Research partnerships with the fossil fuel industry
Over the recent period there have been a number of protests and demonstrations at universities by people who oppose the universities’ collaboration with the fossil fuel industry. Students and staff in Leiden are also expressing their concerns about this issue. We are now publishing a list giving an overview of our research collaborations with the fossil fuel industry.
The list of partnerships was promised to students who protested during the Dies Natalis in Pieterskerk earlier this year. Members of staff also expressed their concerns earlier this year about the collaboration and started a petition. The university pays heed to these concerns and is taking further action.
The opening of the 2023-2024 academic year on 4 September will be devoted to sustainability. We will also be holding a debate with our staff and students on 27 September on the question of collaboration with the fossil fuel industry. After this debate, the Executive Board will decide whether adjustments are needed to the current policy.
Our aim with our research and education is to contribute to a better society; this has always been the mission of Leiden University. Our researchers work towards this goal together with partners at home and abroad, including parties that are under pressure because of their activities in the fossil fuel industry.
President of the Executive Board, Annetje Ottow, says, ‘Leiden researchers from all kinds of disciplines are currently addressing the issue of the climate crisis, also with external partners. In our strategic plan Innovating and Connecting (2022-2027), we make a deliberate choice to strengthen all our connections: among disciplines, with society and within our university community. Partnerships with societal organisations and private parties in industry are naturally part of this.’
Ottow adds, ‘This means that collaborations with organisations in the energy sector, including parties involved in fossil fuel production, are also still part of our research portfolio. We are aware that our research collaborations with the fossil fuel industry raise questions and dilemmas. Leiden University wants to be open about our current partnerships with the fossil fuel industry, also in light of the current debate in society and the questions that have been raised. That is why we are publishing this list.’
The list includes research conducted with external funding. It has taken some time to compile because we wanted to take every possible care, and we also had to ask permission from the partners with whom we collaborate, some of which are private organisations, to make the data publicly available. In drawing up this inventory, we use the following definition: Fossil industries are companies engaged in the exploration, extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels. Research projects currently being carried out in collaboration with the fossil fuel industry are included in the list. The list is a snapshot in time and will be updated if necessary.
Academic freedom is fundamentally important to Leiden University in any form of cooperation with third parties. Independence, integrity and corporate social responsibility, as well as dialogue within and outside the university, are important elements of the way we operate.