International experts conclude: Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) is 'excellent'

25 March 2013

An international committee of experts has rated the research quality of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) as 'excellent' - the highest score possible. The committee praised NIOO’s valuable long-term research, the consistent high quality across all ecological disciplines, and the way in which ecological knowledge is made available to science and society.

NIOO 'is a centre of excellence', according to the committee. The rating ‘excellent’ means that the institute’s research is considered ‘world leading’. With citation scores of nearly 70 procent above world average, the publications by NIOO researchers have an important and substantial impact in their field.

The four main criteria of the Standard Evaluation Protocol of the Dutch system of research quality assessment are:

  • quality
  • productivity
  • societal relevance, and
  • vitality & feasibility.

The institute’s four research departments each received the highest possible rating on virtually all these criteria. Together they form the largest research group on basic ecology in the Netherlands.

According to the experts, NIOO’s ‘unique selling point’ is its interdisciplinary long-term research – for example, the long-term experiments with plant and soil biodiversity, and the study on the common songbird Parus major, which started more than 50 years ago and is still ongoing. The latter study has demonstrated, among other things, the effects of climate change on nature – and now serves as an international example.

The review is not a snapshot in time: it covers a full seven years. The institute also received valuable advice on how to maintain its high quality in the future. The previous review, in 2006, rated the institute’s research as ‘very good to excellent’. In the period that followed the institute went through quite some changes: one of its research centres was transferred to NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), while the other two centres were merged and relocated to an innovative new building in Wageningen. Despite these disruptions the quality of NIOO’s research has increased to the highest possible level.

NIOO investigates how nature works, across the globe. With more than 200 staff and students of about 25 nationalities, it is one of the largest institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The institute’s research covers a wide range of subjects, including the function of biodiversity, animal personalities, toxic algae (which are in fact cyanobacteria), and antibiotic production by soil microbes. NIOO’s knowledge can help to address ecological and environmental problems caused by climate change, biological invasions, and changing land use.

NIOO’s innovative, sustainable research building across from the Wageningen University Campus mirrors ecological principles: closing of cycles, functional biodiversity, and the sun as primary source of energy. The building has won several awards.

The institute considers it essential to share research results and ecological knowledge with the public. Good ecological research can help to make our society more sustainable and resilient.

With more than 200 staff and students, NIOO is one of the largest research institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). It specialises in terrestrial and freshwater ecology. As from 2011 it is located in a sustainable research building in Wageningen.