Column

Loud and clear in a new spring

President José van Dijck

Spring began loud and clear this year on Saturday 22 April during the March for Science, when worried researchers around the world let their voices be heard. They were unanimous in expressing their concern about the declining trust in and crumbling support – both moral and financial – for scientific expertise. 

The call to support science was heard loud and clear in Amsterdam as well, where students, government ministers and many others stood shoulder to shoulder in Museum Square to show their solidarity with researchers. The atmosphere was exceptionally good, and the Academy’s idea of issuing ‘recommendations and ice cream’ was greatly appreciated, as Wim and I heard from the many people who visited our stand. 

I hope that the call for financial support – so fittingly expressed by several renowned Dutch scientists in the national newspaper NRC – will reach the negotiating table of the politicians who will continue their attempt to form the new Dutch government next week. We will keep the pressure on during this process, of course, with members of the Knowledge Coalition visiting all parliamentary party spokespersons. 

Spring also got off to a good start thanks to the chairpersons of the four Academy domains and four advisory councils, who have tackled their tasks within the Learned Society’s new structure with verve. They have already organised two successful domain events, with the next one (in the medical domain) taking place on 29 May. Our first General Meeting was well attended by more than one hundred members. We notice that members appreciate being able to discuss not only practical matters but also topical issues during these meetings. For example, in February members talked about the freedom of scientific pursuit, while the next meeting will address not only our annual accounts but also what Brexit will mean for science. 

Spring will also make a noisy entrance at the Trippenhuis Building, where builders will be drilling, hammering, demolishing and constructing. The entrance hall and the Tinbergen Room will be undergoing a major renovation in the next few months, and the work will – as we’ve mentioned before – cause considerable inconvenience. More of our meetings will take place at Amsterdam Public Library (OBA), and the VOC Hall at the Oost-Indisch Huis on Kloveniersburgwal. For one time only, we will hold a combined induction ceremony for the new members of the Learned Society, the Young Academy and the Society of Arts. This impressive event will take place on 8 June at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. And again, for one time only, we will move our annual Academy Day, featuring our President’s annual address and a featured speaker, from May to 28 August at the OBA. Our guest speaker this year will be Frits van Oostrom, who will talk about his new book, guaranteed to be a splash with readers. On the same occasion, we also intend to present an essay about the future of the Dutch science system. The essay will reflect various discussions that the Board has had about the success factors of and the growing pressure on our science system. 

The voice of science will once again be heard loud and clear this spring. 

José van Dijck

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