NWO: Research budget needs to increase to remain a world leader

12 October 2020

“Significant additional investment and continuity in government funding are needed if the Netherlands is to remain a world leader in science.” Stan Gielen, chair of the Dutch Research Council (NWO), launched this appeal in response to the report on NWO by the Rinnooy Kan evaluation committee, which it presented to Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

NWO welcomes the evaluation committee’s call to increase the research budget. The committee states in the report that investments in research and innovation are crucial for the development of prosperity and welfare in a knowledge society. Investments are needed across the entire knowledge chain.

Like any other independent administrative body, by law NWO has to be evaluated every five years. This evaluation was carried out later because NWO underwent a period of transition in 2017 and 2018. The organisation is in significantly better shape since the previous evaluation in 2013, according to Rinnooy Kan's final report: more research is being funded, governance has improved, the role in Europe has become stronger and NWO is well positioned to achieve its ambition as a bridge between science and society.

Chair Stan Gielen responds to the report: “NWO feels encouraged by the committee’s praise for the way in which NWO has carried out its mission and core tasks. At the same time, there are also areas of concern and note. The committee recommends that NWO improves how it monitors and assesses its own effectiveness, and NWO can be more transparent about the decision-making process in assessment procedures to achieve greater clarity for scientists. The committee has made fifteen recommendations to NWO, which we need to work on.”

Increasing the research budget

NWO endorses the report’s conclusions that research will benefit from a calmer environment and more financial resources and welcomes the call to increase the research budget. As far as NWO is concerned, additional funds should be made available for unfettered research, such as the Open Competition and the introduction of rolling research grants for the core funding of universities with the aim of giving university lecturers, associate professors and assistant professors a financial incentive several times during their careers. They can use this money for research purposes as they see fit, so they do not have to compete for funding for research projects. However, this plan must not be at the expense of existing budgets. More money is also needed to expand NWO’s research resources that can be deployed across the entire knowledge chain. This additional funding is necessary to structurally reduce the pressure on science, in addition to the measures already taken by NWO and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU).

Gielen: “The Rinnooy Kan report will support us as we work hard in the coming period to secure additional investments and continuity in government funding. The committee rightly points to the relatively low budget for research in the Netherlands, compared to Germany and Sweden, for example. Ongoing investment is needed if the Netherlands is to remain a world leader in science.”

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Source: NWO