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How the science system works

PhD student prepares for her PhD at the University of Groningen. (Corné Sparidaens / ANP)
Een promovenda aan de universiteit van groningen bereidt zich met haar paranimfen voor op de promotieplechtigheid
Part of the Rathenau Instituut’s remit is to clarify how the science system works. This is an ongoing activity in addition to our research within the themes set out in this work programme. Developments in science and policy will give rise to new emphases in performing this task in the coming years. Policy goals change, for example the launch of the Recognition & Rewards programme, and major new investments in science. These initiatives require monitoring and analysis.

We foresee new demands for information from the Rathenau Instituut about the science system, and analyses of it, as well as for further development of this expertise. We will continue to issue our periodic publications, such as Balance of Science, and supplement them with qualitative studies and topical analyses. For certain topics, we will conduct surveys, for example of private individuals or scientists, which we will combine with in-depth research. One example is our triennial survey on trust in science.

We refer below to two topics to which we will pay specific attention in the next two years. In addition, we will make information available or perform analysis based on current developments in science, policy issues, or requests.

Additional investment for science
In the coming period, we will monitor how additional investment in the science system is used. A great deal of additional funding is currently becoming available based on the Dutch government’s Coalition Agreement, for example through the Fund for Research and Science and the National Growth Fund. Funding is being made available for start-up and incentive grants, as well as sector plans and investment for the further development of applied research and large-scale scientific infrastructure.

We will deal with implementation of these new investments in our forthcoming reports on Total Investment in Science and Innovation (TWIN). In the next edition of Balance of Science, we will also devote specific attention to the government’s aims with the newly deployed policy instruments.

Broad, diverse scientific talent
In 2019, knowledge institutions and research funding bodies launched the Recognition & Rewards programme, and in 2020 the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science published the National Action Plan for greater diversity and inclusion. These reflect the way scientific talent is now viewed more broadly. Scientists should be recognised and rewarded not only for their research but also, for example, for teaching, supervising students and PhD candidates, transferring knowledge to society, academic leadership, and collaboration. The Open Science movement, which involves opening up scientific research to society, also requires new skills on the part of researchers. Our periodic survey of what drives researchers and teachers provides an insight into what motivates scientists and where they experience obstacles. In the coming years, we plan to further investigate the effects of the aforementioned policy initiatives on the make-up of the university workforce.