‘Many UG professors don’t report side gigs’

Universities often aren’t aware of what second jobs their professors hold, reports television programme Nieuwsuur after an investigation at fourteen Dutch universities and seven university medical centres.

According to the news programme, the UG is doing particularly poorly: more than half of the university’s register that tracks side gigs contains mistakes or lacks information. Some professors are missing from the register even though they do have second jobs, and the UMCG doesn’t have a register at all.

Passport professor

This is especially interesting since in 2019, UG professor of constitutional law and citizenship Dimitry Kochenov was in the news because of extracurricular activities that he hadn’t divulged. Kochenov, who earned the nickname ‘passport professor’ because of his expertise, advised the Maltese government on the sale of European passports.

This business, while not illegal, is controversial. After Parliamentary questions were asked, the UG commissioned an independent investigation into Kochenov’s unreported extracurricular activities. This investigation shows that the former professor wasn’t involved in any controversial trade, but that his work, for which he was paid, could have put him in a position where there was a conflict of interest.

Approved activities

This risk of a conflict of interest is exactly why universities are obliged to keep track of their professors’ extracurricular activities. It’s also why all professors, regardless of their contracts, are obliged to have their university approve of their activities. After all, academics are expected to be independent in their educational and research activities.

The Nieuwsuur investigation showed that the registration of professors’ second jobs is currently ‘a mess’. Of the nearly seven thousand professors, 4,200 are registered. But a random check by the news programme revealed that hundreds of professors aren’t registered when they should be. On top of that, much of the information in the register is out of date, incomplete, or simply wrong.

Gas industry

Nieuwsuur found instances of this at the UG as well, such as part-time professor of geopolitics and energy Coby van der Linde. In addition to her work at the UG, she was until recently also employed as commissioner at the Dutch branch of Wintershall, an oil and gas extraction company, one of whose subsidiaries is partially owned by Russian gas company Gazprom.

She also works as an adviser at the International Gas Union (IGU), an interest group for gas industry companies, and is employed by research institute KAPSARC in Saudi Arabia, funded by the Saudi government. According to Nieuwsuur, Van der Linde didn’t ask for approval for any of her extracurricular activities. The faculty has since asked her to end her work for IGU and KAPSARC and she voluntarily left her position at Wintershall.

Cross-check

UG spokesperson Anja Hulshof acknowledges that the registration of professors’ side gigs has issues. ‘We’re working on it. We have to make sure the internal and external registers match up, and that’s tricky’, she says.

Internally, professors have to register their extracurricular activities through AFAS, and externally, through their employee page at the UG website. ‘We’re currently doing a cross-check to make sure everything is complete.’

Besides, says Hulshof, the UMCG isn’t required by law to have a register. ‘But transparency on extracurricular activities is still important, of course.’ The university hospital therefore keeps track of extracurricular activities in a personnel file. The professors do need to get approval for their second jobs from their supervisors.

On CV

Responding to Nieuwsuur, Van der Linde said that her extracurricular activities are included in her CV. Asked whether a CV check would be sufficient to inspect the registers, the UG said that the system doesn’t work that way.

‘It’s report-based, rather than CV-based. We’re following national procedure. The professors have to report their extracurricular activities themselves and the faculty then has to approve them.’

Hulshof also emphasises that the university doesn’t immediately assume that professors have ill intentions if their information is incorrect. ‘Some professors are engaged in all kinds of extracurricular activities that also change often. We like to stimulate that, because we want professors to be out in society. But it should all be done openly and transparently. So that’s what we’re working on now.’

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