Erkennen & Waarderen in Th&ma

TH&MA informeert de managers, bestuurders en leidinggevenden aan universiteiten en hogescholen in zowel Vlaanderen als Nederland over de laatste trends in het hoger onderwijs. Elk nummer is thematisch opgebouwd, maar bevat daarnaast ook artikelen over de meest uiteenlopende actuele zaken die spelen in het hoger onderwijs. Het laatste nummer van 2021 was geheel gericht op Erkennen en Waarderen met onder andere een artikel van Rianne Letschert.

Door op deze link te klikken kom je bij de online versie van het magazine.

 

Verslag bijeenkomst Erkennen & Waarderen Breed

Op donderdag 2 juni vond in het Van Swinderen Huys te Groningen de bijeenkomst Erkennen & Waarderen Breed plaats. Het was voor het eerst dat de commissievoorzitters, de projectleiders en de leden van het programmateam, de regiegroep en het coördinerend overleg elkaar in dit verband fysiek ontmoetten. Ook waren er afgevaardigden van de verschillende Colleges van Bestuur aanwezig. Het feit dat ruim vijftig betrokkenen de moeite namen naar Groningen af te reizen, was een bevestiging dat Erkennen & Waarderen nog altijd leeft en breed gedragen wordt. De bijeenkomst zelf stond in het teken van leren van elkaars veranderaanpak en leiderschap. Tegelijkertijd bleek het een geschikt moment om een tussenbalans op te maken.

Opening

Om half elf opende Cisca Wijmenga, rector magnificus van Rijksuniversiteit Groningen en voorzitter van de Groningse E&W-commissie, de bijeenkomst. Zij heette alle aanwezigen hartelijk welkom in het hoge noorden. Vervolgens kreeg Jeroen Geurts als covoorzitter van de Erkennen & Waarderen regiegroep het woord. Hij gaf een korte terugblik op de achterliggende periode en wenste eenieder een inspirerende dag toe. Daarbij verwees hij naar het doel van deze dag: het in gesprek gaan over elkaars veranderaanpak en de wijze waarop alle betrokkenen hun leiderschap inzetten bij het verwezenlijken van deze verandering. Daarna gaf Kim Huijpen als programmanager een korte toelichting op het programma van de bijeenkomst. De deelnemers konden een interactief keuzeprogramma volgen in twee rondes. Daarbij was er de keuze tussen twee leiderschapsgames of een Open Space.

Leiderschap- en dialooggames

Vanuit de TU Delft verzorgden Ingrid Vos en Sasja van Warmerdam het TU Delft Leiderschap-Dialoogspel. Door middel van dit kaartspel gingen de deelnemers met elkaar in gesprek over concrete casussen en hun eigen stijl van leiderschap. Daarnaast was het ook mogelijk om onder leiding van Frank Leóné (Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen) het kaartspel mmmAcademia te spelen. In dit spel reflecteerden de deelnemers op de wijze waarop de academie werkt, wat dit voor henzelf betekent en welke mogelijkheden er zijn dit anders te gaan regelen waar nodig.

 

Open Space

De derde keuzemogelijkheid was de Open Space, waarbij de aanwezigen met elkaar in gesprek gaan over voor hen relevante thema’s. Nadat Han Rakels de belangrijkste principes had uiteengezet, konden de deelnemers zelf gespreksonderwerpen aandragen in het kader van Erkennen & Waarderen en dus de agenda bepalen. Van deze optie werd gretig gebruikgemaakt. De aanwezigen stelden maar liefst tien verschillende dilemma’s dan wel onderwerpen voor. Vervolgens sloten zij zich aan bij één van de gesprekgroepen. Deze methode leidde tot veel geanimeerde gesprekken, die bij de deelnemers veel enthousiasme en energie teweegbrachten.

Een korte greep uit de besproken dilemma’s:

  • Van persoonlijk leiderschap naar leiderschap voor de organisatie, hoe faciliteer je die stap?
  • Hoe betrekken wij ‘de toekomst’ [d.i.: de nieuwe generatie wetenschappers] bij de toekomst?
  • Hoe breng je de R&O-cyclus in lijn met het gedachtegoed van E&W?
  • Hoe breng je het bestaande Tenure Track Systeem in lijn met E&W?
  • Hoe zorgen we ervoor dat ook het OBP bij de cultuurverandering wordt betrokken?
  • Hoe zorgen we ervoor dat een onderwijstrack door academici als competitief wordt ervaren?
  • Wanneer voelt iemand zich gewaardeerd, wat is daarvoor nodig?
  • Hoe zorg je voor een breed gedeelde visie op waardering van onderzoek?
  • Hoe erkennen en waarderen we impact en dienstverlening?
  • Is het wenselijk minimum-standaarden te formuleren voor alle universiteiten?

