Answers Together’.

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Accountability

Three things may be expected in collaborating with a scientific research and education institute such as WUR: we provide solid, trustworthy and independent research.

Our research is always diligent, verifiable and independent both in design, execution and reporting, and follows the guidelines that apply to science. WUR’s own guidelines, regulatory control and periodic national and international reviews ensure this. These official inspections to assess the quality of education and research departments are conducted by official authorities and independent external experts.

In a scientific environment, openness, discourse and self-reflection are of paramount importance. The contribution of our staff and students is crucial. With WUR, several staff and student councils have been installed in addition to the representative body.

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The 10 most frequently asked questions on integrity and independence of Wageningen research:

1. Is  WUR’s scientific research trustworthy?

Yes. WUR always conducts its fundamental and applied research independently. Conclusions are reported based on a.o. models and scenarios, and proven and analysed facts. Clients and other stakeholders have no influence on the research, and each research report always states the sources of funding.

2. How does WUR ensure integrity in relation to clients?

WUR has its proprietary code of integrity and also abides by the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (Dutch acronym NGWI). The latter consists of five tenets:

1. Honesty

2. Diligence

3. Transparency

4. Independence

5. Responsibility

These principles are always leading in the way research is conducted. Integrity is, after all, the pillar on which excellent scientific practice rests, and, thus, an essential prerequisite for faith in science and the credibility of research.

When there is doubt as to the integrity of research, there are procedures available to verify it. For issues and complaints concerning scientific integrity, confidential counsellors have been appointed. Official complaints may be filed with the scientific integrity committee.

Researchers often document their results in scientific articles. In this way scientific results are disclosed to other researchers and new insights are claimed. Such claims are usually not recognized by other researchers until a report or article has appeared in a so-called ‘peer-reviewed’ journal.

3. Are clients able to influence WUR’s research results?

Wageningen University & Research conducts fundamental and applied research autonomously. The conclusions of each study are reported on the basis of proven and analysed facts. Clients or other stakeholders have no influence on these results. Moreover, in research reports, funding parties are always explicitly named.

In most cases, researchers record the results of their work in scientific publications. The purpose of these publications is to divulge the results among fellow researchers and to claim the results in cases where new insights are reached. Such a claim is generally only acknowledged when a report or article is published in a so-called ‘peer-reviewed’ journal.

Results may also be made public through publications in popular scientific magazines, professional magazines, dissertations, presentations, books and lectures. Sometimes, a publication may be postponed, for example, if the intellectual property must first be established by WUR, such as is the case with patents and breeders’ rights. In such cases, publication is postponed until after the patent is established.

Public-private research always leads to a public report. If this is not the case, in instances where contract research is fully bilaterally funded, the results are made available to the client. However, results from such studies may still lead to a scientific publication in consultation with the client, if needed with anonymised sensitive data (depending on if the knowledge base and the background knowledge that was used pertains to WR or the client).

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4. How does WUR deal with clients who wish to influence the results of an investigation? When does WUR refuse a request for research?

Clients have no influence on the research method or ways of reporting and conclusions. We will always check the study against integrity standards, and, if these are not met, the commission will be refused.

These principles are leading in how we conduct our research. Integrity of conduct is the primary pillar on which excellent scientific practice activity rests and is thus an indispensable prerequisite for faith in science and the credibility of research.

5. Is there sufficient transparency on the additional positions Wageningen researchers hold? Is a special professor really independent from the business he/she also holds a position?

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) believes transparency is important. Therefore, WUR publishes a list of its professors. This list of professors also includes the financier of the chair. All ancillary activities and positions held by our professors are made transparent by publishing them on our internet page We@Wur.

Professors employed by an external organisation (research institutes, government, businesses, NGO’s) are generally seconded to WU for one day per week. Special chairs are chairs that are established on a temporary basis (for the duration of 5 years, with an option for a second term). WUR also publishes the funders of special chairs, to which the same code of conduct applies as to all other researchers. Thus, we ensure that the quality of the research is not influenced by the company that also employs this professor. Registering the additional positions of (special) professors is a monitored priority within WUR.

> Professors

WUR conducts both fundamental and applied research independently. Conclusions are reported on the basis of proven and analysed facts uncovered by the research. Clients and other stakeholders have no influence on this research.

6. How is the research organised?

To understand how our research is generated, it is essential to understand how Wageningen University & Research is organised. WUR is a knowledge institute made up of nine applied sciences institutes and a university. A uniquely designed organisation, consisting of two entities (Wageningen University and Wageningen Research) working together on significant societal challenges from a single strategic perspective.

The university’s chair groups work both independently as in collaboration with the research institutes within so-called Sciences Groups, of which WUR has five:

  • Agrotechnology & Food
  • Animal
  • Social (economic)
  • Environmental
  • Plant

This internal collaboration means that research can take shape in different ways. Both fundamental and applied research, funded by private or public means, or a combination thereof. Always with integrity and scientific autonomy.

There is, however, a distinction between Wageningen University (WU) and Wageningen Research (WR) in the role research partners or clients have in research.

