Procedures for responsible conduct of research and freedom of research in collaboration with external parties – research-based public sector consultancy





Reach consensus on expectations

Reach consensus with the external party on expectations regarding the project, each other, the overall framework and what products the collaboration is to produce, including research dissemination and communication. In other words, think the entire process through before initiating the collaboration.

Make sure that the department/school head is prepared to host the project, and on what financial terms.

If the external collaboration involves sharing personal data, special rules apply (GDPR), and a written collaboration agreement must always be entered into, including the relevant agreement on sharing personal data. 

Be aware of any potential conflicts of interest in the event that you are an AU researcher with dual employment. Read more about AU's rules for sideline employment in the staff policy document.

The AU researcher must always be able to defend the choice of method, and the arm’s length principle and the impartiality requirement apply in any event.

Potential conflicts of interest

Analyse the potential conflict of interest

Identify the potential conflict of interest. This applies to all parties to the collaboration. Inform your immediate supervisor before the collaboration is formalised. Discuss any concerns about potential conflicts of interest with your immediate supervisor.

Definition: Conflicts of interest are situations in which researchers have financial or other interests that may compromise or influence their research findings. What is decisive in this regard is not whether the research actually is influenced by the conflict of interest, but that there are grounds for suspicion, well-founded or not, that it may have been.

Agreements and finance

Draw up a written collaboration agreement

Make sure that there is an agreement on how costs are to be split between the parties of the agreement and any other financial conditions when the collaboration is formalised (for example a total budget).

your faculty’s additional requirements for research projects and collaboration agreements:


Conclude an agreement – Agreements on public sector consultancy are handled by the dean of the faculty in question. Projects that fall outside the work programmes of the framework agreement must involve the head of department/department management team together with the project manager, cf. Procedure 1 in the quality management system for public sector consultancy at TECH.

Make sure that financial management is in compliance with the Instructions regarding external grants.



Agree on a division of responsibility

Agree on a clear division of roles and responsibilities that is understood by everyone involved.

Steering committee

Decide whether the project needs a steering committee

Decide whether the project needs a steering committee.

Definition: Steering committees are typically appointed in connection with larger projects and projects involving more than two partners. The interests of all of the partners must be safeguarded by the steering committee. The steering committee may be assigned specific tasks by the funder. A member from AU may participate in a steering committee by agreement with the head of the member’s department/school or centre. The function and organisation of the steering committee must be described in the collaboration agreement. How any differences of opinion that arise in the steering committee are to be handled must also be described here. The role of steering committees is not to direct research or manage AU’s employees, but rather to ensure coordination and progress, compliance with the budget and to deal with any potential conflicts of interest.

Project management

Select project manager(s)

Select project manager(s).

Definition: The project manager has the practical responsibility for the successful completion of the project. In collaborations involving two parties, each party typically selects a project manager, and the two project managers work together to ensure progress and coordination. An external project manager may not direct research at AU or manage AU employees. An external project manager may manage the overall progress of a project or sub-project. The tasks of the project managers must be included in the agreement. The parties may not replace a project manager without mutual approval.

Advisory group

Decide whether the project needs an advisory group

Decide whether the project needs an advisory group.

Definition: Advisory groups are typically appointed in connection with larger projects. Their function is purely advisory. The names of the advisory group’s members and the function of the group must be described in the agreement.

Data management

Collection and storage

Collect, store and share research data

Collect, store and share research data in compliance with the university’s Instructions for storage and processing of research data.

Definition: Data are defined as all material collected systematically for research purposes, including electronic data, for example from registers, surveys or interviews, notes, texts, literature, images, human material such as blood or tissue or material from animals, including biobanks.

Publication and communication

Quality assurance

Perform peer review

Make sure that research publications are subjected to peer review in accordance with best practice within the field in question.

Definition: Peer review is a process for ensuring the quality of research publications. Peer review of publications involves an evaluation of the publication by qualified researchers within the field as a condition for acceptance for publication in a journal or other media. Peer review may be anonymous or performed by an editorial committee. The type of peer review depends on the field and its traditions. The following requirements also apply to peer review:

  • Peer review must always take place before publication.
  • At least one reviewer must be independent of the publisher/institution.
  • Peer reviewers must have research qualifications.
  • The review must evaluate the originality and scientific/scholarly quality of the publication.

In the case of research-based public sector consultancy, peer review may be performed by an internal peer who has not contributed to the project in question but who has expertise in the area. Due regard for short deadlines must be exercised. The guidelines are described in the Quality management system for public sector consultancy at TECH in Procedure 7. The form of scientific/scholarly quality assurance to be employed is decided in connection with the drafting of the description of the project, cf. Procedure 6. Publication in academic journals takes place according to normal procedures, with peer review.

The deadline for comments for internal peer review must be agreed at the initiation of the project or at the latest in connection with submission of the draft paper for review.

Comments and approval

Allocate time for external comments

Allocate time for the external partner to review and comment on drafts of publications, reports, etc. in which the research results will be published or communicated if this has been agreed in the collaboration agreement. The partner must review and comment on the draft as quickly as possible (the category of collaboration typically determines the deadline and is regulated in accordance with the specific type of grant).  While the external party has the right to propose revisions to the text, ultimately the AU researcher alone determines the content and phrasing of the text. However, the publication may not contain confidential information belonging to the external party.

Allocate time to ensure that the external party has the option of postponing the planned publication for an appropriate period of time if this is necessary in order to guarantee the external party’s intellectual property rights. Such postponements will typically last for three to four months, and may never exceed six months, from the date of receipt to submission of comments.

Make sure that the external party’s review and comments are documented. For example, a separate review document, as at TECH (may only be accessed by TECH employees). If you are not employed at TECH, contact Thomas Plesner if you would like to use the review documents.

Give the external party the opportunity to approve the draft for publication if the external party is co-author.

Register all correspondence on quality assurance, review and approval in the archiving system. Make notes and register them as well if any important discussions take place orally.

In exceptional cases, the client may request that AU delay publication by up to seven working days. Any such postponement should always be agreed in advance.


Disclose relevant relationships the publication

Disclose all relevant relationships openly in the final publication or research communication, so that it is clear that the publication complies with the central principles.

At a minimum, the following must be openly disclosed:

  • potential conflicts of interest
  • funding
  • authorship
  • quality assurance (peer review)
  • the nature of the external party’s contribution.

Publication and press

Disclosure in press materials and other forms of communication

Be aware that the above guidelines on disclosure also apply to any press materials and other forms of communication.

any other relationships that may involve potential conflicts of interest in regard to the research or the individual researcher in any press materials and other forms of communication.

Be aware of the external party’s press materials and other forms of communication. These materials must be approved if Aarhus University’s name is mentioned. Contact your immediate supervisor if in doubt.

Cite the external party as a source if the external party’s press materials and other forms of communication are published on AU’s platforms.

Comply with Universities Denmark’s principles for good research communication.


Cite external partners as authors

Cite external partners as authors in accordance with AU’s definition of authorship.

Definition: A contributor is defined as an author if they have made a significant contribution to the publication in question, if the contribution has been acknowledged by all other authors, and if the contribution at a minimum comprises:

  • Substantial contributions to research idea or design, data collection, analysis or interpretation of data
  • Substantial contributions to the drafting of the publication.

Read a more detailed discussion of authorship in the Policy for research integrity, freedom of research and responsible conduct of research.