Royal Academy plans major investment in humanities institutes

28 June 2012

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences plans to invest an extra EUR 15 million in its humanities institutes in the coming years.

The investment will finance an IT infrastructure meant to renew methodological research in the humanities. It will also pay for extra research staff and help improve access to the institutes’ unique collections. Additional funding for research and cooperation will allow the Academy’s humanities institutes to continue playing a prominent role in Dutch and international scholarship and to impart their knowledge to society.

Humanities research has been under pressure for some time now in the Netherlands’ strained political and economic climate. The Academy has decided to give this valuable area of research, which covers every facet of society, an enormous boost. It plans to invest heavily in improving the quality and consistency of the research carried out within its humanities institutes. It will also be making a major investment in a new collections policy.

Above and beyond the extra funding, the Academy intends to support closer cooperation between its institutes in such areas as operations, ICT and personnel policy. This means introducing economies of scale that will help the institutes compete internationally at the highest levels. Scale economies are also vital to developing the IT systems needed to conduct cutting-edge humanities research – research that increasingly involves searching and analysing large data files.

To make all this possible, the Academy will work towards creating a single, integrated organisation covering all humanities research and its entire collections policy and management. The Academy institutes will, however, retain their own names, identities and research autonomy. The institutes are: the Huygens Institute of Netherlands History (Huygens ING), the International Institute of Social History (IISH), the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Meertens Institute, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS). These institutes are supported by Data Archiving & Networked Services (DANS).

The investment programme should ultimately lead to a cluster of humanities institutes in Amsterdam, to be known as the KNAW Humanities Center. The Center’s innovative research and collections policy should position it at the forefront of Dutch and international research. It will also serve as a node for collaboration with other humanities institutes and faculties in the Netherlands and abroad and with innovative businesses (in ICT and the creative industry).

A multidisciplinary international review committee recently assessed the research conducted by four of the Academy’s institutes (IISG, KITLV, Meertens and NIOD) as very good to excellent. All four institutes also maintain important collections. In order to increase the impact of its institutes, the Academy plans to highlight their research along two main lines: Dutch culture, history and language and History of social movements, war and colonialism/post-colonialism in a globalising world. Knowledge valorisation for the benefit of the economy and society will be an ongoing point of attention.

The review committee felt that the Academy’s collection management and policy had not been pro-active enough in recent years. The Academy takes this remark seriously and intends earmarking a considerable sum of money for storage, preservation and access to its humanities institutes’ collections, many of which are world-famous. The institutes will develop a joint collections policy.

The Academy will proceed with its plan to innovate the humanities institutes over the next five to six years.

For more information
Communication Department, telephone +31 20 551 0858

For information (in English) about the Academy’s humanities institutes, see


Evaluation of IISH, KITLV, Meertens, NIOD