Academy’s three Spinoza laureates and the future of Dutch research

President José van Dijck

It’s always exciting to be present when NWO reveals the names of its Spinoza laureates, but this year the Academy had a special reason to celebrate. Three prominent, active Academy members have won Spinoza Prizes: Albert Heck, Eveline Crone and, last but not least, our own Alexander van Oudenaarden, director of the Hubrecht Institute.

After succeeding Hans Clevers as director, Alexander has continued to build the institute into a world-class research centre. We sat there grinning with pride when Stan Gielen and jury chairperson Jan Karel Lenstra made the announcement. The official awards ceremony will follow in September, giving the laureates the whole summer to look forward to this crowning event.

The summer recess will start in only a few weeks. Before then, the Academy Board has a number of matters to round off. One is the advisory report on language policy in higher education – Dutch and/or English? – that the Minister of Education, Culture and Science has asked the Academy to produce. Under Janneke Gerards’s expert leadership, a large group of stakeholders spent almost a year discussing this issue, which is a sensitive one from both a political and policy-related perspective. We will offer the Minister the report on 11 July. The guidelines it offers should help foster a sensible, non-polarising discussion at research universities and universities of applied sciences.

We also expect to publish a position paper on the need for more academically trained teachers in secondary education. With a shortage of teaching staff already on the horizon, it will not be easy to attract more university-trained teachers to jobs in secondary schools.

The inauguration ceremony on Thursday 8 June was a festive event: for the first time ever, the ‘three societies’ joined together to welcome their 42 new members with music and dance at the Amsterdam Conservatory. We also notice that the new structure of the Learned Society, with its domains and advisory councils, is starting to have a real impact. Some time ago we distributed a questionnaire asking which days and times were best for scheduling activities. The responses indicate that most people prefer Mondays and Thursdays from 3 to 5.30 p.m. and from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m. We will schedule the four Academy-wide meetings on Mondays.

Enjoy your summer holiday! We hope to see you well rested and full of energy on one of our events later this year.

José van Dijck