“An academic is not a jack of all trades”

RECTOR FRANK BAAIJENS TALKS ABOUT RECOGNITION AND REWARDS

JULY 6, 2021

A new appraisal system for academics will look at more than just their research. For Rector Frank Baaijens, this change brings a welcome opportunity to promote team spirit and ‘academic citizenship’.

Rector magnificus Frank Baaijens. Photo: Vincent van den Hoogen

Academics feel the recognition they receive depends too heavily on their academic output. How many publications have your written, how often are you cited, how many grants have you secured? With the new appraisal system Recognition and Rewards this will change, says Rector Frank Baaijens. “We will bring more balance to the appraisal of academics, valuing them for their talents and ambitions in the fields of research, education, impact and leadership.”

Baaijens is very clear: excellence will continue to be the aim of our university’s academic personnel. In education and research, as well as in additional areas. “As a university we have responsibilities in the fields of research, education and impact. With Recognition and Rewards we want to take a much broader view of our academic personnel. Find a way of valuing the contributions everyone makes. See the diversity in what people are capable of and recognize where their talents and ambitions lie.”

He goes on to emphasize that academics must be active in both research and education. “Many academics feel they are judged by just one thing, their research. This leads to other areas being perceived as being less important, even education, which is the university’s core task. We want this given greater importance and we want to value people for their other activities within their department,” says Baaijens.

ACADEMIC CITIZENSHIP

This brings him to ‘academic citizenship’. “Together, you have a department and a university to run. You need people to be willing to join an examination committee, an appeals committee, an appointment advisory committee, and so on. An expression of value is also required for these activities.”

For Baaijens, Professor Jan van Hest exemplifies the kind of person his is looking for: the academic citizen. “An excellent academic, but he’ll take on other tasks too. His teaching is outstanding – and he counts first-years among his students – and he has taken on administrative responsibility. But in the area of educational reform, for example, he isn’t taking a leading role.” By which Baaijens means to say: you don’t have to take on everything, but your focus must be broader than research alone.

“In a group you can develop an incredible strength that would never be possible as an individual”

Rector Frank Baaijens

Frank Baaijens. Photo: Vincent van den Hoogen

“Not, of course, that you can expect everyone to be equally good at everything. But what you can do is make sure you have a team in which research, education and impact are covered. I believe in team spirit: in a group you can develop an incredible strength that would never be possible as an individual.”

A BALANCED ASSESSMENT IS THE CHALLENGE

Baaijens realizes that the challenge lies first and foremost in how you assess excellence in research, education, impact and leadership. “Within research we have a long history of assessing on output, but now we need to place more emphasis on quality rather than being concerned solely with the number of publications. Likewise within education you want people to build a portfolio, so that at an international level they can show what they have conceived in terms of innovations and what impact this has had. So that, like research, this becomes an area in which they can earn a reputation.” By way of example, Baaijens mentions Rick de Lange, who was appointed to a professorship in part for his educational innovations.

EDUCATION

By what yardstick do you measure people who excel in education? “As things now stand, we have two profiles,” Baaijens explains. “Academics whose main thrust is research and who also teach. They excel at research but like everyone else stand before the class on a Monday morning and do a great job. We also have those people for whom education is a field in which they are developing as professionals, alongside their research. They are fully engaged in educational innovation and shine at it. For these academics too, career steps must be in place.”

Here, too, in order to be assessed, it is a question of finding the right way to show what you have done. This could take a mixed form involving a narrative: what is your vision, what have you achieved. Supplemented with demonstrable results, such as a teaching evaluation, an education prize, a publication about education, an appraisal by colleagues, international standing. “It’s what we do in research,” says Baaijens. “Why not do the same in education? Challenge-based learning would be just the topic for a fabulous piece of education-related research.”

LEADERSHIP AND TEAM

Some form of leadership will be expected of everyone. “If you are an inexperienced assistant professor, you aren’t going to be asked to contribute policy ideas, but you do supervise students,” explains Baaijens. The form of leadership a person exhibits will change as their career progresses. And no single leadership style is the best; here too, diversity is preferable.

