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5 questions about the UvA-wide dialogue on collaboration with (fossil fuel) industry

Published on 17-03-2023 13:35
In early February, the UvA announced that it would not enter into any new research collaborations with Shell or other fossil fuel industry companies until there has been an UvA-wide dialogue with students and staff on the subject. On 29 March, that dialogue will be launched in a first online meeting.
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Academic coordinator Arno Kourula is leading the team that will gather opinions from all parts of the UvA in this launch event and in the months that follow. 'We want an open conversation where all perspectives are heard.'

What is this dialogue about?

Arno: 'The question is how and with whom we can work together. In recent months, the focus of that conversation has been on Shell and the fossil fuel industry. Some think we should sever all ties with these types of companies, even when it comes to projects aimed at sustainability. Some believe that this research contributes to accelerating the energy transition and that companies like Shell should not be excluded from it. But it is not a debate between two opposing views as the issue is much more nuanced. We want to have a conversation based on insights and expertise from all possible perspectives from the UvA on how to develop appropriate decision-making processes and guidelines on this.'

What is the ultimate goal of the dialogue and the following events?

'The Executive Board will make a decision in the coming months on whether or not to cooperate with fossil fuel companies like Shell. The dialogue we are organizing ultimately contributes to this aim. But our goal is bigger. We want to have an ongoing conversation with the UvA community about how we collaborate with industry and other third parties. That also means that we evaluate and possibly adjust our current policies and processes on cooperation with external parties as a result of the conversations and opinions collected. In this way, the UvA approach would match the scientific expertise and UvA-values.’

What does the first meeting look like?

'In an online meeting on 29 March, we will lay the groundwork for the events in the coming months. Everyone who studies or works at the UvA can attend. We will provide an open and respectful conversation where every opinion will be heard. Speakers from different corners of the UvA will take the floor; from professors with specific expertise, student representatives, people involved in climate groups and people conducting research where ethical issues are involved. The Executive Board is also present. Afterwards, students and staff discuss the topic together. We take those conversations and perspectives into account in building future in person dialogues and in the decision-making process around how we decide with whom and how the UvA can enter into collaborations.'

How will you gather opinions in the coming months?

A campus tour will start after the 29th. We will organise live meetings at different places and dates. The information we collect on the 29th will determine the next sessions. We are aware that it is not always easy to voice your opinion in public. That is why we are also opening a counterExternal link where anyone connected to the UvA can go with opinions and questions. We are also asking everyone who studies or works at the UvA to think along with us via the UvA's online survey platform: Denk mee. More information on both these outlets will follow.

Is the dialogue solely focused Shell and the fossil fuel industry?

'Initially, that is the case we are talking about. But there are ethical issues involved in several research areas. Such as research that could be used for military purposes, or research that could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. Furthermore, cases that fall into gray areas are part of this dialogue. Ultimately, the conversations should help scientists conduct research that fits the core values of our university. Research that has a positive impact.'

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