The story on that extra 400 million euros for research

Vice-president Wim van Saarloos

Many Academy staff and members have been asking José and me about the status of the extra funding for research promised in the Government’s coalition agreement.  

'What are they planning in The Hague? When will hear about it? How will the money be used? Are we going to start implementing the Dutch National Research Agenda, and if so, how? Is there enough leeway to improve the basic infrastructure, and if so, how will we do that?' Although we haven’t got precise answers to these questions yet, the overall outlines are gradually becoming visible. 

By March 2018, there should be more clarity, at least in general terms, about the extra funding for research provided for in the coalition agreement. That’s when the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will prepare a spending proposal to set aside 200 million euros for basic research and 50 million euros for applied research, with the latter sum being bumped up by another 150 million euros from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. The proposals will then go to the Ministry of Finance. The two Ministries have consulted the various Knowledge Coalition partners about the underlying concepts of their proposals. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science has already admitted publicly that she wants to prioritise the Dutch National Research Agenda and boost the basic infrastructure in the science and technology sector, in line with the coalition agreement. We therefore expect that these points will feature in the plans. But the phrase ‘in general terms’ is important here: there are not likely to be precise rules governing how the money is to be channelled into expenditures. That means that a lot of work (and thought) will have to go into the subject after March as well, for example regarding the best way to implement the National Research Agenda. The Knowledge Coalition would like to take the routes identified in the National Research Agenda as the point of departure, and NWO is working on various proposals to that end. A suggestion by Academy member Bert Meijer to bolster the basic infrastructure on a sector-by-sector basis (inspired by the physics and chemistry sector plan) appears to be gaining traction in The Hague. This approach should also allow leeway for sector plans by the social sciences and humanities. We plan to organise a meeting about the new sector approach shortly. 

In stark contrast to the apparent silence from The Hague, three Academy reports published in the past week have generated broad media interest: Replication Studies (which will be the focus of our Domain Event on 5 March 2018), Aantrekkelijkheid van Nederland als Onderzoeksland [The Netherlands’ appeal as a research hub] and Talen voor Nederland [Languages for the Netherlands]. The latter report appeared just as the debate about using English in higher education flared again. Our Communication department’s new policy of providing detailed information for the media before we publish a report is clearly bearing fruit: newspaper articles addressing the reports and the related interviews and discussions have increased their impact considerably. We are very happy about the Academy’s growing visibility as an advisory body, a role that our four advisory councils and many members have taken upon themselves with great relish.

Wim van Saarloos