The first, and sometimes the only question asked in job interviews is still ‘What kind of research do you want to do?’ Baaijens wants to see this change. “When we’re appointing a professor, we still look chiefly at academic output and assume that someone of this caliber has leadership qualities. We must also ask them about their vision of education and impact, how they deal with diversity, how they ensure that people get the best out of themselves, how they create a safe work environment. You can be incredibly good at your research, but if you intimidate your colleagues and excuse yourself from departmental tasks, do you deserve to become a professor? We have to find the right elements for the advisory committees to work with going forward.”

Recognition and Rewards requires academics to write a statement about their supervisory or leadership qualities, as part of the narrative section of their résumé. How collegial are you, how do you supervise students and doctoral candidates, how do you pay attention to team spirit, how do you give and receive feedback?

A balanced and diverse team is an important asset. “You are aiming to make better use of each other’s talents so that as a group you make headway. If an academic is good at academic communication, you could see that as a core competence. The same applies to someone who is passionate about educational innovation. Provided it fits within the team, this could be a field where they develop professionally. This offers more flexibility than saying ‘We value you only for your research qualities’. This is what we are trying to do with Recognition and Rewards. Value people more broadly.”

IMPACT AND OPEN SCIENCE

How do you decide what the impact of an individual’s work is? Baaijens: “In terms of research impact, this includes any and all activities that generate impact. In other words, it is broader than the number of publications or citations. It would include, say, the patents someone has accumulated, or a business venture someone has started. Or new guidelines someone has developed that have been adopted by, say, RIVM, or getting yourself hired by a company alongside your university work. We need to get some experience of deciding what we find important and what not. To do this, we’ll use peer review. Colleagues in the field must assess whether what people are doing is special; this is not something you can always prescribe.”

The value of open science is something else to be considered. “It is difficult to justify the disappearance behind a paywall of research funded by society. The validation of research and the speed with which research evolves both depend crucially on data being made available. The importance of this has been underscored yet again by the present COVID-19 pandemic. “There are also researchers who have collected incredibly interesting data for research purposes, for example, neatly ordered it and made it publicly available. This isn’t a publication but if so many people can use it, it becomes a significant contribution to research. This is something else to be valued.”

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Baaijens has helped to draw up the plan behind Recognition and Rewards, published by the universities’ federation VSNU. At the end of 2019 its precursor appeared Room for everyone’s talentwhich has been embraced by all the Dutch universities and research institutes. The universities have the flexibility to introduce the plan as they see fit and to roll it out at their own pace. In the spring of this year, the TU/e Recognition and Rewards task force held six sessions with some hundred and fifty academics in order to hear what they think of it. In addition, in the run-up to summer six enrichment sessions were held with three interdepartmental committees (IFC) – Engineering; Basic Sciences and Humans; Technology, Management and Design.

“We have formulated six principles and after the summer we’ll continue to discuss them with the interdepartmental committees. After that, I hope we’ll have a package about which they can say ‘we can use this to evaluate and value people better.’”

 

THE SIX LEADING PRINCIPLES OF RECOGNITION AND REWARDS AT TU/E

1: As well as excellence in education and research, academics will also be encouraged to develop core competences in line with their talents. These would be such skills as entrepreneurship, science communication and leadership.
2: Diverse and dynamic career paths driven by an academic’s core competences are to be encouraged.
3: When assessing academics, the focus will be on valuing quality over quantity.
4: The right balance between the individual and the collective (team) is to be achieved.
5: Open science as a way of sharing research within society is to be encouraged.
6: Academic leadership, with a focus on inclusivity, talent development and a safe work environment, is to be encouraged.

