Chemistry Round Table on tour: Erasmus MC and Delft University of Technology

17 April 2019

In 2019, the Chemistry Round Table is paying a series of visits to institutions and faculties that feature prominently in Dutch chemistry. This tour’s main goals are to get a reliable impression of chemistry in the Netherlands, to inform those working in professional practice about the role of the Chemistry Round Table within the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and to pick up cues from working professionals that will enable the Round Table to give NWO sound advice. On April 8, the Round Table visited Rotterdam and Delft.

A frank and earnest discussion

In the presence of the deans, the Round Table met with senior researchers and tenure-track researchers in Rotterdam and Delft.
One of the topics discussed in Rotterdam was the efficient procedures by which researchers at Erasmus MC and other institutions are granted access to infrastructure. The topic of the partnership with Delft was also raised. In addition, people spoke about their initial experiences with the NWO Domain Science’s Open Competition. Another subject discussed was the balance between research funding for team science and individual grants. The need for an adequate tenure-track system for medical centres was also discussed. 

The topics discussed in Delft included the growth in student numbers (which have doubled over the past ten years) and how the university is dealing with this. It also appears that the current Flexibility and Security Act makes it difficult to offer positions to Veni grant laureates. These days, funding is increasingly being channelled into specific research themes, so the broad base of the subject is under pressure. According to Delft University of Technology, the sectoral plan is essential if this base is to be maintained. People also shared details of their experiences with domain-wide assessment; it is important to consider who exactly will be assessing your proposal. There was also a feeling that the conditions attached to co-funding act as a barrier to young researchers. Senior researchers already have a network in place, so it is easier for them to organize co-funding. One potential solution might be to organize co-funding on a programmatic basis. Regarding the deployment of sectoral planning resources via indirect government funding, it was suggested that a mechanism be devised to facilitate competitive offers, so as to attract foreign talent. It was also agreed that efforts should be made to improve the representation of chemical engineering at CHAINS. People expressed admiration for NWO’s advisory structure – with its advisory round tables and working groups.

Background to the Round Table on tour

In December 2017, the Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science established seven subject-based advisory round tables to advise the Board of the NWO Domain Science and to strengthen the organizational skills of those in the field of science. The Science domain’s Chemistry Round Table has now been operating for more than a year. During this period, the Round Table has been able to advise NWO on matters such as NWO’s strategy (and that of its Science Domain) for the upcoming period, on the harmonization of free competition, and on Open Access. In consultation with those working in professional practice, the Round Table has transformed the fifteen study groups into four working groups, with the associated committees.

The members of the Round Table want to use the tour to get a reliable impression of Dutch chemistry and of any burning issues among researchers. They also want to use this opportunity to inform those working in professional practice about the Round Table’s role within NWO. During each visit, the members of the Round Table will be speaking with small delegations of senior researchers and a number of tenure-track researchers.

Stages

In 2019 the Chemistry Round Table will stage the following visits:

  • the University of Twente and the University of Groningen
  • Leiden University, LUMC, Erasmus MC, Delft University of Technology
  • Eindhoven University of Technology, DIFFER, Maastricht University
  • Utrecht University, the Hubrecht Institute, Wageningen University & Research, Radboud University, Radboud University Medical Centre
  • the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Medical Centre, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, VU Medical Centre, NKI, AMOLF

Source: NWO