Impact of advisory work

Vice-president Wim van Saarloos

In the final column of 2017, I’d like to take a moment to describe the impact that our advisory work has in the Netherlands and our increased input into European advisory work, in the knowledge that too many of our members remain unaware of our role in this area.

On 14 December, José van Dijck addressed the plenary session organised by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Interuniversitaire Commissie Lerarenopleidingen (ICL) concerning the topic More academics in the classroom – the university as a teacher trainer. I myself participated in a panel discussion at the same conference. Last summer, the Academy had published a position paper arguing in favour of university graduates in teaching. I am pleased that our paper helped advance the importance of academically trained teachers in secondary education. As researchers, we too can support this by persuading our students that teaching is a fine and honourable profession, and by helping to dismantle barriers to a career in secondary education. This was the message that José and I conveyed during the VSNU conference.


One of the key aims of the Academy’s strategy, published in early 2016 (six months before the Brexit referendum), is to forge closer links between our policy advisory work and Europe. Slowly, that strategy is starting to take shape. In late June, we hosted a meeting of the European Science Advisors Forum in Amsterdam to share best practices and reinforce the network. The European Commission’s new High Level Group of Science Advisors, one of whose members is Pearl Dykstra, attended the meeting. The Netherlands has been asked to coordinate the ESAF for the next three years, with the Academy and the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) taking on this role jointly.


In 2017, we increased our participation in of EASAC, the European Academies Science Advisory Council, which until recently had Jos van der Meer as its president. The EASAC advises the European Commission and the European Parliament on the biosciences, environment and energy. I recently became the chairperson of the EASAC’s Energy Steering Panel, responsible for initiating and overseeing its energy reports. Gradually, you will notice that the Academy is devoting more of its energy to such reports. You are likely to have noticed the extensive media coverage of a critical EASAC report on homeopathy, which even gained a mention in the popular Dutch comedy programme Zondag met Lubach.

Next year

In 2018, we’ll be taking this a step further. On 19 February, the Academy will organise an afternoon meeting in The Hague on the EASAC report Multi-functionality and Sustainability in the European Union's Forests, which presents a number of important new findings and makes various recommendations concerning the sustainability of forests and the use of biomass as a source of energy. The vice-president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Christina Moberg, has accepted my invitation to join us from Stockholm and talk about the huge impact that the report has had in Scandinavia.

Many other fascinating subjects will be addressed in the new year. But for now, let me wish you a happy holiday season on behalf of the Board and the Academy’s director general. We look forward to seeing you in 2018!

Wim van Saarloos