Frank Baaijens. Photo: Vincent van den Hoogen

The discussions with the IFCs are essential to the introduction of Recognition and Rewards, Baaijens is keen to stress. “These committees include people in the departments where the system is going to be used. This is why as far as possible we need to develop a shared vision and implementation with these committees. If you’ve got academics sitting on these advisory committees who only value the number of publications, you won’t get anywhere. If they too are convinced that this is the right path to take, we can work with them to take the steps towards implementation. Only then will change happen.”

It would be nice if we started having other kinds of discussion with our academics

Rector Frank Baaijens

An important point that Baaijens took away from the various sessions on Recognition and Rewards is this: more is involved here than the promotion of academics. “Not everyone can reach the same work grade, nor do they want to. It is very important that we recognize and value each person’s contribution. Together, we are and we make the university.”

This appreciation should also be voiced, as Baaijens has himself learned over the years. “In science there are a great many moments of appreciation: when a student graduates, a researcher gains their doctorate, a publication is accepted, when a grant is secured. Each and every one of these is a moment when external appreciation for your work comes your way. Personally, I am always busy thinking ahead, What’s next? Within my group at Biomedical Engineering it’s occasionally been said to me that it’s good to celebrate your success before you move on. And don’t forget to congratulate others. It doesn’t matter how much a person enjoys their work, if they are never appreciated, if only in the form of a compliment, eventually it starts to niggle.”

FROM OUR STRATEGY: RECOGNITION AND REWARDS

Research is by no means all that academics do. They teach, they supervise students and doctoral candidates, run a section, keep their department going, and share their learning with the public at large. But they are assessed primarily on their individual research output. With the new system of Recognition and Rewards, this will change. Teamwork will be encouraged, and more scope for diversity will be created with regard to ability, ambition and talent in the fields of education, leadership and impact. In our strategy, Recognition and Rewards falls under the theme of Talent.

Read more here about our Strategy 2030.

Het nieuwe erkennen en waarderen krijgt vorm

‘Het wordt de normale manier van werken’

Docenten moeten ook hoogleraar kunnen worden, medewerkers gaan doorlopend met hun leidinggevende in gesprek en iedereen gaat onderzoek doen. Het nieuwe erkennen en waarderen krijgt steeds meer vorm.

Beeld Bas van der Schot

Nederlandse universiteiten gaan hun medewerkers anders behandelen. Het aloude adagium van ‘alleen de toponderzoeker telt echt mee’ wordt vervangen door ‘iedereen die goed werk levert wordt op waarde geschat’. Dus ook de docent, de mediagenieke wetenschapper en de geboren leider. Medewerkers kunnen meer zelf hun carrière gaan uitstippelen, in plaats van de gebaande paden te volgen. Dat is de inzet van het programma Erkennen & Waarderen.

Tilburg University is een van de universiteiten die hierin vooroploopt. Om niet alleen van bovenaf nieuw beleid op te leggen, maar juist ook medewerkers zelf hierbij te betrekken, zijn de afgelopen maanden dialoogsessies gevoerd. Van promovenda tot hoogleraar en departementsvoorzitter: ze konden allemaal aanschuiven.

Nu gaat de universiteit verder in volle vaart. Maar wat gaat er gebeuren, en wanneer? Kan iedere medewerker binnenkort zelf de carrière vormgeven, hoef je nooit meer leiding te geven, of onderzoek te doen? Daarover vertellen voorzitter van de stuurgroep Jaap Paauwe, lid Marjolijn Antheunis en vice-rector Jantine Schuit.

Wat vinden medewerkers van de plannen?

“De algemene teneur was enthousiasme,” zegt Jaap Paauwe. “Er is veel steun.” Er waren vooral praktische vragen. Op welk moment in de wetenschappelijke carrière kan iemand zelf keuzes maken, hoe wordt ervoor gezorgd dat leidinggevenden niet subjectief zijn in hun beoordelingen, en wordt de werkdruk door dit nieuwe systeem niet verhoogd, of kan die juist worden verlaagd?

