Interview with Dr. Monika Lessl

Bayer launches transparency register for science collaborations with external partners

Why do universities and companies work together? Doesn’t that affect independent research? And what role does transparency play? We spoke about these issues with Dr. Monika Lessl, Head of Corporate R&D and Social Innovation at Bayer.

Dr. Lessl, how important is cooperation with external partners to Bayer? 

Global challenges – such as climate change and COVID-19 – can be overcome only if all of societal stakeholders work together. That’s why research collaborations between universities and companies are so important. It is only through cooperation that basic research findings can be translated into real-life innovations that benefit society. At Bayer, we work with many different partners around the world – from universities and research institutions to startups and other companies – in the areas of healthcare and nutrition. These collaborations range from small bilateral projects to large-scale strategic partnerships and consortiums. But none of this can be done in isolation from society – the risk is a loss of confidence in science and research.

How would you describe the level of public trust in science today? 

Fortunately, studies indicate that public trust in science continues to be relatively high worldwide. At the same time, however, people are becoming increasingly suspicious of cooperation between companies and universities. Basically, they are concerned that research might be bought. For us, as a science company, the integrity and credibility of research and development are essential – that’s the bottom line. In science, the facts decide – not whoever finances the studies.

How can a company like Bayer help improve trust in these types of scientific collaborations?

We can offer transparency and dialogue. At Bayer, we know that transparency is an important step toward long-term trust. To build and strengthen that trust, we make information about a wide range of topics available to the public – from clinical and safety studies to our crop protection products as well as our lobbying expenditures. We want to show what it is we are doing, how we are doing it, and why. We publicly disclose the universities and public research institutions we work with in our research and development and are the first DAX company to introduce a transparency register detailing our science collaborations. We call it the Bayer Science Collaboration Explorer.

What information will this transparency register include? 

The database will list Bayer’s new, contract-based science collaborations with universities, public research institutions and individuals in Germany. 

In addition to transparency, you mentioned the word dialogue. Can you elaborate on that? 

Of course. We consider this register not only as a database, but also as an invitation to engage in a critical, constructive dialogue. In the interest of acceptance, all parties must talk and engage with one another, and find common solutions. With this in mind, we are holding our inaugural Bayer Transparency Day – Inside Science on September 16, 2021, where we will be discussing with external experts on ways to work together to bolster society’s trust in science and research. 

What’s next?

We are fully committed to expanding our efforts to promote transparency and dialogue. The transparency register is being launched in Germany, and it will gradually be introduced in other countries as well. We see this register as a work in progress which will need constant refining based on external feedback and are looking forward to hearing what people think. To complement this initiative, we will also be providing other opportunities for dialogue.


You can read the press release of the launch of the Bayer Science Collaboration Explorer here.

Dr. Monika Lessl
Head of Corporate R&D and Social Innovation, Bayer AG