Vatan Hüzeir, who authored a report entitled A Pipeline of Ideas, which gave rise to the RSM investigation, is ambivalent about the Mols Committee’s findings. “The committee’s investigation has strong points as well as shortcomings. They identified major integrity risks, which we had previously identified, as well, and which really need to be dealt with. On the other hand, they did not dig deep enough. As a result, they left a few stones unturned.”

“The Mols Committee only looked at contracts and procedures, and spoke to the persons responsible for them,” says Hüzeir. “I think it is impossible to conclude on that basis that there is no influencing, as RSM and the university’s Executive Board are saying. To be able to judge on that, you must also look at the nature of RSM’s partnerships with companies and scientists, because influencing is not done through rules and contracts, but rather through hidden procedures.”

Integrity investigation


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Science for sale

About corporate influence on the university

Hüzeir calls the fact that the Mols Committee did not look at the nature of RSM’s partnerships with companies a ‘missed opportunity’. “One of the things we demonstrated last year was that RSM conducted a study whose conclusions were supposed to increase public support for gas, even though people in Groningen were increasingly objecting to the extraction of gas. The study was paid for by Shell and NAM [the Dutch gas and oil extraction company – ed.], among other parties. This is a very clear example of companies influencing research projects.”

In addition, Hüzeir discovered at the time that a study on the Netherlands’ suitability for the establishment of headquarters of major international corporations was secretly being paid for by Shell. One of the authors of the study report is currently the subject of an integrity investigation. The study in question was recently found to be the only scientific justification for the abolition of dividend withholding tax.

‘Highly unfortunate provisions’

RSM Dean Steef van de Velde said last week that the main conclusion to be drawn from the Mols Committee’s report was that the Faculty had been acquitted of the most severe accusation – namely, that it was not independent. “But we never said it wasn’t,” states Hüzeir. “We drew exactly the same conclusion that this committee has now drawn, as well – namely, that the partnership agreements contain provisions about companies influencing the curriculum and the students. Regardless of whether this influencing is actually happening, the fact that these provisions were even included in a contract constitutes an enormous threat to [the school’s] integrity and independence. The fact that RSM has called these provisions ‘highly unfortunate’ reveals the more significant underlying issue with regard to the faculty’s independence. It has a culture that prevents it from accepting that something is seriously wrong.”

“You can tell from the way in which RSM and the university interpret the report,” says Hüzeir. He feels RSM and the university are not taking the Mols Committee’s report seriously enough. “Even when we were carrying out our study, they were saying, ‘Things are not as problematic as you think they are.’ And in a way, they’re still saying the same thing now.” The Mols Committee’s report does call for ‘serious changes’, according to Hüzeir: “RSM must adjust its contracts, publicise its ties with companies in a register, change its organisational structure, comply with rules on side jobs and work towards a culture change. Major changes are required, and you can’t just go on saying that nothing is the matter or that you are such a trailblazer when you have just received this kind of criticism.”

Drawing a line

Hüzeir hopes the Minister for Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, will draw a line. “RSM seems unable to understand how serious the problems are that we wrote about last year,” he says. “Even the rather harsh conclusions drawn by the Mols Committee, which didn’t even dig all that deep, are being dismissed, as if hardly anything is the matter.” During the House debate that took place last year in response to the Changerism report on the ties between the fossil fuel industry and RSM, the then Minister for Education, Jet Bussemaker, indicated that she wished to await the findings of the Mols Committee before imposing any measures. Says Hüzeir, “That report has now been completed and it’s not perfect. I think it’s time the new minister stepped up and did something about it.”