Science and the 2021 elections

15 March 2021

The six political parties at the Academy election debate on 17 February were all agreed: more funding is needed for science. However, they couldn't agree on answers to the follow-up questions. How much more money is needed? Who should pay for it? Where should that extra money go?

 

View the debate on YouTube. Click here to open the video. (English subtitles)

In the Nieuwspoort debating centre in The Hague, six current members of parliament discussed their parties' plans for science in the next four years, chaired by NOS journalist Lucella Carasso. The debate was originally organised by science financier NWO, but following a server hack at that organisation, the Academy took over.

Funding and science

‘Business must invest more in R&D’, said Mustafa Amhaouch (CDA party). He believes that the current cabinet has already invested heavily in research through initiatives such as the Growth Fund. Roelof Bisschop (SGP party) disagreed with him. ‘Funding is currently a major bottleneck’, he said. He called the Academy's proposal for a rolling-grant fund to help young researchers a fantastic plan. Dennis Wiersma (VVD party) said that his party also wants more money for unfettered research, but despite repeatedly being asked by presenter Lucella Carasso, he did not mention any amounts. Knowledge also has economic value, he added. ‘We have to be careful what knowledge we share and where.’

Independent research

Eppo Bruins (ChristenUnie party) also argued for more scope for unfettered research. ‘What should that scope be? If you suddenly have some mad idea while drinking coffee, you can simply just go and research it.’ On the other hand, scientists on talk shows cannot count on his approval. He was not happy that the head of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment Jaap van Dissel testified in a court case about the curfew. Niels van den Berge (GroenLinks party) thought this was logical, given Van Dissel's expertise. ‘The appreciation of science has continued to grow. It is important that scientists appear more often on TV. They do need to be able to continue to operate independently, however’, he said.

Workload in science

The workload of scientists was also an important theme. Paul van Meenen (D66 party) spoke about valuing scientists based on indicators other than the number of publications. ‘Recognition and rewarding is in its infancy, but is a hopeful sign. We need to dispense with the researcher's standard work week. It currently looks like this: during the week focusing on research and education, at the weekend focusing on the next funding application.’