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It is vital that the organisation keeps a complete register of the ancillary activities of professors, ensures that it is up to date and verifies it for accuracy. ‘In essence, ancillary activities are a good thing: they serve as proof that we’re in touch with society and they’re important for our teaching and research. However, it’s essential that we register them properly and transparently and that they can be checked for potential conflicts of interest,’ Rector Magnificus Peter-Paul Verbeek says. ‘This really is a point for improvement.’

The national regulation on the ancillary activities of employees stipulates that employees must be transparent about their ancillary activities and the organisation or company on behalf of which they are performed. The ancillary activities of professors must be listed on their personal profile page on the website of the institution that employs them.

The audit revealed the following:

  • Established procedures are not always followed. Once employees have entered into service, they pay little attention to keeping the registration of their ancillary activities up to date. The topic rarely comes up for discussion in annual consultations (performance reviews), there are no periodic checks and changes are passed on too sporadically. As a consequence, a considerable part of the ancillary activities that are currently listed on the website is not up to date.
  • The support provided by systems and the organisation is far from optimal. Details of ancillary activities are stored across at least three different systems, hampering monitoring and oversight.
  • The ancillary activities policy could be clearer (interviewees indicated that the definition of what constitutes ancillary activities is too vague) and deserves more attention.

Examples of specific measures:

  • The registration system will be amended. In future, all employees will be required to update the details of their ancillary activities annually and attest to the truthfulness of those details. This will be actively monitored and lack of action may result in sanctions.
  • Periodic random spot checks will be introduced and registration will become a recurring point of attention, both in the annual consultations between supervisors and employees and in the discussions between the Executive Board and the deans.
  • The 2021 professorial policy will be expanded: endowers of special and endowed chairs will be listed on the relevant professor’s profile page and the relevant dean will be required to issue a statement disavowing any potential conflict of interest.
  • In view of the vague definition of what constitutes ancillary activities, the national regulation on the ancillary activities of employees will also need to be updated. The UvA will work towards this in tandem with other universities and the umbrella organisation UNL.
Copyright: Sander Nieuwenhuys
All this means that there’s work to be done, we now have an action plan in place that will enable us to make haste with putting the registration system in order. Executive Board President Geert ten Dam