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

The 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 are divided into three sections: 

  1. Central principles
  2. Categories of research collaboration with external parties
  3. Procedures to ensure responsible conduct of research and freedom of research in collaboration with external parties

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.


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 may be limited in regard to the choice of research focus, which may be determined by the funder.

Researchers must always be free to select their approach and method, exclusively on the basis of scientific and scholarly considerations, and they must always be able to defend the chosen method.          

The arm’s length principle and impartiality

Research performed in collaboration with external parties must comply with the arm’s length principle, and researchers must have the freedom to perform impartial research.

Researchers must be independent of interests that might influence the choice of research methods and conclusions. It must not be possible to cast doubt on the independence, reliability and objectivity of the researcher and the research.

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


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 are defined as intellectual property rights/IP. Find information about when it is necessary to make a formal contract under part 3 - Procedures