Researchers play a significant role in the debate about our future. As a society, we expect science to answer many of our questions. But it’s up to us to answer the most difficult questions of all. We expect advances in medicine, but are we willing to relinquish our personal data to achieve it? Should we be using laboratory animals in research? What are our personal opinions on progress? What are the uncertainties, and which legitimate interests play a role? Why do our opinions differ on issues? We have to keep peeling back the arguments until we see the underlying worries and then search for common ground. That is what we did in 2017, for example in our research on ammonia emissions from agriculture, which are harmful for human health and the environment, and in our investigation into ultra-deep geothermal energy, a promising replacement for natural gas.
We’re raising the bar
My next point is the Dutch knowledge ecosystem, which is in a period of tremendous change. The government wants it to play a leading role on the international stage. Our report Balans van de wetenschap [Science balance sheet] shows that this is already the case, but what does the Netherlands need to do to retain its edge? How do we ensure that the knowledge output of our top economic sectors or our ‘Living Labs’ work for the people who can benefit from them most, such as patients and local communities? Getting expert partners, universities, local authorities and civil society organisations to cooperate on tackling major challenges – for example the transition to sustainable energy, better health care and a safer society – isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
We are pleased with our work in 2017. Our aim in 2018 is to make people and organisations even more aware of how they can take control and help to decide how much influence science and technology have on their lives and their work.
We will be producing reports on digital democracy, modern biotechnology, and public-private partnerships between universities and businesses. We will also continue to encourage dialogue about trends in research, for example by publishing reports on PhDs and the Dutch government’s policy on promoting scientific excellence. We hope to see you again in 2018.’