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New four-year agreement for public sector consultancy at Aarhus University

The new framework agreement provides more clarity regarding publication and confidentiality clauses in Science and Technology’s research-based public sector consultancy.

2017.03.01 | Thomas Grønborg Sørensen

Aarhus University has signed a new contract regarding public sector consultancy. Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard.

The last signatures are in place, and the ink is beginning to dry on the new framework agreement regarding research-based public sector consultancy entered into between Aarhus University and the Ministry of Foods, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark. The agreement amounts to approximately DKK 380 million annually, and it determines the overall framework for public sector assignments to be undertaken by the university over the next four years.

“Public sector consultancy has a high priority for us, so I’m very satisfied that we’ve now settled the new agreement with a handshake with the ministry. The agreement creates clarity about frameworks and conditions so that researchers can concentrate on solving tasks with the usual high quality,” says Vice-Dean Kurt Nielsen, Science and Technology.

More clarity regarding publication and duty of confidentiality

During the negotiations, focus was particularly directed towards the confidentiality requirements in the framework agreement.

The new agreement makes if clear that the university still has the right and duty to publish new knowledge, and that the university itself assesses whether the task is subject to administrative rules and regulations regarding the duty of confidentiality. The agreement does not include an extension of the rules regarding duty of confidentiality. However, the ministry has the option of a ‘reading period’ without publication of up to seven working days following Aarhus University’s submission of a report or memorandum.

“It’s my experience that the ministry has been in favour of creating greater clarity that accommodates the needs of a university to contribute to both the scientific and the public debate. In my opinion, we’ve achieved considerable improvements, and these make it easier for both us and the ministry to manoeuvre in future collaboration,” says the vice-dean.

The latest knowledge in six fields

The framework agreement covers assignments in six special areas:

     Plant production

     Livestock production

     Food quality and consumer behaviour

     Nature and water

     Air, emissions and risk assessment

     The Arctic

The agreement provides Aarhus University’s researchers with an opportunity to solve specific consultancy assignments in the six areas, as well as building up new knowledge via research of a high international quality that, in turn, forms the basis for leveraging funds by applying for external financing.

“In addition to providing the authorities with an opportunity to make decisions based on reliable scientific facts, research-based consultancy is a good investment for society because Aarhus University’s researchers are on an academic level where they can attract funds in international competition. In 2015, we secured approximately DKK 600 million from other sources on the basis of the DKK 400 million we received from the ministry. In other words, society gets twice as much knowledge for its money”, says Vice-Dean Nielsen.

Aarhus University maintains the rights of the researchers

The vice-dean also points out that the framework agreement acknowledges that the university and the researchers still have the rights to the underlying material such as source codes to models they have developed themselves.

“This concerns a knowledge base that the researchers have built up over decades on the basis of the Danish and international projects they took part in. For many of the researchers, this is their academic and personal life blood for which they own the copyright, and which helps make them internationally competitive,” says the vice-dean. He emphasises that there is now a really good starting point for the continued work to build up the knowledge to ensure that not only authorities, but also industry and especially politicians can make decisions about food production and the environment on a sound basis.

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