Academy: more resources for unfettered research needed from NWO

29 January 2020

Research funder NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) currently spends twice as much money on strategic research than on unfettered research.

These two types of scientific research are equally important and therefore the allocation of funding between them must be balanced, writes the Academy in its report Evenwicht in het wetenschapssysteem (Balance in the Research System), published on 29 January 2020.

From projectification to rolling grants

Due to the tight science budget in our country, there is a run on NWO programmes, resulting in unacceptably low award percentages and an unpredictable outcome of selection procedures. Researchers have become heavily dependent on competitive research funding (from NWO and European programmes) and projectification has become a feature of research, with researchers working from grant project to grant project. In order to overcome these problems, the Academy wants to create a permanent fund at universities and research institutes with rolling grants, which will allow researchers to compete less and focus more on their work. Universities need to develop a vision regarding talent policy and the different forms of funding for researchers throughout their careers.


The Academy is advising NWO, which is already focusing efforts on reducing the pressure on the research system, to simplify the conditions in its research programmes, reduce their number and bring them more into line with each other.

There must be a clear distinction between the proposed pillars for unfettered and strategic research.

In the strategic pillar, gains can be made by creating greater synergy, for example between the National Research Agenda (NWA) and the Knowledge and Innovation Contract (KIC, the top sectors).


The report Evenwicht in het wetenschapssysteem. De verhouding tussen ongebonden en strategisch onderzoek has been drawn up by an Academy committee chaired by Bert Weckhuysen (Professor at Utrecht University, winner of the Spinoza Prize and member of the Academy).


Bert Weckhuysen explains the report in this video (Vimeo).