Sluiting

Na twee rondes was het tijd om de opbrengst van de gesprekken te inventariseren. De inbrengers van de verschillende onderwerpen deden elk in een paar zinnen verslag van hun gesprek. Vervolgens kreeg Rianne Letschert als covoorzitter van de regiegroep het woord. Zij gaf aan terug te zien op een inspirerende bijeenkomst en maakte kort de balans op. Allereerst riep zij de aanwezigen op de dialoog te blijven opzoeken, om op die manier recht te doen aan de zorgen die er onder collega-wetenschappers leven. Verder wees zij op de ruggensteun vanuit Europa voor het programma Erkennen & Waarderen: inmiddels hebben meer dan 300 organisaties uit 35 landen belangstelling getoond voor het Europese initiatief voor de hervorming van de onderzoeksbeoordeling. Daarnaast riep zij alle deelnemers op good practices te blijven delen met elkaar en online via de website of social media. Tot slot stelde zij voor om met Erkennen & Waarderen vervolgstappen te maken door te werken aan een aanscherping van het position paper, bijvoorbeeld door op een aantal punten een ‘minimum van standaarden’ te formuleren waaraan de universiteiten in een nader vast te stellen termijn moeten voldoen. Dit idee werd door de aanwezigen met grote instemming onthaald. Na de sluiting gingen de betrokkenen dan ook met veel positieve energie naar huis.

Postercarrousel

Tijdens de inloop en lunch was het mogelijk de postercarrousel te bezoeken. Veel E&W-commissies hadden een poster gemaakt, waarop zij de eigen aanpak en de behaalde resultaten van de betreffende instelling presenteerden. Op die manier kregen de aanwezigen op een creatieve wijze inzicht in wat er zoal gebeurt.

General Assembly

Aansluitend op de bijeenkomst Erkennen & Waarderen Breed werd de General Assembly (GA) van UNL gehouden. Tijdens de GA hebben de universiteitsbestuurders bevestigd dat zij toe zijn aan een volgende stap rond Erkennen & Waarderen. Zij hebben afgesproken om te komen met een set concrete principeafspraken, waaraan elke universiteit zich committeert. Elke instelling zal dit ‘minimum’ vervolgens naar de eigen context vertalen en (waar nodig) bespreken met de medezeggenschap. Dat betekent dat het programmateam, in nauwe samenwerking met de leden van de regiegroep, het coördinerend overleg, de commissievoorzitters en projectleiders, de komende maanden gaat werken aan een aanscherping en concretisering van het oorspronkelijke position paper.

A Recap of the Recognition & Rewards Festival

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!’

Closing

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. 

Two years of the Recognition & Rewards programme – an interim review

In 2019, Dutch public knowledge institutions and research funders published a position paper entitled ‘Room for everyone’s talent – towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics’. Where are we now, almost two and a half years after this publication? And what remains to be done? Six members of the Recognition & Rewards steering group shed their light on the developments and on the debate that has arisen.

A new way of recognising and rewarding

Many academics have found (or still find) that the assessment of their work is overly one-sided, focusing solely on the research they produce – based on traditional, measurable output indicators. This approach has consequences for their university careers and for their chances of obtaining research grants. The result? A heavy workload, an imbalance between academic fields and, ultimately, a loss of talent. Gifted researchers leave academia because of its culture, for example. And so do innovative lecturers, good leaders and people who have a big social impact or deliver good patient care.

The Recognition & Rewards programme is designed to create room for academic talent in all the domains above, in a healthy and stimulating work climate, and to take Dutch science and academia to the next level. Universities, university medical centres (UMCs), the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) are all taking action. Universities and UMCs are working towards the diversification of career paths, which will make it possible to assess academics more fairly, based on their chosen profile. Research funders will assess grant applications, research and research proposals more on content and quality and less on purely quantitative indicators or the journals in which research is published.

Honest competition, healthy ambition and excellence

The new way of recognising and rewarding academics has created a buzz in Dutch science and academia, says Jeroen Geurts (at that time still affiliated to NWO/ZonMW). ‘Consequently, many people are starting to protest, because they are afraid that the new way of working will actually be worse, not better.’

For example, some say that it is the wrong reaction to an unwanted situation: too little funding for science and academia. They would prefer to see an increased investment in academic research in the Netherlands. Indeed, one could argue in favour of this, but it is a different discussion altogether. The Recognition & Rewards programme is also – and above all else – about creating a fairer and healthier work climate, given the limitations imposed by funding.

Marcel Levi (NWO) believes that science and academia would not benefit from a situation in which every proposal submitted to the NWO is successful. ‘Some form of quality-based competition is needed, but this should be an honest competition. The current attitude is that if you fail to obtain a Vidi grant, you are a loser. This is ridiculous; if someone doesn’t get a grant, it’s simply because there isn’t enough money.’