Dat laatste is niet de insteek van het programma, zegt Paauwe, maar er is mogelijk bijvangst. “Als mensen zich meer kunnen richten op hun talenten en sterktes, en niet meer excellent hoeven te zijn op alle terreinen, zou dat de beleving van de werkdruk wel kunnen verlichten.” Antheunis: “We hopen dat er meer rust komt bij medewerkers die nu nog alle ballen in de lucht moeten houden.”

Meer waardering, dat betekent vast dat ik eindelijk promotie ga maken. Wordt dat voortaan makkelijker?

Soms wel. Iemand die redelijk tot goed is in onderzoek, maar vooral een uitstekend docent is, blijft nu vaak steken in een functie als universitair (hoofd)docent. Het wordt serieus onderzocht hoe een promotie naar hoogleraar dan toch mogelijk is. Maar iedereen hoogleraar? Dat is niet het idee.

“Er wordt vaak in verticale zin gedacht,” zegt Antheunis. Promotie maken en steeds hoger staan op de universitaire ladder. “Voor veel wetenschappers is een belangrijk doel in hun werkzame leven hoogleraar worden,” zegt Jantine Schuit. “Terwijl er ook gewoon mensen zijn, UD’s en UHD’s, die heel goed zijn in hun werk. Dat moeten we ook waarderen.”

Waar moeten we dan wel aan denken bij het anders erkennen en waarderen?

Hoe waardeer je iemand? Soms gewoon door die waardering uit te spreken. Daar hebben medewerkers behoefte aan, zegt Antheunis. “Ze willen dat hun werk zichtbaarder wordt gemaakt. Dat het benoemd wordt dat ze veel media-aandacht hebben, of in een commissie zitten.”

In die lijn denkt ook Schuit: “We kunnen anderen laten vertellen hoe belangrijk universitair docenten voor ze zijn.” Want ze vervullen een sleutelrol. De zogenaamde “grote wetenschappers” die tot op heden alleen op het schild werden gehesen, “staan op de schouders van een heel team.”

“Je kan ook denken aan een sabbatical,” zegt Paauwe. “Goede onderzoekers mogen eens in de vijf jaar weg om bij te tanken. Waarom zou je dat als goede docent niet doen? Je kan eens aan een andere universiteit meekijken. Wat zijn hun lesmethoden, hoe zit de didactiek in elkaar?”

Over onderwijs gesproken. Er komt meer keuzevrijheid, maar onderzoek en onderwijs gaan de basis vormen. Wat als een docent alleen maar onderwijs geeft en geen onderzoek wil doen?

“Waarom ga je dan op een universiteit werken?” vraagt Paauwe. “We zijn een wetenschappelijke instelling. Het grote onderscheid tussen universiteit en hbo is dat we wetenschappelijk onderzoek verrichten.” Hij draait het om: er komt juist ruimte voor docenten om zich ook met onderzoek bezig te houden.

Volgens Schuit richt erkennen en waarderen zich als eerste op “wetenschappelijk personeel met een brede taakverantwoordelijkheid, zoals UD, UHD en hoogleraren”. Maar er zal ook voor post-docs, of docenten met veelal tijdelijke contracten gekeken worden naar manieren om ze meer te erkennen en waarderen voor hun werk, bijvoorbeeld door ze een BKO te laten halen.

Bij een nieuwe manier van werken horen ook andere functioneringsgesprekken. Hoe zien die er voortaan uit?

Ergens na de zomer wordt het R&O-gesprek universiteitsbreed vervangen door het Performance en Talent Development-systeem. “We gaan dan niet meer één keer per jaar feedback geven,” zegt Jantine Schuit, “maar continu.”

Inhoudelijk gaan die gesprekken ook veranderen. “Waar ben je goed in, wat is je passie, komt dit voldoende tot uitdrukking in je functie, en wat kunnen we daarmee binnen het departement of de vakgroep?” Het zijn de vragen die volgens Jaap Paauwe voortaan leidend zijn. “Ik hoop dat iedereen in de loop van 2022 zo’n gesprek heeft gehad.”

