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Evaluation: NWO Institutes are among the world's best

The nine NWO Institutes were evaluated at the end of 2023 and rated as excellent by committees of international independent experts. The scientific research they conduct is of absolute top quality.

Strategy Evalution Protocol (SEP)

Every six years the NWO Institutes are evaluated. This is done using the Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP), which was created by NWO, KNAW and UNL to provide a sound basis for evaluations of research groups and institutes. The SEP evaluation of the NWO Institutes took place in the second half of 2023.

"It is tremendously gratifying that the international experts of the evaluation committee see the same as we do: that our institutes are among the world's best," said Marcel Levi, president of Executive Board of NWO and of the Foundation Board of NWO-I, under which the institutes fall.

"The institutes are praised, among other things, for their groundbreaking research, the access they offer their scientific field to large (inter)national consortia or infrastructures and bringing the field together. The entire NWO Executive Board is therefore incredibly proud. It is clear that our institutes are an indispensable link in landscape of scientific research in the Netherlands."

Evaluation themes and process

A separate evaluation committee, consisting of six independent scientific or societal experts, was established for each of the institutes. The evaluation focused on the scientific quality, social relevance and future-proofing of the institutes. Special attention was also paid this time to the PhD policy and the research culture.

The institutes first conducted a self-evaluation over the past six years and provided a strategic plan for the next six years. Next, a site visit by the evaluation committee took place. They then delivered a report with recommendations, which the institutes were then able to respond to again. On 22 May, NWO's Executive Board of Directors established the evaluation.

Recommendations from the report

The committees took a critical approach. That does not mean just praise: each institute is given recommendations for the future. Several of those recommendations recur to varying degrees at more than one institute.

An example of an overarching recommendation is improving mentoring programs for doctoral students and postdocs. Not only to support them in their careers within the institute, but especially to support them in pursuing their careers.

In addition, almost all evaluations revealed that PhD students would like more clarity in the expectations of the institute, NWO-I and the university at which they are doing their PhD. Thus, guidance could be improved. NWO-I took the additional first step in this immediately after the evaluation by establishing a PhD council.

The recommendation for further improving the research culture also recurs at several institutes as an area of concern. The institutes have made great strides in recent years when it comes to diversity, but continued improvement is still needed. Particular attention should be paid to enhancing the leadership qualities of managers in the organization. This includes, for example, optimizing social safety.

Working on further improvement

The board sees the recommendations arising from social developments. Marcel Levi: "Large organizations do not change overnight. The NWO Institutes respond very well to the developments in society and attach importance to it. The fact is just that large organizations cannot change overnight. The recommendations show that we are on the right track. I see it as an encouragement to work for improvement on these themes."

Follow-up to the evaluation

The institutes' evaluations are an important benchmark for the institutes and their strategy and commitment for the next six years. As a follow-up to the evaluation, the NWO and NWO-I Board regularly asks the institutes about the status of the recommendations and actively supports the implementation of the necessary actions. A new SEP evaluation is scheduled at the end of 2029.

More information and the evaluation reports

More information and the evaluation reports, including those from past years, can be found on the NWO website.

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