On Friday the 4th of February the second Recognition & Rewards Festival took place. During this online event, the participants discussed the opportunities, challenges and dilemmas of culture and system change in academia. The Recognition & Rewards team created a various and inspiring event with two round table sessions, three workshop rounds, a serious speed date carousel and a plenary session at the end of the festival. More than 80 speakers and moderators made a substantive contribution to this event and no less than 700 persons participated in (at least a part) of the programme, mostly from the Netherlands, but there were also people from the United States of America to Zimbabwe.

Interview with the new Minister

After a warm welcome to all attendees by Kim Huijpen (National Programme Manager), Prof. Dr. R.H. Dijkgraaf, the new Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science, made a warm plea for and emphasized the importance of the Recognition & Rewards Programme. ‘It’s so important that we have a multi-dimensional view what it means to be active in academia. There are many different tasks and opportunities, but also different paths for an academic career. We want to build a house that has enough room to attract a maximum amount of diverse talent. I’m very proud that the Netherlands are in the lead of this worldwide discussion.’ As a minister, Dijkgraaf is mainly interested in the question how academia could excel as a community. ‘It’s more like looking at the full orchestra than to all different instruments.’ The higher education and research community has to recognize that society asks not only to excel in research, but also to address great societal challenges, to communicate and engage a wide public and to be active in leadership positions. It’s a mistake that every scientist should be active in all key areas. According to the minister, it is so important that everyone can specialize and follow their own path, in particular for the young generation. He hopes therefore that they actively will participate in the discussion about recognition and rewards in academia, removing the interior walls of the house. Although Recognition & Rewards is a Dutch programme, stimulating a Dutch cultural change, it only makes sense if it is a worldwide effort. ‘We don’t create a little island where multiple careers are possible, but we have to see it as an export product to the international academic world.’ Jeroen Geurts and Rianne Letschert thank the Minister for his support and his inspiring words. His effort is an important contribution in pushing this culture change.

Round table session Looking back and looking forward

The next part of the program was a round table session with four members of the Recognition & Rewards steering group: Jeroen Geurts (VU and co-chair of the steering group), Marian Joëls (UMCG), Marcel Levi (NWO) and Ineke Sluiter (KNAW). This round table was led by Rianne Letschert (Maastricht University and co-chair of the steering group). The members reflected in this session on the Recognition & Rewards Programme. What is going well and what needs to be improved in the future? Last year several scientists have expressed their concerns about the programme. In the view of Levi, there are two important things to improve. ‘Firstly, we need to communicate what we exactly mean with our programme. There are so many fears and people are nervous and have misunderstandings.’ The steering group needs to make clear what we want to achieve with our programme. It should not be a threat to existing scientists who are successful, but that it is actually an opportunity for the wider scientific community.’ Secondly, he would like to see the programme translated in concrete actions. Sluiter agrees with this. ‘The biggest myth is that recognition and rewards would make us a marginalized country, where research is something for the average. That’s absolutely not what we want.’ The aim of the programme is to find a new balance between research, teaching, teamwork and leadership. Despite differing views, on the whole there is a lot of support for solving the structural problems within academia, Sluiter says. Joëls emphasizes that excellence remains the starting point, but that the Recognition & Rewards Programme wants to create more balance. Colleagues who are educating the new generation by giving lectures, also deserves respect.

Round table session Recognition of teamwork and team spirit

The next round table session was about teamwork and teamspirit. In this session Tanya Bondarouk (University of Twente), Jaap Paauwe (Tilburg University), Paul Boselie (Utrecht University) and Victor Bekkers (Erasmus University Rotterdam) shared their experiences with teamwork. The panelists addressed two important issues. First: what is a team? And secondly: how should teamwork be evaluated? Bekkers defined a team as a group of people with different profiles, but also with different strengths and qualities, that under the supervision of a lead collaborate on achieving a common shared task. To be successful as a team, a team should not to be too small or too large. Another condition is that a team should have a robust task assignment, because it helps to allocate different tasks among different people and to address the different results that have to be accomplished. In a good team, the panelists agree to this, there is humor, the members do complement each other, there is an open atmosphere, where everyone can learn from each other. In the words of Paauwe: ‘Everybody is a leader, and everybody is a follower.’

The answer to the question from the chat whether there will be room for individual research is absolutely ‘Yes!’ Bondarouk adds to this: ‘Even a single authored publication can be questioned how much it is an individualistic work. In academia there are always people around you. Maybe even at the cost of teaching somebody takes teaching and so on. So, in the end it is the question how much individualistic work is really individualistic?’

Round table session about leadership

After three workshop rounds about teamwork, dilemmas and good practices, it was time for the last part of the programme. In this session five members of the Recognition & Rewards steering group discussed about the question what academic leadership should look like. Can you show leadership to advance recognition and rewards now, Jeroen Geurts asks his panelists? Pieter Duisenberg (president of UNL) answers: ‘What I’m learning in the case of recognition and rewards is listening and trying to grasp where the passion is and then trying to give that a platform. My role is to sort of make it happen in the association that all the universities joined it and other organizations joined. On the other hand, I’m personally very much result oriented. What I’m learning in this movement is giving space and trying to inspire other people.’ The panelists emphasized that there are the different types of good quality leadership. There is not one kind of leadership. This session can be summarized with the words of Frank Baaijens (TU Eindhoven): ‘Less me, more we!’


It was a successful day full of interaction and inspiration. We like to thank all speakers, moderators and co-hosts for developing the programme together. We very much appreciated that active participation of all the participants. We are looking forward to follow-up on all the interesting dialogues together.

You can find the plenary sessions here. 

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