A complaint has been filed with the Scientific Integrity Committee (CWI) against a professor from Rotterdam School of Management. According to the complaint, the scientist’s research was sponsored by Shell, a fact he neglected to mention in subsequent publications.

The original object of the complaint is RSM research dating from 2009 which considered the strategic value of establishing corporate headquarters in the Netherlands. The report later played an important role in the successful lobby by employers’ organisation VNO-NCW for tax relief for multinationals.

Not only VNO-NCW

According to the complaint submitted by Vatan Hüzeir from think tank Changerism, the scientist violated several provisions in the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Research. According to Hüzeir, the researcher did not mention who had funded the research. The report itself only mentioned VNO-NCW as the sole commissioner, although Shell paid over 300,000 euros for the research. Besides Shell, multinationals Akzo Nobel, DSM, Philips, Unilever and VNO-NCW are also mentioned in the commissioning contract. These companies were also not listed in scientific publications based on the original research.

Hüzeir writes in the complaint that he also doubts the scientific reliability of the original report. “Uncertainties and error margins were not reported in the publication,” he writes in his letter to the CWI, among other complaints.

The researcher’s ‘lack of responsibility’ is what Hüzeir worries most. “He failed to take into account the implications of this research. As a result of this report, the industry forced a tax cut of 500 million euros.

Changerism report

In May, think tank Changerism published an investigation into the links between RSM and the fossil fuel industry. In that report, the research into corporate headquarters already played an important role. According to Hüzeir, however, the investigation was not enough and a formal complaint was necessary.

“Mainly because in the public debate following the publication of the report, the Minister of Education talked about the ‘self-cleaning ability’ of science. But months later, nothing has been done with this Shell-sponsored research. So that self-cleaning ability obviously does not work properly,” says Hüzeir. It should be noted that the university did appoint an external committee to investigate the links between RSM and businesses.


An RSM spokesperson did not wish to comment on the complaint while it is being investigated by the Scientific Integrity Committee. “The committee must firstly establish whether the complaint is admissible and we will then await their findings.” The university did not want to comment either, but confirmed that the complaint had been submitted.

The committee has three weeks in which to decide whether the complaint is admissible. After that, the CWI will review the contents of the complaint within twelve weeks.

The Executive Board of the university then has another four weeks in which to convert the committee’s advice into a decision. Hüzeir believes that the committee will act fairly. “I am confident that the committee will see things the same way as we do.”

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