In dat gesprek moet ook aandacht zijn voor wat er niet goed gaat, zegt Schuit. “We vinden het soms lastig om te zeggen als mensen minder goed functioneren. Hierover moet in alle openheid het gesprek gevoerd kunnen worden tussen medewerker en leidinggevende. Er zou gevraagd moeten worden ‘Wat heb je nodig om beter te functioneren?’, maar ook ‘ Voel jij je op je plek in deze omgeving?’. We hopen de situatie te creëren dat het veilig is om dit over en weer te bespreken.”

De gebaande paden worden verlaten, maar er zal toch enige houvast nodig zijn. Eerder is gesproken over profielen om uit te kiezen. Komen die er?

Daar wordt inderdaad aan gedacht. In de vijf werkgroepen voor de verschillende domeinen (onderwijs, onderzoek, leiderschap, impact, teamspirit) werken ze aan profielen. Daar is behoefte aan: om te weten wat de uitgangspunten zijn, en bijvoorbeeld om misverstanden te voorkomen. Zo wordt er gedacht aan vier niveaus voor het onderwijs, waarvan expert het hoogste is.

“Mensen denken wel eens dat ze een expert zijn in onderwijs, omdat ze er heel goed in zijn,” zegt Antheunis. “Wij denken dat het meer moet zijn, want er zijn gelukkig heel veel mensen goed in onderwijs. Er horen dan bijvoorbeeld ook managementtaken bij, en een seniorkwalificatie onderwijs en onderwijsgerelateerd onderzoek.”

Is er eigenlijk nog ruimte voor toponderzoekers in de nieuwe plannen?

Jawel. Dit werd eerder al gezegd, en wordt ook nu benadrukt. Erkennen en waarderen wordt “de normale manier van werken”, zegt Paauwe, maar het is juist mogelijk om daarin accenten te leggen.

Zo blijft er “volop ruimte voor mensen en departementen die zich blijven richten op een profilering met toppublicaties. Maar dan geldt wel dat je niet neerkijkt op anderen die een excellente onderwijsprestatie neerzetten.”

Toch is wel duidelijk dat er iets gaat veranderen voor het wetenschappelijk personeel. Hoe zit dat eigenlijk met niet-wetenschappelijke medewerkers. Blijven zij werken op de oude manier?

Eigenlijk niet. Ook voor hen geldt dat het Performance en Talent Developmentsysteem in de plaats komt van het R&O-gesprek. Er zal dus vaker om tafel gezeten worden met de leidinggevende. En de eigen voorkeuren gaan een grotere rol spelen, zolang het niet teveel schuurt met de belangen van het team als geheel.

Uiteindelijk gaan ook de niet-wetenschappelijke medewerkers helemaal die kant uit. Schuit: “We willen ook expliciet aandacht voor erkennen en waarderen voor het ondersteunend personeel, want zij spelen een cruciale rol bij de uitoefening van het werk van wetenschappers.”

Maar eerst wil de universiteit erkennen en waarderen goed op poten zetten voor het wetenschappelijk personeel. Focus, dat is belangrijk bij een cultuurverandering, zodat het goed gebeurt. Om dit extra te waarborgen, worden de uitgangspunten ook opgenomen in het nieuwe strategische plan van de universiteit.

Medewerkers lijken enthousiast, de stuurgroep heeft het tempo erin, het College van Bestuur is aan boord. Wat is nu de belangrijkste stap om te zetten?

Het opleiden en coachen van departementsvoorzitters. Zij gaan de gesprekken voeren met hun medewerkers over ambitie en noodzaak. Dus worden ze getraind, gecoacht en gaan ze oefenen met voorbeeldsituaties. Ze hebben handvatten nodig, zodat ze het allemaal in goede banen kunnen leiden.

