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Science policy

The Young Academy takes part in discussions of science policy. Its attitude in such discussions is constructive; rather than merely criticise, the Young Academy wishes to propose innovative and practical solutions. It is precisely because its members are experienced scientists firmly grounded in research practice that the Young Academy can make an inspiring contribution to the debate on science policy.

Career policy, research funding and research valorisation are policy issues that affect everyday scientific practice. Another issue concerns current trends in university education. The Young Academy drafts position papers on such issues and organizes and attends meetings with politicians, policymakers and other contacts in the university world.

The Young Academy is frequently asked as formal or informal interlocutors or informants at discussions of policy proposals and the preparation of policy evaluations. Members of The Young Academy regularly converse with a variety of parties, among which are the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, members of parliament and other institutions that represent the field of science, such as VSNU, NWO, Rathenau, WRR and PNN.    

Summary of the Viewpoints

Science has many 'values', it provides many perspectives to reality, and it is limitless and colorful. There is no area in society that is not somehow influenced by science. Therefore, scientists are aware that they carry a great responsibility towards civilization. A lot is asked from research institutions, in particular universities: excellent education, research and the valorisation of knowledge.   

Science has to be able to stand its ground and to be valued at its own merits. These do not only relate to the intrinsic values of science, but also to its contribution to society.

Visibility

Science has an increasing impact on society. Moreover, science is mostly financed by public resources. Therefore, the general public has the right to be informed about the scientists' work in an accessible manner. To discuss issues of ethics and questions and problems in science, is of major importance. Scientists have to make visible what they mean to society and which processes lie at the basis of the development of knowledge en insight. 

Who Should Ask the Questions?

Politicians have expressed the wish to able to direct the choice of subjects and the proposition of priorities of science. For publicly financed research this is understandable to a certain extent. But political control can result in a deterioration of broadness with the fields, which may affect the quality of research and education on all levels and long-term innovation. Political control may never reduce academic freedom. In the interest of knowledge acquisition, scientists must be able to ask their own questions, to which the answers are unpredictable and originating in curiosity. 

Science is needed to educate people to become critical members of society, and science can contribute to the quality of life and the search for truth. These values may not be suppressed in the interest of economic gain.

In its current form, the Dutch government's policy of top sectors is a threat to the practice of science in its full form. While the humanities and societal sciences are being compromised, some fields of the beta sciences are under threat as well. A decline of the scientific landscape will lead to reduced changes of innovation and the possibility to attract and preserve talented scientists.

Link Between Education and Research

Development of talent, personal development and the collection of knowledge are central values in education. The quality of education benefits from a strong link between research and education. Therefore, both areas should be accommodated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. 

To be able to provide quality education at universities, teachers should be able to do research within their own fields. The valuation of education should increase.

Additionally, the link between research and education is important for primary and secondary education. Students and teachers should learn to do research within their own field. An increase in the number of teachers with a scientific background is needed. Scientists should be more involved in primary and secondary education, for example in the development of the subject Science and Engineering. 

Science funding

Since the ambition is expressed to position the Netherlands as a 'knowledge society', a thorough financial basis for free research in all scientific fields is essential. This type of research is quintessential for universities and research institutions.

The harmonization of the first and second types of funding is necessary. Universities provide a stable and productive environment through the first type of funding. Universities should be able to continue to finance their own research programs, and appoint their own researchers.   

Given the pressure of the second type of funding, an excellent research proposal no longer necessarily guarantees research funding. A sufficient basis through the first type of funding is crucial to properly carry into effect the university's core functions, such as the education of PhD candidates. 

Career Policy for Research Institutions

In the current system, the percentage of employees with a temporary contract is such a high number within certain research fields, that the stability of research is jeopardized. The number of researchers with a permanent contract should increase, in order to create a viable and appealing research climate.

Universities and research institutions should aim at the implementation of a career policy that actively attracts talented researchers, by allowing room for participation in areas outside the field of research, such as education, science communication and membership in boards and committees.   

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