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Frequently asked questions

What motivates researchers?
What is 'knowledge transfer'?

Knowledge transfer is also referred to as knowledge utilisation or valorisation. In this study and the associated survey, we have chosen to use the term ‘knowledge transfer’ based on the definition given by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2014):

  • ‘Knowledge transfer is the process of using knowledge to create value by making it suitable and/or available for economic and/or societal purposes and by converting it into products, services, processes and new business activities. Knowledge transfer involves the economic valorisation of knowledge and the utilisation of knowledge to solve societal problems or to contribute to public debate.’

Knowledge transfer is an important task at all of the organisations discussed in this study.

  • Knowledge transfer is one of the tasks allocated to the universities, university hospitals and UAS under the Dutch Higher Education and Research Act.
  • That is not the case for the NWO and Academy institutes, but both parent organisations nevertheless regard it as one of their institutes’ tasks.
  • The mission of the PKOs is to work on resolving societal issues, inform policymakers and/or support businesses. Knowledge transfer is part of that mission.
Who participated in the study?

Some characteristics of the respondents:

  • The total number of respondents is 2.613.
  • The share of women is 47%.
  • 80% of the respondents lived in The Netherlands at the age of 18.
  • 64% is a doctorate holder, 28% is working on a PhD.
  • 24% is a doctoral candidate or teaching/research assistant.
  • 11% is professor.
  • 40% of the university respondents are assistant or associate professors.

All universities, university hospitals and NWO / Academy institutes participated. Of the 36 universities of applied sciences, 32 participated, and 22 of the 29 public knowledge organisations participated.

How is overtime calculated?

It was not the purpose of the survey to measure overtime, and we therefore did not do so explicitly. Because overtime is a topical issue, however, we have tried to clarify it based on available data:

  • the number of hours that people themselves say they work each week;
  • and the number of hours they are contracted to work. Based on these two questions, we have estimated how many hours researchers work above or below their contracted hours (hereafter: ‘overtime’). We first converted FTEs to hours per week in line with the collective agreement in their sector. We assumed that a full-time job at a university, UAS and NWO or Academy institute would be 38 hours a week. A contract for 0.8 FTEs, for example, would then be equal to 30.4 hours a week. For the university hospitals and PKOs, we assumed that a full-time job would be 36 hours a week (in line with the collective agreement covering these institutions). To calculate how many hours above or below their contracted hours people work, we divided the number of hours that a researcher actually works by the number of hours that he or she should be working according to their contract. For example, someone who works 50 hours a week and has a 38-hour contract works 50/38=1.32, or 32% more each week.

Outliers

Some of the values derived in this manner are extremely low and others are extremely high. In other words, there are researchers who work only 20% of their contracted hours and researchers who work 7x their contracted hours. These outliers mainly consist of employees whose contracts are for less than 0.6 FTEs. It may be that the researchers concerned misunderstood the questions. In the introduction to the questionnaire, the researchers are asked to answer the questions from the perspective of the research institution where they actually spend the largest percentage of their time working. The questions about their contract (FTE) and the number of hours that they work require them to add up the contracts/hours at multiple research institutions. Respondents on a contract for fewer than 0.6 FTEs were therefore excluded (n=209). Additionally, respondents who work fewer than 76% of their contracted hours were also excluded (n=32). It is unlikely, for example, that someone with a contract for 0.8 FTEs would have almost a whole day off every week (but still be paid for it). After these exclusions, 2,378 respondents remained.

Where do researchers work overtime most?

We asked researchers how many hours a week they actually work and how many hours they should be working according to their employment contract (measured in full-time equivalents of FTEs). Based on actual hours and contracted hours, we were able to determine whether researchers work more hours than they were hired to work. 

  • At universities, the average weekly overtime is 28%.
  • At university hospitals, the average weekly overtime is 34%.
  • At public knowledge organisations, the average weekly overtime is 19%.
  • At the NWO / Academy institutes, the average weekly overtime is 22%.
  • At universities of applied sciences, the average weekly overtime is 33%.

On average, researchers work overtime a quarter of their contracted hours

  • Average overtime is highest at organisations that are clearly geared towards teaching (universities, university hospitals and universities of applied sciences. At university hospitals, 44% of researchers work overtime by more than a third of their contracted hours, which in the case of full-time employment means 12 extra hours per week.
  • At universities, the amount of overtime differs from one job category to the next. Generally speaking, the more senior the position, the more overtime the employee works. For example, full professors work overtime by an average of 45% of their contracted hours, and doctoral candidates by an average of 19%. Associate and assistant professors work overtime by about 29% of their contracted hours. There is little difference between men and women in this regard. On average, men work slightly more overtime than women, i.e. 30% versus 24%. These differences are greatest among doctoral candidates.
  • University researchers with a permanent employment contract work more overtime on average than those on temporary contract (32% overtime versus 21%). This difference is even greater among researchers at university hospitals. There, researchers with a permanent job work overtime by an average of 44% of their contracted hours, as opposed to 26% among researchers whose job is temporary.
What differences between male and female researchers were found?

With regard to research universities, we explored whether there are differences in the time commitments of male and female researchers.

  • 53% of women indicate that they spend less or much less time on research than agreed, compared with 46% of men. The difference is largest among full professors. Seventy-six percent of female full professors say that they spend less or much less time on research than agreed. Among their male counterparts, that is 50%.
  • Fifty-one percent of women spend more or much more time on teaching than agreed, compared with 39% of men. That is especially true among postdocs/researchers and doctoral candidates. For example, 47% of female postdocs/researchers spend more or much more time than agreed on teaching; among their male counterparts, that is 33%.
  • Women are more likely than men to be dissatisfied with the amount of time they devote to teaching (29% versus 19%). The difference is greatest among assistant and full professors; see Figure 1.7. Forty-six percent of female assistant professors are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the amount of time they devote to teaching. Only 30% of their male counterparts are. Among female full professors, 28% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their teaching time; among their male colleagues, that is 14%.
  • 72% of female assistant professors are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the amount of time they devote to research, whereas 57% of their male counterparts are.