Nu het allemaal wat concreter begint te worden, komt ook deze stap dichterbij. Paauwe: “Direct na de zomer gaan we, in samenspraak met de departementsvoorzitters, er volop mee aan de slag.”


Source: Univers, Ron Vaessen

In search of the ideal university

Doret de Ruyter and Joke van Saane have plenty to say about ‘the ideal university’. In their respective roles and with a deep sense of intrinsic motivation, they are committed to changing the recognition and rewards system for academic staff. They know that this is a long process, but they agree on one thing: it is worth continuing to strive for an ideal university.

(Read this interview in Dutch)

As chair of the Recognition and Rewards committee of the Dutch Denominational Universities (Nederlandse Levensbeschouwelijke Universiteiten, NLU), a position she shares with Prof. Bram de Muynck of the Theological University of Apeldoorn, Doret has been closely involved in drawing up the NLU’s vision for a new way of recognising and rewarding academic staff. ‘Developing a vision for the NLU was an interesting and inspiring process. We obviously had to deal with differences both within our university and between the four partner universities (University for Humanistic Studies, Theological University of Apeldoorn, Theological University of Kampen and Protestant Theological University), but we also shared a lot of similarities in terms of what characterises an ideal university.’

All four universities felt a strong sense of urgency. Joke says that having a well-organised recognition and rewards system is part of a university’s job: ‘I believe in science that has time to think and move forward, but I also believe in science that matters in society. The dissemination of such scientific knowledge really brings added value to society. If you reduce the quality of science and academic practice to the number of publications and the amount of funding acquired, then you are not doing justice to your duty as a university.’ Doret adds: ‘The Recognition and Rewards programme is desperately needed: we can see that the workload is disproportionate. On all fronts (research, education, valorisation), high demands are placed on staff. Everyone is working very hard, and many are working too hard.’

Doret: ‘I’ve been in academia for 30 years and I’m used to the fact that you usually work more hours than your official contract. You do this because, as an academic, you are intrinsically motivated: you love your job, so you just enjoy doing it. But what was once optional and voluntary has now become almost always required.’

Eight characteristics of an ideal university

The NLU’s vision describes eight characteristics of an ideal university. As stated in the vision, the ideal university obviously does not exist and will never be fully realised. But aiming for this ideal will bring us closer.

The ideal university:

  1. Forms a (learning) community;
  2. Connects education and research;
  3. Shares research results with others in an accessible manner;
  4. Encourages peer review and cooperation;
  5. Focuses on content and quality;
  6. Thinks in terms of what staff and students need to flourish;
  7. Appeals to the intrinsic motivation of staff by tapping into their talents;
  8. Is led by development-oriented leaders.

These characteristics are described in further detail in the NLU’s vision document.

Joke: ‘The idea of Recognition and Rewards is so good because it goes back to why we have universities in the first place. It shouldn’t just be about numbers, but about what we really value about academia.’ The eight characteristics are also discussed in meetings of the Executive Board of the University for Humanistic Studies (UvH) and in the joint discussions of all four executive boards within the NLU. ‘These characteristics are great, manageable topics to discuss, so we try to regularly reflect on them in meetings to keep our sights on where we want to go.’

The word ‘flourish’ and the concept of helping each other stand out in the characteristics from the vision. From the NLU’s perspective, however, these are very obvious aspects of an ideal university. Doret: ‘These characteristics fit perfectly with our type of universities. At the UvH, for example, our research (and education) is focused on a meaningful life and the humanisation of society.’ Joke adds: ‘If you also look at the theological universities, their aim is first and foremost to contribute to the community: in other words, helping others rather than pursuing personal gain. We see symptoms of unhealthy competition as well, of course, but at the core we are aware of the fact that we have to do it together.’ The small-scale nature of the universities plays a role in this. In a smaller organisation, it is important to openly discuss how positions are filled. Joke: ‘We don’t have the luxury of shifting positions and creating space for everyone, so we have to look for solutions together.’ Career differentiation is a core element within the Recognition and Rewards programme, but at the same time it is also a challenge for these universities. ‘Since we have limited opportunities for advancement, our staff must be able to continue their career elsewhere and still be evaluated in the same way. That is why it’s very important for all Dutch universities to make this major cultural change together,’ Joke explains.

