To fulfil its mission, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) cooperates with many partners from all over the world. These may be governments, research and education institutions, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. WUR is very aware of the questions arising from all forms of cooperation and aims for transparency regarding its motives and practices. Therefore, these collaborative agreements are continuously scrutinised.
Recently, the public debate in the Netherlands and Europe regarding scientific cooperation with China has intensified, partly in response to perceptions of one-sided dependence on Chinese technology and of economic security. There are also growing concerns regarding China’s approach to human rights, security, including cybersecurity, and privacy. WUR is aware of these concerns.
1. Why does WUR collaborate with Chinese partners?
There is no difference in the basis of the collaboration with Chinese partners compared with partners from other countries. WUR aims to jointly find answers to global challenges, such as climate change, food and water safety and security, biodiversity and nature conservation, and Global One Health. As China is a major player in addressing these challenges and questions through advanced research, education and innovation, the country’s knowledge and research organisations represent important partners in WUR’s strategy. After four decades of intensive collaboration with Chinese public and private knowledge partners, we are convinced of the importance of the synergy we have together created.
a. Excellent science
WUR currently ranks as one of the top scientific institutions globally in the domains of agriculture, food and the environment. China is rapidly catching up in international academic rankings due to its strong commitment to science and education and major investments in advancing scientific knowledge, facilities, training and resources. Thus, Chinese scientific institutions are key partners in achieving our ambitions to excel in science. In addition, the complexity of the challenges China faces, the scale of China’s problems during its rapid development, and its unique and diverse natural and climate environments offer unique opportunities for joint generation of new knowledge.
b. China invests in global challenges
As one of the world’s leading economies, China faces major problems in terms of climate, living environment, food security and safety and invests significantly in investigating and mitigating these. China contributes to the multilateral debate on the SDGs, working together our impact in addressing the SDGs increases.
2. How do we work together with Chinese organisations?
a. Science to science
Based on the principles of equal partnership and long-term commitment, WUR develops and implements joint PhD and research programmes and exchanges staff and students with selected Chinese academic partners. In addition to these institutional links, individual Chinese Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students study at the campus in Wageningen. All joint research is independent and adheres to WUR codes of conduct, policies and guideline on issues such as scientific integrity, IP, personal data protection and research data sharing, publications and ethical standards.
b. Science for impact
WUR advocates and practices science for impact. Together with Chinese public and private partners, we conduct applied research and develop as well as implement innovations and professional training for local capacity building. Again within our strict policies and guidelines on ethics and scientific integrity, on security issues related to IP and cyber security as well as on anti-corruption.
3. Awareness and implementation
Ensuring awareness among WUR staff of potential dilemmas when working with Chinese partners should be given constant attention. The WUR ‘China Platform’ plays an important role in increasing this awareness and brings together WUR colleagues working with Chinese partners. The platform not only explores and discusses potential collaboration initiatives and projects with Chinese partners, but also discusses dilemmas and risks, both in general and in specific situations, which may arise when working in China and with Chinese partners.
In order to assess ethical, reputational and economic dilemmas of a proposed collaboration, internal guidelines for collaboration with Chinese partners have been developed, adopted and are implemented. WUR policies and guidelines on human rights, ethics, scientific integrity, data protection/sharing, IP and anti-corruption form an integral part of these guidelines. Applying these guidelines to every new initiative provides a well-founded, comprehensive consideration and assessment before entering into an individual partnership or project or declining to participate.
WUR’s reputation is a crucial asset. Applying ethical, integrity and knowledge security guidelines for every project and partnership ensures that we maintain our high standards, in China as well as everywhere around the world. Our cooperation with Chinese partners does not differ fundamentally from our cooperation with other scientific partners around the world.