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Official Board change on 1 April: talking to Eddie Brummelman and Marie-José van Tol

April 03, 2024

Although the gavel was already transferred symbolically during The Young Academy's members' day last week, the official Board change actually took effect last Monday, 1 April 2024. Marie-José van Tol stepped down as President and was succeeded by Eddie Brummelman.

In this article, we look both back and forward with them: what lessons can we learn, and what challenges do they foresee for The Young Academy in the future? 

In Dutch

‘A President with diplomatic clout, who paid attention to the members, and who has a passion for science‘, is how Brummelman describes Van Tol. ‘As President, Marie-José showed that The Young Academy really can bring about change and can have a significant impact on science and science policy. She’s been really inspiring.’ 

From that description, you wouldn't expect Van Tol to have had doubts about becoming President of The Young Academy.Van Tol: ‘As President, you're a link between the members of The Young Academy and the world outside. Initially, I didn't know if I’d be as effective as my predecessors, but right from the start, the presidency was exciting and interesting at the same time.’ It means getting the ideas prevalent within The Young Academy in the right place but also relaying the information coming out of all the discussions with other parties and boards back to the members, such as from the boards of the Royal Academy, NWO, OCW, UNL, and the university executive boards. Van Tol now understands the nature of 'administrative reality' a lot better: ‘I've become aware of the interests that organisations need to serve, and that's given me a better understanding of where problems sometimes originate – but also where you can find solutions. There are an awful lot of nice people working in and around the world of science who understand how you need to organise science and university education to make it effective and motivating, and who are open to potential changes. I found that very encouraging.’

Everyone Professor! 

One of the changes Van Tol was involved in last year was ‘Everyone Professor!’. Brummelman: ‘The Young Academy identified a problem: university lecturers and senior lecturers put in a lot of work supervising PhD candidates, but they rarely get the appropriate recognition and appreciation for doing so.  For example, some of them aren't allowed to confer the degree of ‘doctor’ on their own PhD candidates, aren't allowed to wear a professorial gown during the PhD ceremony, and aren't allowed to use the title “Professor”. Marie-José worked hard – both publicly and behind the scenes – to reduce that inequality.’ 

And she was successful. At an increasing number of universities, university lecturers and senior lecturers are being granted the ius promovendi and the right to wear what the Dutch call a toga. Brummelman continues: ‘And that’s just the beginning! We hope more universities will take these important steps, and embrace the entire “Everyone Professor!” package.’

Bringing knowledge parties together 

Van Tol: ‘The “Everyone Professor!” year was definitely one of the highlights of my time as President. It was great to see how everything came together.’ But there were a lot more highlights too. ‘For me personally, dinner at the Royal Palace with the King and Queen was certainly a highlight, but the knowledge mission to South Africa with Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf was also very impressive. It’s strange to feel that you’ve got something to contribute there and to be part of it.’ But perhaps the most important highlight for Van Tol was bringing together all the knowledge parties shortly after the outbreak of war in Ukraine: ‘We joined together to decide what we could do for at-risk scholars. We don't yet have a specific solution, but it’s extremely important to keep putting that issue on the agenda and seeking a solution. That still remains vital, and we now have a good idea of which solutions are and aren't possible. We'll be working on that in the period ahead and I look forward to staying involved.’ 

Scientific talent is needed

Brummelman: ‘Marie-José is someone who champions scientists in vulnerable positions, ranging from international PhD candidates on a grant (who are often paid significantly less than other PhD candidates in the Netherlands) to refugee scientists (who often can't get temporary funding to do research at a Dutch university because of tax obstacles).’ Brummelman looks forward to continuing Van Tol’s work: ‘We need all that scientific talent in order to tackle the challenges facing society – from climate change to growing social inequality. Unfortunately, we’re in danger of losing talented people. More and more scientists are being threatened, more and more scientists from abroad have doubts about their future in the Netherlands, and there’s still inequality of opportunity, for example based on social class or gender. In the period ahead, The Young Academy will therefore focus such questions as “How can we create an academic world in which we can attract, develop, and make use of scientific talent in the best possible way? And how can we offer every young scientist a fair start?”’

Van Tol confirms this: ‘Potential financial and political changes may put further pressure on academic freedom, diversity, and the internationalisation of science within the Netherlands. Eddie will make the most of the unique opportunity to influence science in the Netherlands by enlisting the voice of The Young Academy, and thus of many young scientists, so as to tackle those challenges.' And she has a final tip for him: 'Above all, revel in the energy of the members, the support, and the eagerness with which so many people want to talk to us.'

That’s what Brummelman is really looking forward to: ‘The strength of The Young Academy is in its members. It's truly special for me to be privileged to represent them as President and to achieve our shared ambitions and ideals. Our members come from diverse backgrounds, from diverse disciplines, and with diverse opinions. By embracing and utilising that diversity, we can optimise our efforts on behalf of all young researchers in the Netherlands.’

New Board members

Besides Eddie Brummelman as the new President, Léonie de Jonge (Vice-President), Sanli Faez, and Else Starkenburg officially joined the Board on 1 April. You can read more about the new members here. We therefore say goodbye to Thijs Bol (Vice-President) and Hilde Verbeek as Board members; both have completed their two-year term of membership. Noel de Miranda has been a member of the Board since 2023 and will remain in office until 2025.

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