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Evaluation Committee says institutes system at Academy and NWO has significant added value

At the behest of the Academy and NWO, an independent committee has evaluated the portfolio of the two organisations' institutes. The Committee concludes that these national research institutes increase the effectiveness of Dutch scientific endeavour.
On 21 February 2019, the Directors of the Academy and NWO presented the report, with their response to it, to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

The Portfolio Committee concludes that the current portfolio of national research institutes has significant added value for the knowledge institutions in the Netherlands, as it increases the effectiveness of Dutch science. With a view to maximum use of that added value, the Committee makes a number of recommendations.

The Committee has defined some basic conditions and criteria for institutes within the portfolio. A national research institute should carry out research that is leading internationally, and should make the importance of that research clear to society as a whole. The Committee also expects each institute to play a national role in exploring new lines of research and coordinating research in its field in the Netherlands.

The boards of the Academy and NWO express their thanks to the Committee for setting out those basic conditions and criteria for added value that national research institutes within the portfolio should meet. They can be used to guide the present institutes within the portfolio and can act as a benchmark for decisions on accession of other institutes. The two boards endorse the criteria drawn up by the Committee.

System of Research Institutes

Working with these basic conditions and the three new criteria, the Portfolio Committee analyzed the extent to which each institute already meets the future conditions. Its conclusion was that almost all the institutes in the current portfolio meet the basic conditions and, to varying degrees, the new criteria for national added value. In the view of the Committee, DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services) and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) is primarily facilitatory institutes.

The Academy and NWO share the Committee's view that DANS plays an important role in the development of  'open science' and that it should be positioned differently from the national research institutes. NIAS is also of a different nature from the other institutes within the portfolio. The Academy endorses the Committee’s finding that the activities of NIAS are relevant and fit in well with the work of the Academy.

The Committee did not identify any themes of national importance to which the portfolio needs to respond. The Academy and NWO see an important role here for the proposed independent committee. This needs to have a clear understanding of the relevant developments in numerous disciplines and to be aware of the insights gained by many parties within the knowledge landscape.

Finally, the Committee advises on the way in which the system can be jointly managed and administered by NWO and the Academy, and it makes a specific proposal for introducing greater dynamism into the system.

The Academy and NWO also endorse the need for making strategic choices regarding the portfolio. They wish to involve other relevant parties within the Dutch knowledge landscape in strategic choices about institutes and their missions and consider it important to relate those choices to other major investments with a long-term impact. The Academy and NWO will submit a proposal to the Ministry for the composition, role, and mandate of a future independent committee.

About the portfolio evaluation

The Vision for Science 2025 (Wetenschapsvisie 2025)] announced the need for an evaluation of the institute portfolio. In this document the previous Dutch government referred to the complementary function and high quality of the Academy and NWO Institutes, and at the same time, it expressed the intention to determine the extent to which the system of institutes is equipped to tackle new scientific and societal challenges. This evaluation is the result of that; it examines the national robustness of each institute and of the system as a whole. In recent years, the Academy and NWO Institutes have also been assessed as regards their scientific quality, social relevance, and sustainability (SEP evaluation).

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