The Academy institutes are in the vanguard of Dutch and international research. In addition to research excellence, their status requires flexibility, independence and focus. The Academy’s strategic agenda for 2010-2015 has identified various policy priorities for its institutes.
Academy policy regarding its institutes
The Academy attaches great importance to the contribution that its institutes make to fundamental research, but it is also concerned about knowledge utilisation. For the 2010-2015 period, the policy priorities are:
- to promote the role of the Academy as an organisation of national research institutes;
- to take a leading role in drawing up the Dutch and the international research agenda;
- to encourage close cooperation with university research groups;
- to contribute to methodological innovation in the humanities (i.e. computational humanities);
- to promote the neurosciences, developmental biology and ecology;
- to optimise the availability and accessibility of the institutes’ collections;
- to promote knowledge utilisation;
- to achieve open access to research data and publications.
Innovating the humanities
Key concepts for the Academy’s humanities institutes are clustering, economies of scale, and technological innovation. The Academy wants to cluster its Amsterdam-based humanities institutes and DANS on the University of Amsterdam campus. The economies of scale that can be gained in this way will encourage the development and use of advanced IT. The institutes participate in the Academy’s e-Humanities Group, meant as a permanent workshop for technological innovation in the humanities. Methodological innovation will make it possible to discover patterns and connections in separate databases, leading to new insights into the nature and course of social processes and allowing researchers to develop new solutions to socially relevant issues, for example migration, demographic trends, social cohesion and dynamism, cultural diversity, and widespread violence.
The theme that connects all the Academy’s life sciences institutes is regeneration. For example, the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN-KNAW) expects to achieve a breakthrough in the field of neurogeneration in the next few years by developing new therapies. The Hubrecht Institute is extending its stem cell research in order to consolidate its international position and become a world leader in developmental biology. The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) concentrates on the recovery and preservation of ecosystems. It is devoting itself to climate change and the future of the land and the water. The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, finally, is working to achieve a leading position internationally in genetic resource counselling (fungi).
While the Academy institutes will retain their unique character, they will also cooperate more closely with universities in the years ahead. The purpose of this cooperation will be to develop national knowledge nodes. The institutes will cooperate with universities in joint research programmes. Their researchers will also be appointed to endowed chairs or have part-time appointments as professors at universities. The Academy aims to house its institutes in the vicinity of a Dutch university, as such proximity will encourage institute staff to interact with university researchers and students.
Cooperation in the humanities
To achieve more cohesion, focus and mass, the Academy is encouraging closer cooperation between its humanities institutes on the one hand and between its institutes and universities on the other. One method is to develop joint research programmes, wherever feasible leading to clustering on a university campus.
Cooperation in the life sciences
In addition to stem cell research and ecology, the focus in the life science institutes will be on the rapidly expanding and increasingly important field of neuroscience. The Academy has entered into a unique partnership in Amsterdam with the city’s two universities and their medical centres. The partnership, the Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging, has the support of the city of Amsterdam and the Province of Noord-Holland.
Construction of the NIOO’s new building on the grounds of Wagenin¬gen University and Research Centre will encourage cooperation with the university’ researchers. A joint expertise centre for soil ecology was launched in 2010. Cooperation between the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University Medical Centre will allow the institute to achieve economies of scale that make it internationally competitive. The Fungal Biodiversity Centre plays a key role in the joint Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity (NCB).
The institutes will devote a great deal of attention to knowledge utilisation. This includes both the commercialisation of knowledge and knowledge in the service of society. The Academy will encourage knowledge utilisation in both its life sciences institutes and in its humanities and social sciences institutes.