Ground rules for responsible conduct of research and research freedom in regard to collaboration with external parties

These ground rules are intended for researchers or research teams who are preparing to enter into a research collaboration with an external party. The senior management team approved these ground rules on 6 May 2020, and they come into force on 2 June 2020. The ground rules were updated and approved by the senior management team on 14 April 2021.

The ground rules are divided into three sections: 

Note that special rules apply to research involving personal data (GDPR).

Note: The terms ‘researchers’ and ‘the AU researchers’ are used interchangeably to refer to individual researchers and research groups participating in external research collaboration.

Definition of External Parties

In this context, ‘external parties’ refers to legal entities other than Aarhus University.

These ground rules do not apply to national and international research collaboration with other universities unless funding is received for the collaboration or a party has rights to the results of the collaboration. In this context, results should be understood as intellectual property rights/IP. In Part 3 - Procedures you will find information about when it is necessary to enter into an agreement.

Part 1. Central Principles

As early as possible in their collaboration, the partners must formally agree on how responsible conduct of research and freedom of research are to be ensured throughout the entire research collaboration. The arm’s length principle and impartiality are crucial, and are described along with other central principles in the boxes below. Taken together, they comprise Aarhus University’s central principles for collaboration with external parties.

Freedom of research

Freedom of research is decisive to ensure the legitimacy of the research. Freedom of research is thus also decisive in collaboration with external parties.

Freedom of research includes the right to freely define research questions, select and develop theories, collect empirical data and apply relevant methods, as well as present hypotheses, results and arguments publicly.

Researchers must always be able to select their approach and procedures, including choice of method, exclusively on the basis of scientific considerations, and must always be able to defend their choice of method.      

The arm’s length principle and impartiality

The arm’s length principle must be respected in research in collaboration with external parties in order to ensure that researchers have the freedom to take independent decisions and conduct impartial research.

Respect and consideration for roles, responsibility and decision-making authority are crucial aspects of the arm’s length principle. There must be a clear and unambiguous definition of which tasks each party to the collaboration is responsible for.

Researchers must be independent of interests that might influence the choice of research methods, results and conclusions. The integrity and impartiality of researchers and their research must be beyond question.

Honesty, transparency and responsibility


The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity is based on three fundamental principles which should pervade all phases of the research:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Responsibility

The principle of transparency is particularly relevant in relation to research collaboration with external parties. As required by the codex, all phases of research must be characterised by transparency. This requires openness in disclosing:

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Research planning
  • Research methods used
  • Results and conclusions
  • Contributors and authors
  • External funding of research