The small-scale nature of the NLU member universities was also helpful in drawing up the characteristics and vision, however. ‘While developing the vision, we were able to ask everyone what they thought was important. And during discussions of the vision, all staff at each university had the opportunity to share their ideas,’ Doret says. Doret and Joke describe engaging in dialogue, eliminating obstacles and identifying directions for the future as a pleasant and open process at NLU.

‘As soon as you start getting close, things get exciting.’

The next step is to implement the vision and take the first steps towards change, but this daunting task is easier said than done. As soon as it starts getting concrete, things get exciting. The way a person is evaluated now might change, after all, and what does that mean for someone’s job? The tangible and visible steps will certainly raise justified questions and concerns. Joke: ‘What also makes it difficult for us is that we can’t try something out on a smaller scale, such as within an individual faculty, for example. We are too small for that, so for us it’s also a kind of “all or nothing” situation.’

In our conversation with Doret and Joke, there is an important topic that cannot be ignored: leadership. What exactly is academic leadership?

Joke explains: ‘For me, this is related to two things: an organisational factor and a human factor. On the one hand, a leader takes responsibility for the greater whole and not just his or her own position. That means really looking after the whole university. At the same time, a leader takes active interest in others by coaching and encouraging them. Encouragement doesn’t mean pushing someone in a specific direction, but helping them to take developmental steps.’

Joke talks about ‘academic service’ and being aware of what is going on in society, what lies ahead and how this relates to the organisation. Doret mentions personal leadership as another important component. ‘To be a good leader, it’s also important to question yourself, reflect and be open to other ideas and perspectives.’ With Doret, who is also Director of Education at the UvH, the link between leadership and education is immediately clear. What does good leadership in education look like?

Doret: ‘Leadership in education primarily involves lecturers treating students in the way described above. In a sense, the lecturer is there to serve the students. Which does not mean blindly following the students’ wishes, of course: education is also fed by your own expertise and educational vision. But as a lecturer, you try to help students develop so that they can flourish.’

Once again, there is a natural link to Recognition and Rewards, as both Doret and Joke say it is important to acknowledge and appreciate teaching more. Teaching is still too often viewed as something that people want to get out of so that they’ll have more time for research. ‘We need good leaders in this area, too: people who really believe that teaching careers deserve appreciation. ’

Doret adds: ‘Education and research are both important social components of a university. It’s important that science makes a contribution to society. By the way, this doesn’t mean that every research project has to have an immediate impact on society. Slow science also needs space and time to develop and think through things that can deliver results in the longer term.’ Joke adds: ‘That’s why working in teams is so important. A team has people who are good at making the connection to society, but also people who can do research and think on a more conceptual and fundamental level. Each type complements the other, and that is a major advantage of working in teams.’

The hour flew by in our passionate conversation with Joke and Doret. Joke shares her final thoughts: ‘We realise that this is a huge cultural shift which is easier on paper than in reality, but it is so worth it. This change brings us back to the essence of academia.’

Doret de Ruyter has been professor of Education at the University of Humanistic Studies since 1 June 2018 and Director of Education since 1 September 2020. Prior to that, she spent fifteen years working as a professor of Philosophy of Education at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Doret is one of the two chairs of the NLU’s Recognition and Rewards committee. Flourishing as a goal of upbringing and education is one of her research and teaching themes.

Prof. Joke van Saane is professor of Meaning and Leadership. Since 1 July 2019, she has served as rector and chair of the Executive Board of the University of Humanistic Studies. She previously worked at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. From 2014 to 2019, she was professor of Religious Psychology and Education Theology & Religion Studies and Education portfolio holder at the Faculty of Religion and Theology of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Reflections by: Pieter Duisenberg

On Friday June 4 all members of the Executive Boards of the universities met in the General Assembly. One of the topics discussed during this meeting was recognition and rewards. In this blog Pieter Duisenberg, President of the VSNU reflects on this discussion.


