Organisation - December 10, 2015

Column: Publication prize

Stijn van Gils

The atmosphere is tense. Five nominees have just been announced and three of them are about to be awarded the PE&RC prize for their academic article.

I am on the edge of my seat in a darkened room because my colleague Jan Kuiper is one of the nominees.

I feel Jan deserves to win. He hovers somewhere in between his two supervisors’ subject areas. In other words: he has not had an easy time of it. Many an evening I found him groaning at his pc: ‘My supervisors don’t understand each other,’ he would say. But Jan ploughed on: more than three years of his life went into this publication. And now Jan still isn’t getting much sleep. Because having been so devoted to perfecting this article, he is left with three weeks to finish off the rest of his thesis.

The third prize is announced. Not Jan, but someone I don’t know. Huh. Second prize then. No. The presenter clicks on the next PowerPoint slide. ‘The first prize goes to an excellently written article that…’ This has to be Jan, I think. She clicks again. I look at the screen: YESSS! It’s him.


At the drinks party afterwards Jan has a big smile on his face. He holds a bottle of beer in one hand and his award and a pot of flowers in the other. ‘We should tweet this,’ I say. Within a couple of hours the tweet has been seen more than a thousand times. Sixteen people have clicked on the photo to get a good look a Jan’s big smile, and eight people thought the news important enough to retweet it. A resounding success, in other words.

Not a single twitter user thought to ask what the paper was actually about, though. Come to think of it, I have no idea either.

Stijn van Gils (28) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.