Insight into corporate payments to doctors and professors

Within a few weeks, all professors should disclose their financial ties to the business community and other financiers. There will even be legal requirements in the healthcare sector, writes the outgoing cabinet.

photo sesame / iStock

In the past years, there were regular news reports on businesses buying influence in scientific research. For instance, a professor in Amsterdam was secretly paid for years by the real estate sector to research tax exemptions for said sector. Other professors were criticised over undisclosed ties to the fossil industry or the hydrogen lobby.

This is talked about a lot in the medical world too. In Zwolle, a criminal investigation into doctors who kept their financial ties with the medical industry secret has been ongoing since 2022.

This kind of ‘external’ influence is therefore a cause of concern for both the ministry of Education and that of Health. Last Friday and Monday, they told the Senate and House of Representatives that they’re expecting greater transparency in the time ahead.

In this regard, Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf mainly puts his trust in the sector itself. He writes to the Senate that he’s expecting “disclosure of external funding of ordinary chairs this month”. He agreed to this with the umbrella association Universities of the Netherlands.


Minister of Medical Care Pia Dijkstra has long since passed the stage of self-regulation, she wrote to the House of Representatives on Monday. She announced legislation obliging doctors and researchers in healthcare to request prior permission to their boards if they want to take on a side project for the medical industry.

This also gives the board concerned a better overview of the financial flows within the hospital. Which is necessary, because the current hospital and medical industry Transparency Register is incomplete. Dijkstra is working on legislation making participation in this register compulsory. Doctors and researchers would have to report any received funds exceeding five hundred euros.

The searchability of the register isn’t up to scratch either. For example, you can only find a doctor if you know their BIG number or the Chamber of Commerce number of their company. This also needs improving: the names and full details of healthcare providers will be included in future.

No names

Names do not always appear in the registers published by the universities either. Last year, they put lists of financiers of endowed professors online. In these lists, five universities only state the names of the chairs occupied by these professors.

This makes searching more difficult. Scientific publications often only include the professor’s name. If you want to run a Google search of research co-financiers, you won’t find their names on the lists of the universities in Delft, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Tilburg and Utrecht, a survey by HOP reveals.

Universities publish the lists at the insistence of the House of Representatives. The latter was worried about the independence of scientific research, in particular because of the large number of endowed professors. These are often employed by companies and are ‘loaned’ to universities for one or two days a week.

Ordinary professors

The House of Representatives also wants to know what ‘public’ funds are going to ordinary professors. Last year, the universities complained to the ministry about not knowing the exact definition of ‘public funds’. For the sake of clarity, they’ve now agreed to also disclose the ‘private’ funding of ordinary professors, says a spokesperson of Universities of the Netherlands. Universities don’t use a central register for this, like in healthcare, but their own websites.

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