Press release

Academy advocates continuous personal working capital – rolling grants – for scientists

16 October 2020

All scientists with a permanent position at a university or UMC must be given their own working capital, which they may spend on their work as they see fit. In an advisory report on a rolling grant fund that Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, received today, the Academy advocates grants for scientists at different stages of their careers.

The fund is intended to reduce the application pressure because it will no longer be necessary to apply to NWO for even the smallest research projects. Such core funding via universities will provide a natural air supply for research.

Dutch scientists spend a disproportionately large part of their time applying for grants, while the award percentages are very low. And, more importantly, they can't spend the money on those matters that they think will benefit science the most. As a result, a lot of time and money is lost.

Rolling grant fund

The rolling grant fund for unfettered research, as proposed by the Academy, will provide assistant, associate and full professors with a permanent position with their own working capital in the form of research grants for each step that they take in their careers. Full professors will also have access to a follow-up module.

They can use that grant at a time that suits them so that they can continue to develop without having to look beyond the university or UMC for funding. Recipients will be free to decide how they spend the money, e.g. on the appointment of a PhD student or technician, or the purchase of equipment. The Academy's advice refers to increasing amounts, from 250,000 euros for an assistant professor to 500,000 euros for a full professor.

It will have to be a fund existing alongside current research grants from, for example, NWO, which itself needs an extra boost for unfettered research.

Greater role for universities

A rolling grant fund is uncomplicated. The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science allocates an earmarked budget to the universities and UMCs, which provide grants to support the research of those who obtain a permanent position on the basis of their qualities. The new system will use the existing promotion procedures and assessment systems of the universities and UMCs: they will determine who gets the grant and when.

Only scientists with an appointment of at least eighty percent will be eligible for the grants, and they will be available only to those whose position involves both research and teaching.

Funding

The annual budget required for the rolling grant fund can be roughly estimated at over half a billion euros. The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science will have to make new resources available for this purpose. By simply shifting existing resources, the introduction of the fund will create or increase problems elsewhere in the science system.

Academy advisory reports

At the request of the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the Academy developed detailed plans for the fund in its advisory report The rolling grant fund – key to unfettered research. It is a follow-up to the advisory report The science system in balance (Dutch) that appeared earlier this year. This includes the advice to increase the level of grants for unfettered research to the level of grants for thematic research.

Both advisory reports have been prepared by an Academy committee under the chairmanship of Bert Weckhuysen, professor at Utrecht University, winner of the Spinoza Prize and member of the Academy.

Order or download the publication

KNAW (2020). Het rolling-grantfonds. Kloppend hart voor ongebonden onderzoek. Amsterdam, KNAW. (In Dutch, with a summary in English)