Committee with critics misses deadline advice on starting grants

Dijkgraaf will have to wait longer for advice on how to allocate 300 million euros in starting and incentive grants. A committee has requested a postponement of the deadline.

The deadline was March 31 and will now be June 30. (Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash)

Minister Dijkgraaf feels that more ‘space and stability’ is needed in the academic world. Partly because of the constant competition for research funding from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) many researchers are weighed down with work.

He unveiled his plan last year. Starting grants of 300,000 euros are to be made available to all assistant professors with a new fixed contract. Additionally, the universities themselves may allocate incentive grants of varying amounts. The total sum involved is 300 million euros per year. The aim is to make researchers less dependent on NWO.

Criticism was voiced very quickly. It could unintentionally lead to a new competition, in the view of The Young Academy: not at NWO, but within the institutions themselves.

A remarkable number of critics of Dijkgraaf’s plans have a seat on the committee

The activists of WOinActie suggested (in Dutch) simply distributing the funds among all assistant professors, associate professors and professors. That works out at 25,000 euros per person.

The universities had objections too. One of the ideas was that it might be better to give the money to teams instead of to individual researchers. And why should everyone get the same amount? The costs are higher in some fields than in others.

A special committee has been set up to advise Minister Dijkgraaf on the ‘elaboration’ of the plans for these grants. A remarkable number of critics of Dijkgraaf’s plans have a seat on the committee. And now that committee needs more time to issue its advice. The deadline was 31 March and is now 30 June.

Chair Bert Weckhuysen has asked the minister for a postponement, because the committee wants to engage “in broad consultation” with “potential recipients of the grants, administrators, participation council members and other stakeholders”.

Weckhuysen previously issued an advisory report to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) on such grants (which were known at the time as rolling grants). His committee includes members of WOinActie and The Young Academy, as well as the rector of Maastricht University and a member of the General Union of Education (AOb), which led a protest at the start of the academic year.

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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