Leiden, 4 May 2023 – A coalition of public interest groups, independent researchers, students and university staff – ‘Mapping Fossil Ties Coalition” – has launched a website to map the links between universities and companies such as Shell, Aramco and NAM.
The interactive database, mappingfossilties.org, provides insight into the role of coal, oil and gas companies in funding research and professorships, sponsoring student associations, their presence at career events and guest lectures. The database is based on decentralised research and crowdsourcing and will be added to in the coming months, including with the results of several Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests recently submitted by students and research firm Solid Sustainability Research.
The coalition behind the website wants to see more transparency and accountability on the relationships between universities and the fossil industry. “A recent study shows that research centres funded by fossil industry companies are more favourable towards natural gas in their research outcomes. Funding can also influence the focus of research towards technologies that disrupt the business model of fossil companies least, rather than those that are most needed for an energy transition,” explain Linda and Aaron of Solid Sustainability Research, one of the coalition organisations. “Making fossil ties transparent is crucial for an open discussion about what relationships fossil companies should have with universities.”
Scientists welcome the website. “I think it is important to study and work at a university that is fully transparent about the companies it collaborates with. That way we can be aware if we are complicit in greenwashing, for example. Thanks to this great tool, we can all see which universities collaborate with or receive money from the fossil industry,” says Martijn Duineveld of Scientists4Future Wageningen.
The launch of the website is supported by several environmental and climate organisations. “This website increases pressure on universities to sever their ties with the fossil industry,” says Femke Sleegers of the Social Tipping Point Coalition. “This is an important step towards a social tipping point. It reduces the influence of fossil interests in science – and also in politics, because the results of fossil research regularly end up on the desks of policymakers.”
Next week will again see occupations and actions at several universities. Over the past six months, numerous students and staff have put their universities under pressure to cut their ties with the fossil industry. These actions, which sometimes involved occupying parts of the university, led to a lot of media attention, internal discussions and most recently to the VU Amsterdam’s decision to stop collaboration with fossil companies on research.
For more information on the website and the coalition behind the ‘Mapping Fossil Ties’ initiative, please visit mappingfossilties.org.
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