Reinforcing the foundations with a sector-driven approach

Vice-president Wim van Saarloos

On Tuesday 8 May, the Academy and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) have scheduled a public meeting about the sector plans for research and education. 

I realise that this date is inconvenient, as it falls right in the middle of spring break, but it was chosen because we wanted to combine our meeting with the kick-off meeting for the Dutch National Research Agenda that NWO is organising, and the date of that meeting was in fact set by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven. 

In my previous blog, I briefly outlined how the extra budget for research earmarked in the government’s coalition agreement will be spent. A major portion of this budget will be used to implement the Dutch National Research Agenda; in addition, sector plans will be drawn up covering the basic science fields physics, chemistry and mathematics, the technical sciences, and the social sciences and humanities.

Sector plans are meant to reinforce the foundations of academia. The committees installed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will be responsible for identifying the working methods and for allocating funding. The Ministry is presently working out the fine details, such as the budgets to be allocated for the various plans and the size and composition of the committees.

We thought it would be a good idea to schedule a public meeting about this sector-driven approach now, so that we can brainstorm about the broad outlines before the committees start their work in earnest. I’m a big fan of the sector plan committee for physics and chemistry, headed by Douwe Breimer, which positioned itself as a ‘critical friend’ to those working in the field and the deans of science. During our meeting, Douwe Breimer will explain the success of this approach, Bert Poolman will tell us where the idea for a collective sector-driven approach comes from, and René de Borst and Mark Bovens will make suggestions for tackling the technical sciences and the social sciences and humanities.

Portfolio evaluation

We are already working hard to prepare for the ‘portfolio evaluation’ of the Academy and NWO research institutes in the autumn. On 18 April, the Academy and NWO organised a joint meeting with the institute directors of both organisations. We discussed the Academy Board’s strategic vision document, which addresses the role and position of the national research institutes. Members who wish to read this document – which will be discussed during an Academy Meeting at the appropriate time –  may download the PDF from the Academy intranet. (If you don’t remember your log-in data, please contact

Academy’s 210th anniversary

Finally, the Academy will be marking its 210th anniversary on 8 May, but we have decided to postpone the celebrations owing to the renovation work going on in the Trippenhuis Building. We promise to make amends when we unveil the refurbished Tinbergen Room next year!

Wim van Saarloos