Science and research in the Netherlands: an essay on success and how to maintain it

28 August 2017

During the Royal Academy’s annual Academy Afternoon, President José van Dijck gave her annual address. She also presented her essay The Dutch Polder Model in science and research, co-authored with Academy Vice-President Wim van Saarloos. In their essay, they zoom in on the Netherlands’ success in research and warn that the Dutch science system needs reinforcement.

José van Dijck annual address, 28 August 2017 op Vimeo (in Dutch)

Dutch researchers, universities and institutes rate remarkably high in global and European rankings. The Dutch science system has translated a number of unique characteristics into success. Many take that success as a given, something that will continue automatically and without effort. That assumption is what inspired José van Dijck and Wim van Saarloos to write their essay. ‘Today’s success is no guarantee for the future,’ says Van Dijck. ‘To ensure that Dutch science remains strong, we will have to invest and put effort into smart forms of cooperation.’


With their quick scan of the Netherlands’ success and the contributing factors, the authors hope to raise awareness and help fuel the debate about the Dutch research and innovation policy. ‘It would be lovely to think that our publication will nudge the new Dutch Government in the right direction,’ says Wim van Saarloos. The ‘right direction’, the authors claim, is to embrace the investment agenda for research and innovation, presented about a year ago by a coalition of universities, other knowledge organisations, and private industry. The agenda offers politicians and policymakers guideposts towards achieving what the second Rutte Government set out to do: boost the Netherlands’ efforts in the area of research and innovation.

System under pressure

In their foreword, the authors write: ‘But today’s rankings and citation impact scores are the result of hard work and substantial investments in the past. In a way, we are looking in the rear-view mirror. Ahead the road looks a bit bumpier. Almost every day we talk to scientists, both young and at more senior levels, who experience the growing strain on the Dutch research system. Cracks are beginning to appear...’


The essay is meant for readers who want to know why the Netherlands is successful and would like an introduction to the Dutch science system. That includes young researchers and foreign researchers who work in the Netherlands, but also those who influence the Dutch science system, such as research managers, university administrators, policymakers and decision-makers.

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