‘The big societal challenges of the moment call for more cooperation and for a multidisciplinary, impactful approach to science with fitting recognition and rewards. By way of the above-mentioned activities, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the Dutch Research Council (NWO), ZonMw, the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) are boosting the development of such an approach.’

At the VSNU’s General Assembly* of Friday 4 June, I briefly closed my eyes to think back to the beginnings of the movement for recognition and rewards – and yes, you can definitely call it a movement by now! The words in italics above were the closing sentences of the first Recognition & Rewards position paper of 2018. This was the forerunner of Room for Everyone’s Talent (Ruimte voor ieders talent).

 

That is when people started taking the first steps. Progress was also made during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is quite an achievement.

A few examples:

  • Several universities have written their own vision document.
  • Recognition and Rewards is being widely discussed.
  • The SEP has become the Strategy Evaluation Protocol and has incorporated elements of Recognition and Rewards.
  • NWO and ZonMw have switched to a ‘narrative CV’ with fewer hard metrics and more emphasis on impact.
  • The ‘Faculty of Impact’, offering a post-doc programme focusing on valorisation, was launched.
  • The example of the Recognition and Rewards movement is being followed in Europe: the European University Association has included the ‘diversification of research careers’ in its strategy, and the ‘attractiveness of researchers’ careers’ is a key component of the renewed European Research Area.

More and more, I am realising that the three pillars of the VSNU agenda, ‘Knowledge is our Future’ (Kennis is onze Toekomst), are closely interlinked. These pillars are:

1) working together to create societal impact and earning capacity;

2) innovation towards an open and connected university;

3) room for talent.

Pillars one and two are dependent on pillar three. This third pillar is the basic prerequisite for our university, our future! But Recognition and Rewards is also mutually dependent on what happens in other tracks, such as open science, the acceleration agenda for innovation in education, the programme for ambitious valorisation and, notably, funding. The level of funding and the way in which funding instruments are used are crucial for creating room for talent. After all, allowing the talents of our academics to flourish requires more peace and continuity, so they can contribute successfully to scholarly research, academic teaching and societal developments. Accordingly, we want there to be less emphasis on funding applications in careers. Greater differentiation in career paths means we want to create opportunities for academics with a variety of profiles. This requires funding, and we are committed to securing it. We advocate a funding model that matches societal ambitions and the diversity of these ambitions, rather than the current distribution model based on numbers. We are aiming for ‘rolling grants’ for more independent research and sector plans for strengthening and deepening disciplines.

A productive discussion we had with Board members at the General Assembly of 4 June showed that they are keenly aware of the link between talent and funding. It would be great if the parameters for the distribution of funds at the national, university and faculty level were to help the transition in Recognition and Rewards along. How do we translate recognition and rewards priorities into financial decisions at institutions? If we attach so much importance to interdisciplinarity, how do we put it into practice when it comes to sector plans and institutional plans? If we can invest more in direct government funding, how do we simultaneously reduce high application rates and increase success rates?

In short, the recognition and rewards movement is crucial to our future. Both in the Netherlands and internationally, it has got off to a flying start. But the road is long, the contingencies are considerable and complex and the movement immediately gives rise to a slew of new questions. We will solve these issues together: with each other, with our partners NWO, ZonMw, NFU and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, with our international friends and with ministries and the political arena.

*General Assembly: two or three times a year, all members of the Executive Boards meet in the General Assembly. This is where the joint strategy is determined, aimed at increasing and anchoring the quality of research-oriented higher education, scholarly research and their impact on society.

The animation below shows the dilemmas as discussed during the General Assembly

VSNU contact: Kim Huijpen

 

Read article in Dutch