The Recognition & Rewards Programme

In November 2019, the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) published the position paper, ‘Room for everyone’s talent: towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics’. In it, we expressed our aim to more broadly recognise and reward the work of academic staff. We want to focus more on the quality of all types of research results and less on the number of publications, and devote greater attention to other areas in which researchers are active, such as teaching, impact, patient care and leadership.

With this position paper, the parties involved aim to realise a fundamental change in behaviour and leadership with regards to the recognition and rewards system for academia and academics. It represents a major cultural change which UNL, NFU, KNAW, NWO and ZonMw are pursuing together, with support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). Experimentation, inspiration, co-creation, sharing good practices and learning from each other are key elements of this joint programme.

This document explains the purpose, vision and approach to the Recognition & Rewards programme.

In summary: Dutch approach

  • 18 Recognition & Rewards committees from all 14 research universities, research institutes and funders
  • Committees stimulate intended culture change at institutional level
  • There is a great and inspiring diversity of approaches
  • Inspiring, experimenting, co-creating, sharing good practices and mutual learning are central to the joint programme
  • We stimulate this with regular (online) meetings, a Recognition & Rewards Festival and we’ve developed an online community platform








Programme goals and structure

The Recognition & Rewards programme was launched in 2020 in order to realise the goals set out in the ‘Room for everyone’s talent’ position paper. All UNL universities, ideologically-based universities, KNAW institutes, NWO institutes, and the NWO & ZonMw have their own Rewards & Recognition committee. The various Rewards & Recognition committees have been eagerly working to promote the desired cultural change at institution level, with a wide and inspiring range of approaches. Experimentation, inspiration, co-creation, sharing good practices and learning from each other are key elements of this joint programme.

Vision and ambition

Today’s complex academic and social challenges place multidisciplinary and other collaborative demands on research and academia. Therefore, in the Netherlands, we are working together on a cultural change in order to create a space for the diverse talents of researchers. We want academic evaluation systems to take both team-based collaboration and the unique talents of individual researchers into account, because it is unrealistic (and also unnecessary) for all researchers to excel in every core area (teaching, impact, leadership and – in UMCs – patient care).

We are introducing greater differentiation into career pathways, focusing more on the quality of work and less on quantitative results, acknowledging both the individual qualities and aims of researchers as well as their team achievements, encouraging all aspects of open science, and encouraging quality leadership in academia. It is partly through this process that we also hope to bring excessive workloads back down to normal levels.

This national form of collaboration is unique in the world. Only together can we shape this cultural change in academia by:

  • inspiring and learning from one another by sharing pilot programmes and experiments.
  • improving the visibility of the steps the various institutions have taken.
  • ensuring that the universities, research institutes and research sponsors coordinate their efforts.
  • Working together on over-arching issues that single institutions cannot solve in isolation.
  • raising an international voice to promote the transition abroad, so as to generate momentum and ensure that Recognition & Rewards remains at the forefront of people’s minds.

The programme consists of two layers that are supported and linked through:

  • eighteen local change programmes among the relevant partners, coordinated by eighteen organisation-wide Recognition & Rewards committees (14 at UNL universities, including UMC where applicable; 1 at the ideologically-based universities; 1 at NWO & ZonMw; 1 at NWO institutes; and 1 at KNAW).
  • a joint change programme involving all of the above parties, coordinated by a broad steering committee.

Change-management plan

The change-management plan focuses on behavioural change, cultural embedding, and new structures and systems that will contribute thereto. The Recognition & Rewards programme means a major cultural change for all parties who have signed the position paper. The programme, which started in 2020, is aimed at developing a vision of the desired behaviour and culture within the organisations, both individually and as a whole.

This will require a translation of the aims in the position paper to the individual organisations. We will then concentrate on changing criteria, systems and structures to support the initiated cultural change, and to affirm and guide the new behaviour. If we develop specific criteria too early without a clear vision among the relevant organisations, we run the risk of changing the rules but not the game. This would lead to academics, committees and managers engaging in the same kind of box-ticking exercise as before, just with slightly different rules, and with no change to the sorts of behaviour that lead to excessive workloads, a poor work-life balance and a waste of talent.

At the same time, we do see a broadly shared need to develop a concrete set of aims – among young academics, for example, who do not know exactly what criteria they will need to satisfy if they are aiming for a career in research, or committee members who do not yet know that there are alternative ways to assess the quality of a research proposal. We will implement interventions continually over the course of the programme in order to promote the desired specific behaviour.

The envisaged cultural change demands quality academic leadership. Academics need to feel confident that their managers will work to achieve the stated aims through specific policies, leadership and their day-to-day activities. Administrators who show courage and decisiveness can help motivate others to follow their lead. This is the only way that we can create ‘Room for everyone’s talent’, and that will make researchers feel sufficiently safe and supported to trust their own talent in their day-to-day activities and when making career choices.

