Dutch officials influence results of independent research: report

Tweede Kamer
The Chairman's seat at the Tweede Kamerphoto: JanKranendonk / DepositPhotos

Top officials in Dutch Ministries repeatedly interfered with research studies by the independent scientific research and documentation center WODC, according to a letter from a WODC employee in Nieuwsuur's possession. If the results of a study are unfavorable to a Ministry, the officials exert pressure to have them adjusted, according to the letter from 2014.

The letter outlines a large number of examples of the Ministry of Justice and Security interfering in studies. According to the WODC, the Justice Ministry insisted that the outcome into a study on regulated cannabis cultivation be that it is not feasible. A study into problems caused by drug tourism had such poor results that the Ministry insisted the conclusions be adjusted. And the Ministry criticized the research set-up on certain studies on coffeeshops.

This complaint letter was first submitted in 2014, and then resubmitted this year, according to ANP. Up until now, nothing has been done, the now retired employee who wrote the complaint said. The employee added that the highest official at the Ministry of Justice and Security knows about the complaint.

Reports from the WODC hold enormous value in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. Parliamentarians refer to such reports when voting on policy. A huge part of that value comes from the studies being independent and objective.

"This should not have been allowed", Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said to Nieuwsuur. He stressed that people working on policy should not interfere with the work of scientific researchers. According to Grapperhaus, the protocol has been tightened and he will launch an external investigation to see whether the rules are being complied with. 

Parliamentarians responded to the Nieuwsuur report with outrage. SP MP Michiel van Nispen called such interference a "mortal sin" and said he feels "really deceived", according to ANP. D66 parliamentarian Maarten Groothuizen points out that reports from the WODC only have value if they are really objective. "If it is precooked by the Ministry, then we as Kamer want nothing to do with it."