Coalition agreement: the glass of extra investment in research and innovation is only 40% full

Vice-president Wim van Saarloos

light-bulb-moment-2615457-pixabay-300x200.jpgAfter a long wait, the time has finally come: the third Rutte Government’s coalition agreement has at last established whether The Hague heard the scientific community’s plea to invest an additional billion euros of government funding in research and innovation a year.

They partially listened to the plea: the extra funding will only add up to an additional EUR 400 million a year for research, with the Science Ministry earmarking half this amount for basic research. Most of this portion will probably be distributed through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). A further sum of 2 x EUR 50 million will be made available to reinforce the Dutch research infrastructure.

Although the glass is only 40 percent full, the Knowledge Coalition partners see this as moderately positive news, as do we. If NWO can use this extra funding, including for the Dutch National Research Agenda, without further constraints, then it will be an important first step in the right direction. I would refer readers to the Academy’s comments, which can be found on our website, and to the comments of the Society of Arts and The Young Academy, which have voiced their own criticisms in this matter.

Meetings and debates

In the Academy’s case, the first few weeks of October were taken up with various meetings and debates. The well-attended public symposium about the use of English in Dutch higher education – organised in response to a recent advisory report on this subject – had scarcely finished when the Amsterdam Public Library’s auditorium hosted another public event at which Academy members Bert Weckhuysen, Frank Linde and Carl Figdor and author and literary journalist Margot Dijkgraaf discussed the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Literature. Frank Linde had an easier job than the other three, as they could only start familiarising themselves with their topic after the relevant Nobel laureates had been announced, while everyone had indeed expected the Nobel Prize in Physics to be awarded for the detection of gravitational waves from a black hole binary. There were even rumours that an entirely new type of event had been observed. (These rumours have now been confirmed. The Academy is organising a meeting on the topic on 26 October 2017.)

Domain meetings

The domains are starting to feel their way as organising entities. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Domain held its second meeting on 2 October 2017. The programme featured two lectures and two obituaries.

The Academy Board and the chairpersons of the domains and domain advisory councils continue to discuss how to strike the right balance between the Board and the domains and find the right methods of coordination.

To give members the opportunity to get together before or after a domain meeting, we’ve decided to change the schedule. Future domain meetings will be held on Mondays and Thursdays, either from 3 to 5.30 p.m. or from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m.

Trippenhuis Building renovation

Unfortunately, it will be almost a year before everything is back to normal. According to the Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’), renovation of the Tinbergen Auditorium will not be ready until September 2018. Unfortunately, that means that the inauguration of the new president in May 2018 will not take place in the Trippenhuis Building. We will also continue encouraging off-site meetings in the spring of 2018, as part of our Academy outreach programme.

Wim van Saarloos