From the chair of NWO Domain Science - 2

Chair’s corner 2: NWO changes!

'As of 2017 NWO is operating with a completely new governance and organisational structure. So far you may not have noticed big changes because we still - necessarily - carried out the "old NWO" programme. But with the new NWO strategy 2019 - 2022 key changes will be visible in 2019.'

Niek Lopes Cardozo, waarnemend voorzitter van het bestuur van ENW.  Foto: Bram Saeys.Niek Lopes Cardozo, waarnemend voorzitter van het bestuur van ENW. Foto: Bram Saeys.

Dear colleagues,

As you all know, as of 2017, NWO is operating with a completely new governance and organisational structure. Until now you may not have noticed big changes. That is because up to now, the 'new NWO' organisation - necessarily - carried out the still running 'old NWO' programme. But with the publication of the new NWO strategy 2019 - 2022, as of 2019 it will be the 'New NWO organisation executing the New NWO strategy'. This means that fundamental changes will become visible next year, when the new budget build-up will come into force and the increase of the research budget for the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (the Dutch Science Agenda, NWA) and infrastructure will become available. 2018 is the transition year: the old 'gebieds'-based granting instruments have run their course and have been replaced by the new NWO Open Competition.

In the new NWO make-up, the budget comes in the following categories. Strategic, long-term and thematic programmes are concentrated in the columns Institutes, Infrastructure, NWA and KIC (top sectors). All of these are cross-NWO. And in general support of the field, organised by NWO domains but without further thematic colouring, we have the person-oriented Talent line (Rubicon-Veni-Vidi-Vici) and the subject-oriented NWO Open Competition ENW (XS, KLEIN, GROOT). In the latter two we have removed the barriers between disciplines, and both feature a three-stage structure that encourages a development from small, explorative projects to larger programmatic research.

The Executive Board of NWO decided to augment the budget for the Open Competition by 30% from 2019 onwards. The Talent line and Open Competition together will then comprise about 30% of the total NWO budget.

Does this mean that the NWO Domain Science does not engage in strategic programming? Yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that the budget that is under direct control of the board of the NWO Domain Science is almost fully assigned to the Open Competition – as it is in the other NWO domains.

No, because the strategic choices in the institutes, the investments in infrastructure, NWA and KIC arise from, and are rooted in, the developments in the research field. The better the research field manages to self-organise and make clear choices, the more these choices will be reflected in the long term programming. It is in this way that the NWO Domain Science, through its advisory bodies and support to the various platforms, means to channel the ideas of the research field into the strategic programming. One should also realise that the teams running the NWA and KIC and supporting the institutes and infrastructure programme, are staffed partly by the same employees that work on the granting programmes in the NWO Domain Science. Likewise, there is direct input from the board of the NWO Domain Science to the Executive Board of NWO.

Finally, I realise that many of you had expected changes to become visible more quickly. Please bear with us. We have to stick to the six-month announcement of changes in procedures, the new research budget was announced by the end of 2017, but formally in Spring this year… So yes, it may seem long, but major changes are happening now. From 2019 we expect to see further evolution, which we will monitor closely and evaluate with your help.


Niek Lopes Cardozo, acting chair of the Board of NWO Domain Science
3 October, 2018