No one is against excellence in Dutch science and academia, Pieter Duisenberg (UNL) agrees. ‘Excellence, ambition and eagerness to learn are wonderful things we don’t want to lose. That is why there will always be some degree of competition between academics.’ He does not agree, however, that a new way of recognising and rewarding academics will create an environment in which ‘merely average’ results are good enough.

More quality, content and creativity

So, what value will traditional indicators have in the new situation? How will the new assessment approach affect the careers of young and established academics? And what will the changes mean for the position of Dutch science and academia at an international level?

There is no simple answer to the questions above. The executive boards of the different universities have their own, nuanced views on the change in recognition and rewards. ‘Of course, we in the steering group support the principles that underlie the Recognition & Rewards programme,’ Levi says. ‘But that doesn’t mean we don’t welcome discussion. It’s fine if people disagree with us.’

Moreover, the ideas of the steering group are continually evolving. ‘Of course, we listen to criticism,’ says Ineke Sluiter (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)). ‘And we try to debunk myths too.’ For example, the myth that the narrative curriculum vitae would completely supersede quantitative data when assessing academics. ‘Naturally, you need to substantiate any claims you make in a CV, and numbers are a good way of doing this.’

Room is now being created for academics to include what they feel their strengths are and to focus on what matters most in their field. Academics will be given more opportunity to present their quality, content, academic integrity, creativity and contributions to society. The need for this became evident, for example, in an NWO work session attended by both young researchers and established scientists from various disciplines. This session also made it clear that people need guidance in what they can include. ‘We need to do something about this,’ Levi says. ‘A lot depends on successful Veni and Vidi applications, which is why we have to help young academics write the best applications possible.’

An improved academic system through diversification and vitalisation

Among other things, the Recognition & Rewards programme focuses on grant applications and career paths: two very separate objectives. This sometimes blurs the discussion, because career development opportunities, career policy and career paths really are very different to research proposals, Levi says. Sluiter agrees, ‘The objectives are strongly intertwined and similar, which has a major impact on dialogue. I remember a heated discussion because someone said that the programme wasn’t about research. Of course it is. We are academics.’

The idea that people’s excellent research performance will no longer get recognized is a misconception. ‘The point is for individuals to build a good CV within their chosen career track,’ says Hanneke Hulst (De Jonge Akademie). ‘We expect high standards of education and/or research from everyone. A career path that focuses primarily on research will still be possible, with the corresponding recognition for research output. However, there must also be room for people who are involved in research and one of the other key areas, the results of which are not expressed in research output. A good mix of people with different competences would be ideal, so that all tasks (research, education and leadership) are carried out at the highest level possible.’

So, the decision to introduce a new way of recognising and rewarding academics does not mean that the quality of research will be lower. In contrast, it is a positive choice for more ‘team science’: to promote multidisciplinarity, where one team member can be good at research, another at making an impact and yet another at teaching. The team will benefit collectively. ‘Various research groups say this could work very well for them,’ Duisenberg says. ‘And it will have advantages for individuals too. Not everyone needs to be good at everything or to focus on everything. It is paramount that all academics can express their particular talent and passion. For one person, this will be research, and for another education or leadership, for example.’

Marian Joëls (Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU) and University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG)) adds: ‘People sometimes forget that you don’t just become a good researcher. We rely on education to provide us with the skills we need. Education is not the “poor cousin”. The same applies to management tasks. Imagine that a professor successfully helps eight PhD candidates to defend their PhD theses in a particular academic year but sees eight colleagues in the research group succumb to stress in the same period. This would be a great achievement in research terms, but there are problems with the leadership side of things. It is important to signal this. Good leadership is only possible with regular feedback – from PhD candidates and others – on performance in this respect.’

The Netherlands as a trailblazer

Because the new way of recognising and rewarding academics so clearly chooses to assess academics on more than research criteria alone, some people fear that the Netherlands will lose its top position in the international academic community. The Recognition & Rewards programme seeks to achieve the optimal solution, through which the Netherlands is actually choosing to be a trailblazer in a movement that has taken off internationally. For example, more than 2,000 organisations and 18,000 researchers have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), including important international players like the European Research Council and prominent journals like Nature.

If the Netherlands really wants to be a forerunner, it will be important for figureheads in Dutch science and academia to demonstrate that education and leadership talent is just as important as research talent. As such, the Recognition & Rewards programme has similarities with current discussions about the number of female professors. ‘If you want to have more women at the top, without increasing the total number of positions available, men will need to create some space,’ Sluiter says. ‘If a room is hung full of portraits of men, some of these portraits will need to make way for portraits of women.’

This is a deliberate choice, because the diversification of talent will benefit Dutch science and academia across the board. That is why we are willing to give up a little of what we have now, Geurts concludes. ‘Returning to the portrait scenario above: we think it’s a good idea for some paintings of top researchers to be replaced with paintings of top lecturers or academics with a big social impact.’

Author: Huib Kouwenhoven