Wageningen University

Fundamental research is mostly conducted within the university division of WUR. This is ‘knowledge for the sake of knowledge’, based upon the scientific question. This is also known as curiosity-driven research. Knowledge flows directly towards education (bachelor’s, master’s, PhD). This of course includes research (in)directly serving the public interest. This research is mainly publicly funded, for example through the NWO (Dutch Research Council - Applied and Technical Sciences) for the purpose of fostering innovations in science, or the EU Framework Programme. However, occasionally, fundamental research projects are funded by commercial businesses.

Research conducted at the university must meet the academic standards that apply to scientific research, such as publicising results, intellectual property of the university etc. Depending on the type of research (autonomous, within a consortium or bilateral contract research), the research domains are identified and formulated.

Wageningen Research

Applied research is mainly conducted within Wageningen Research. In this research, issues from within society, government or the private sector are translated into applicable knowledge. Research may be commissioned by a single party or by a consortium including several public and private parties and has a variety of sources of financing (public, private or a combination).

In general, the client is more involved in applied research because we strive for application possibilities for knowledge in collaboration.  Wageningen Research holds responsibility for the organisation and quality of the research, and for reporting the results. The intellectual property of the results generally lies with WR, due to the often public (co)funding of the research and legislation and regulations. Intellectual property lies with the client only if the contract research is privately funded to its full extent. The national government has a particular type or commissioning status for research conducted within the framework of the statutory research tasks (Dutch acronym WOT).

Organigram Wageningen University & Research
Organigram Wageningen University & Research

7. With what types of clients does WUR collaborate?

Today’s societal challenges are of a proportion that demands as large a variety of scientific disciplines and practical knowledge as possible. To this end, WUR is involved in collaborations with many stakeholders in a large number of projects.

  • Business sector
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civic organisations
  • National, provincial and municipal organisations and water authorities
  • International governments

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Public-private collaboration (PPC)

In general, several parties will act as a joint consortium. When the government, (public) knowledge institute and the private sector collaborate for a longer duration, this is seen as a public-private collaboration. This is a frequently occurring form within the top sectors and  European projects. WUR has operated with this type of partnership for decades. This triple helix model inspired the innovation policy of the national top sectors.

8. . How is the turnover distributed between clients?

pie with main categories turnover 2019 totalling EUR 385 million
Wageningen reserach Foundation, main category turnover 2019 totalling EUR 344 million

9. What is the relationship between WUR and the businesses on the campus?

WUR contributes to the domain of healthy food and a healthy living environment through its education and research. As such, it serves as a renowned source of expertise for issues related to food production, nutrition and health. Innovative applications contribute to sustainable solutions for global food challenges. Wageningen Campus is considered the place to be for national and international knowledge-intensive agri-food related activities. We work at a regional and national level under the triple helix philosophy: intensive collaboration between government, knowledge institutes and the private sector.

Since 2010, knowledge institutes that are active within the domain of WUR and that have a clearly defined ambition to contribute to global issues may establish themselves on Wageningen Campus. For years now, Wageningen Campus is considered one of the ‘mature campuses in the Netherlands’ (according to evaluations conducted by Buck Consultants International for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy). This is, in part, due to the presence of these knowledge-intensive organisations in Wageningen.

Through collaboration, we develop suitable solutions to societal challenges at a national and international level by offering our knowledge, making our facilities available and supporting start-ups.

> Locate on Wageningen Campus
> Wageningen Campus

10. Why is there regular criticism on the collaboration with the private sector (including from WUR’s own students)?

Our organisation is ground-breaking in addressing substantial contemporary civic issues that generate a wide variety of opinions. In order to strengthen our role as a knowledge institute, we chose to allow these opinions to enrich us, so that we may understand their basis. In a scientific environment, openness, dialogue and self-reflection are of great value. Reconsidering policies and regulations is always a good idea. That is why we consider a mutual discourse with our stakeholders and society invaluable. Wageningen Dialogue is the umbrella for these dialogues.

External pressure groups demand that WUR severs or minimises all ties with the private sector. However, today’s societal challenges call for a broad base of scientific disciplines and implementation power. This is why WUR is part of collaborative efforts in many projects with a variety of stakeholders.

We acknowledge that collaborating with the private sector may give rise to questions on issues of integrity and autonomy. By strictly following our regulations in this respect, we ensure a clear demarcation of roles. WUR is proud of its diversity in research. We have a great deal of expertise and work from a multidisciplinary approach to solve complex issues. It is up to governments, businesses and societal organisations to determine how they apply our knowledge. Our research primarily shows what the (positive or negative) consequences are of making certain choices.

As a rule, WUR engages in a dialogue with societal groups to provide a full overview of considerations and to eliminate misunderstandings from the discussion. Within WUR, the representative body also has the option of addressing these issues with the Executive Board. Various staff and student councils have been established for this purpose.

  • For all issues related to students: the Student Council (SC) and the Student-Staff Council (SSC), that can put forward issues with the Executive Board.
  • The representative structure of WUR-council for employees of Wageningen University and Wageningen Research is an important partner for the Executive Board and the directors of the departments in their policy-making.
  • Moreover, the Green Office fosters sustainability at Wageningen University & Research. WUR works towards a sustainable mindset and practice from within. This is achieved by involving students and staff in sustainability.