How can we improve the assessment of academics? So that science and scholarship are not about the journal impact factor, but rather about the recognition of societal impact, for example? How do we ensure that credits not only go to the individual, but also to the entire team? Or that all the qualities of academics are more widely appreciated, from conducting research to teaching, and from social involvement to leadership and patient care? These and other questions were discussed extensively during the international Conference on Recognition & Rewards, on 15 November in Rotterdam, organised by the VSNU and the European University Association (EUA).

An academic can be successful in many areas, but their many qualities are not all equally appreciated. Research performance has been determining the career paths of academics for years, and its dominance is becoming increasingly critical. Education and impact are also decisive for the success of a modern knowledge institute, as is patient care for the University Medical Centres. And then there is the development of Open Access and Open Science, which places different demands on the modern academic.

We need a broader perspective and a different culture, where quality is more important than quantity. A culture in which other skills receive recognition and rewards. And where we associate a professor’s title with more than the two narrow indicators of number of publications and large grants. But how is this achieved? We should discuss this with each other daily, as we did on 15 November in Rotterdam. Actions should follow, as have already been formulated in the position paper ‘Room for everyone’s talent; towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics’.

The paper’s main points are assessing research and research proposals qualitatively (not quantitatively or based on the journal in which they are published) and reshaping academic career paths. Next year, for example, we want to launch a new national framework for assessment, development and promotion. A recalibrated University Job Classification System (UFO) should follow in 2021. Various funding streams from NWO and ZonMw are shifting emphasis to team science and collaboration across disciplinary boundaries.

We cannot wait to shape these and many other plans, together with the academic community, and look forward to your input.

Administrative initiators VSNU Recognition & Rewards (Erkennen & Waarderen) programme:
Rianne Letschert, Rector Maastricht University
Frank Baaijens, Rector Eindhoven University of Technology

Position Paper 

Download the position paper on Recognition & Rewards by the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands), NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), NFU (Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres) and ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development). 


Recognition & Rewards

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