2017: a good year for science

We are almost a month into the year 2017, so the ball is truly rolling. It’s going to be an exciting year. The USA has a new president, the UK will be making a hard Brexit, and it’s election year in many European countries, including the Netherlands. It will be a year of emotions, opinions and facts, and, I hope, a good year for science.

On 3 January we published an opinion piece in the newspaper NRC Handelsblad entitled ‘Wetenschap is “meer dan een mening”’ – Science is ‘more than just an opinion’. The many comments we received, both supportive and critical, show that our piece struck a chord with researchers and the general public. Members of our learned society, the Young Academy and researchers at Academy research institutes also voiced their views. The Academy Board has therefore decided to devote a symposium to this subject in the near future. Afterwards, we will see whether and how we should follow up on it.

Many of our members let us know that they appreciated the strong signal that we sent in writing a joint piece – one of us representing the humanities and the other the sciences. At the Board’s suggestion, we have therefore decided to share authorship of this column from now on.

Shared authorship in fact reflects how we have been working since we introduced the new president/vice-president model in September. As president, José leads the Academy, and Wim, as president-elect, shares in the many representative duties a president has to cover, but we have also divided some of our tasks. For example, the Academy’s fifteen institutes deserve and receive a substantial share of our attention, so José devotes most of her time to the Humanities and Social Sciences institutes, while Wim takes care of the Life Sciences.

We normally begin our working week on Monday morning by discussing ongoing business and external matters with director general Mieke Zaanen. Although our different disciplinary backgrounds mean that we often approach issues from a different angle, we are also often of the same mind. That is also the case for the entire Academy Board, which meets once every three weeks on Monday.

One important Academy milestone is that our new domain structure has started as of 1 January. Four members have undertaken to organise the new domains and prepare the first domain event; the chairpersons of the four advisory councils have also been appointed. They are:

Domain coordinators:


Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden University)

Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law

Arjen van Witteloostuijn (Tilburg University)

Natural Sciences and Engineering

René de Borst (University of Sheffield)

Medical, Biomedical and Health Sciences

Ron Fouchier (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

New council chairpersons:

Council for the Humanities

Keimpe Algra (Utrecht University)

Social Sciences Council

Corien Prins (Tilburg University)

Per 1 april Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam)

Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering

Frank den Hollander (Leiden University)

Bert Poolman (University of Groningen)

Council for Medical Sciences

Johan Mackenbach (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

We are grateful to these members for their willingness to work on the new structure. The advisory council seats have also been filled and the council members can be found on the Academy website.
We look forward to the first domain event for Academy members, which will be organised on Monday 27 February by the Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law domain.

José van Dijck
Wim van Saarloos