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Leiden University appoints a professor of lobbying27 August 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
Leiden University has appointed a special professor of public affairs to provide insight into the work of lobbyists in the Netherlands.
The man who will take up the role is Arco Timmermans, currently research director of the Montesquieu Institute, which researches European parliamentary history.
Leiden is one of the top research universities in the Netherlands and the chair is the first of its kind in the country.
Also, possibly controversially, the role is sponsored by the lobby industry itself.
Lobbying for lobbyists?
The Professional Association for Public Affairs (BVPA) is the group behind the chair. The association was established to improve the reputation of lobbyists in society.
Chairman of the association Marcel Halma called the establishment of the professor a milestone.
"We consider it important that there is more structural scientific research into advocacy and public affairs in the Netherlands," he said.
In his research, Timmermans plans to chart how many lobbyists are active in public and private organisations and what interests they represent.
He also wants to investigate how effective lobbying organisations are, what determines their success and how they build their reputation.
He says, however, that he has not been appointed to improve the image of the lobby industry.
"The more I come to understand about the process, the more I can contribute to transparency," he said. "I am no tame professor who must show the lobby in a sympathetic light."
A large field
No one knows exactly how many lobbyists are active in the Netherlands. The BVPA has nearly 600 members, and since 2012 the Dutch parliament has had a mandatory lobbyist’s register with 75 names registered.
There are three types of recognised lobbyists: those employed by lobby firms; representatives of the public; and representatives from municipalities and provinces.