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Follow-up on criticism of report on the climate impact of beef and veal

Rector Brian Bech Nielsen has asked Science and Technology to investigate thoroughly the issue about the report on the climate impact of beef and veal and take the action necessary. Preparation of the report has been deplorable. There has not been the necessary arm's length from external stakeholders, and this has called into question the university's independence and integrity. This is completely unacceptable.

[Translate to English:] Foto: Lars Kruse, AU Foto
[Translate to English:] Foto: Lars Kruse, AU Foto

"The investigation has not yet been completed, but even though it is still pending there is no doubt about where the main responsibility for ensuring independence and arm's length lies. Although the report was published as a DCA report, the department management team at the Department of Agroecology has overall responsibility for research and collaboration. The department management team should therefore have secured the overall framework for the project before work was started, as well as while the project was running. The management team was also responsible for quality assurance and the independence of the final report. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that this responsibility has not been satisfactorily met," says Dean Lars Henrik Andersen.

The head of department at the Department of Agroecology, Erik Steen Kristensen, has agreed to resign as head of department and leave Aarhus University. Dean Lars Henrik Andersen has appointed Professor Jørgen E. Olesen as acting head of department until 31 March 2020.

Updated quality assurance system

In the wake of last year’s study on freedom of research at Aarhus University, the university has agreed on a number of initiatives. In the spring, the faculty management team at Science and Technology adopted an updated quality assurance system that supports the university's guidelines for the area, and this is now ready for implementation.

"I’ve asked Vice-dean Kurt Nielsen, who has overall responsibility for the quality of public sector consultancy, to ensure that the relevant managers and employees are thoroughly familiar with the quality assurance system, and that the current guidelines for collaboration with companies and businesses are fully complied with," says Dean Lars Henrik Andersen.

Compulsory courses and investigation of previous reports

The rector has discussed the matter in detail with the dean, and they have decided that all DCA reports based on collaboration with private companies and special interest organisations within the past five years are to be reviewed at Dean's Office or university level, with a view to clarifying any problematic issues.  

Moreover, it has been decided that, in future, compulsory courses will be held for employees on the university's guidelines for good research practice, good communication practice and good practice for collaboration with external parties.    

Finally, the dean has expressed strong criticism of the poor quality assurance to Niels Halberg, director of the DCA, which published the report. The director has noted the criticism and he deeply regrets the process.

"There is no doubt that we've made mistakes. Our quality procedures have failed to ensure independence and arm’s length. It should not be possible to raise doubts about the credibility of DCA's reports and the research that the reports communicate. Therefore I will immediately undertake a thorough review of our procedures and correct them wherever necessary.  The division of responsibility between the department and the DCA must be completely clear so that our reports always comply with the university's guidelines," says Niels Halberg.

On 2 September, the DCA and the researchers behind the report on the climate impact of beef and veal decided to recall the report as it does not meet the requirements for independence. The academic content of the report will be submitted for independent international assessment by peer review.


Read: Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture recalls beef report