The real changes will take place among our associated partners at faculty, domain, institutional, section or department level. In their change programmes, each partner will choose an approach and pace to suit their local context and academic discipline. We will also very deliberately give academics the freedom to shape the Recognition & Rewards programme themselves within their own context. The joint programme is aimed at allowing the relevant partners to implement the Recognition & Rewards programme in a cohesive manner. We will organise regular consultations and work sessions to promote coordination and mutual inspiration, and also publish good practices at a central location with high visibility. The programme is divided into multiple stages (some of which run concurrently), the speed and timeframe of which can vary between organisations.

All of the various organisations will develop their own vision, which should enjoy wide support and include concrete examples of recognition and rewards within the institution, linked to their own values and strategy. We will share these visions and concrete examples nationally. The national steering committee will safeguard the joint approach, ensuring cohesion among the wide variety of visions and changes among the individual partners. Cross-pollination will create a joint frame of reference, with coordination on joint principles and frameworks to follow. We will translate Recognition & Rewards into joint, concrete products that will always allow for freedom within the local context and academic discipline.

Stage 1: Investigation and formulation of vision

Committees will investigate the potential impact of the aims both within and outside of their own organisation and consult with many of their fellow academics. They will formulate a broadly supported vision in which they translate the objectives in the position paper to their own organisation.

Stage 2: Increasing imaginative capability

Taking place roughly at the same time as the vision formulation phase, all organisations will start focusing on enhancing their imaginative capabilities, to raise the awareness among researchers that there are alternative ways to recognise and reward each other’s work. We will share good practices and discuss experiments and pilots.

Stage 3: Adding meaning

During this stage, faculties, institutes, sections and departments will be called upon to give their views and take active steps towards implementing their own vision into their organisation.

Stage 4: Specifics and development

This phase will see the development of the supporting products and criteria for a recognition and rewards system. New position descriptions and career paths for academics will be created, and assessment criteria developed for research, teaching, impact, leadership, patient care and team contributions.

Stage 5: Implementation of new processes, systems and developed products

The new support systems will become part of daily actions, thoughts and considerations. Academics can be assured that the assessment criteria adopted by managers, peers, assessment committees, recruitment and selection committees, research assessors and research funders will lead to the recognition of, and rewards for, their new behaviour.

Stage 6: Consolidation

During this phase, effort will be required to ensure that the new (fresh) behaviour becomes ingrained.


Below is a list of some of the activities that will contribute to the desired behavioural and cultural changes. All of these activities will contribute to the realisation of the goals outlined in the ‘Room for everyone’s talent’ position paper. They are not linked specifically to the above stages, but will be carried out across the entire duration of the programme.

Coordination, support, inspiration and connection
Because this programme is centred around cultural and behavioural change, we have opted for a developmental change-management approach. As part of this activity, we will direct our efforts into uniting all of the parties involved and generating cohesiveness within the Recognition & Rewards programme, as well as supporting the development of the vision on the desired behaviour and culture within the various organisations.

Online platform and community to share good practices
True nationwide collaboration on the envisaged behaviour and cultural change will also occur via an online community: RRview. In addition to a meeting place, the platform also serves as a way for people to learn from one another. It is a lively online platform (database and community) for knowledge-sharing, full of good practices, pilots, updates and questions. We will also be creating an e-learning module, with training courses on ambassadorship, change management and leadership.

Change-management expertise and support
For the purposes of the programme, we will be organising change-management coaching, expertise and support for the programme team and the institutional Recognition & Rewards committees. As part of these efforts, we will create hand-holds for a change-management strategy and organise a range of workshops and seminars to improve change-related knowledge and expertise among Recognition & Rewards project leaders and committees.

Strategic change communication
The programme will include content aimed at promoting interaction and thought processes surrounding Recognition & Rewards, telling stories related to Recognition & Rewards that also contribute to the broader projection of the programme vision. Recognition & Rewards will be further highlighted by sharing successes, experiences and good practices. We will also carry out a nationwide ‘culture barometer’ to ascertain what percentage of the community is aware of Recognition & Rewards as a concept. When creating communication materials, we will thoroughly analyse all target groups, creating a communication plan for each that incorporates a specific message and action perspective.

Planning and organising joint Recognition & Rewards meetings
We will regularly bring the Recognition & Rewards community together, in various configurations, via online/offline meetings and conferences. The aim is to gather inspiration, promote a communal approach and exchange knowledge and experiences. We will organise regular meetings for the various programme committees, and a national annual conference.

Inspiring and participating in the international dialogue
From here in the Netherlands, we are keen to communicate the ‘Dutch approach’ for Recognition & Rewards to other initiatives abroad, making efforts to generate an international following for Recognition & Rewards. We will also draw attention to international developments in the Netherlands.

Notes on how these activities will contribute to the aims of the position paper

We are convinced that we can only achieve the goals of the ‘Room for everyone’s talent’ position paper with a change-management approach geared towards unification and knowledge-sharing. Many of the above-mentioned activities aim to promote this approach. Mutual inspiration and knowledge-sharing will also allow us to work towards the goals of the position paper.

Guiding principles

We have defined several guiding principles for the implementation of the activities in the change programme, which are given below.








* The published version is a public release