News - February 28, 2020

The WUR Council: what’s in it for me?

Albert Sikkema

In a series of four articles, Resource talks to members of the WUR's consultative bodies. People have until 22 April to nominate themselves as a candidate. The elections will run from 2 to 6 June 2020.

Part 1: Ton Bisseling, professor of Molecular Biology: ‘Choose the subjects where you want to make a difference.’

‘Professors in the council (or not?)’

Wageningen has not had professors in its consultative bodies for years. They ‘have better things to do’. But Ton Bisseling, professor of Molecular Biology, decided over 15 years ago to join the Plant consultative body and the central council. A decision he has never regretted. ‘I still remember the stacks of paper I was given. You do need to be able to separate out the key issues from the side issues. But as a professor you have a lot of influence because you know how teaching and research goes and you have a good idea of the effect a policy will have on the university. The directors know that too so they take you seriously.’

Bisseling in turn learned a lot about the WUR organization through the council. ‘I learned about the research and funding of Wageningen Research and all aspects of the applied, practical research. You develop respect for other parts of the organization and it makes you better informed when setting up collaborative projects.’

Bisseling found his three years on the consultative bodies excellent preparation for the position of research director of EPS, which he held for the next 12 years. ‘I never got bored in the council. I think it would be really good if professors could be in the consultative bodies to have a say on tenure track, work pressure, how extra funding for science is spent and English-language teaching. My advice, however, is to choose the subjects where you want to make a difference.’