A new year is around the corner and resolutions start coming to mind. ‘No more binge-watching.’ ‘Really stop smoking this time.’ ‘Never get blind drunk again.’ Which bad habit should WUR give up in 2019?
illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
Exchange student on the BSc in Plant Sciences
‘Wageningen University should stop using plastic cups next year. That would require students and employees to bring their own cups. It would be a crazy move, but it would also make sense. It’s much more sustainable. The focus should not only be on machines; the Spot and other cafés could also stop using disposable cups. But I wouldn’t be here to experience the change next year, as I’m returning to Massachusetts in a few weeks. There, the plastic and paper cup use is even worse than it is here. Maybe I'll look into making the same change at my home university.’
Professor of Nutrition and Cardiovascular Disease
‘WUR should stop publishing lists of the most frequently cited Wageningen researchers. We are in a rat race for the most publications and the highest h-index. I am getting a bit tired of it. It doesn’t do justice to people, or to the efforts and originality of a lot of colleagues. I myself am privileged enough to be part of an influential consortium of scientists who get published in top journals, so I end up in the top ten. But there are more than 1000 people involved: on my own I would never manage such a long series of articles. Personally, I am not at all happy that I’m on a list like that because it makes me look like some kind of career tiger who is only after a few high scores. It’s fine to put people in the limelight, but a citation index gives a one-sided picture. Instead, you could bring in the team or the project. So no more lists. It leads to internal conflict and the wrong corporate culture, in which we can’t cope without chair massages anymore.’
Hidde van Maltha
BSc student Forest and Nature Management
‘WUR should give up the WURwolf. I saw an advert inviting people to sign up to be the WURwolf, but I wouldn’t do that. We present ourselves as a serious university and a furry mascot is not appropriate. It also evokes associations with furries (people who dress up or have avatars as animal characters, ed.) and I’m not sure that’s what a university should want.
Willem de Vos
Distinguished professor (until recently chair-holding professor of Microbiology)
‘WUR should stop delegating tasks to the lowest level. Chair groups are being given more and more administrative tasks which actually belong in HRM or other departments. The secretaries say they are spending more and more time on running the chair group: forms have to be filled in, boxes ticked, and so on. Last year I had to make phone calls myself because somebody needed a permit to be able to work and teach here. You can’t do much about the bureaucratic rules but we can try to arrange things as well as possible internally. We are an international university, so we get a lot of foreign guests. There is a role for HRM there too. The same goes for housing, which the chair groups have to sort out themselves. WUR has all kinds of long-term goals for which budget is available. And yet in practice I often see that money being used to keep people busy and to stop gaps, rather than to stimulate true innovation. That requires a change of mentality from giving everyone money to making choices and stimulating excellence and innovation.’
MSc student of Food Technology
‘With the new schedule, there is no fixed time for lunch anymore. Before, everyone had a break at 12:15 and you could have lunch with your friends. Now it’s more difficult to meet them, as everyone has different courses and schedules. I think WUR should give up the different lunchtimes. Also, the Spot seems to be reserved for special events every day and I often get turned away. Now I just tend to sit outside the Spot so I don’t have to move again. But these are just small issues. I really like Wageningen’s ‘bubble’ and its atmosphere and am happy I have the opportunity to study here.’
Personal Professor of Food Technology
‘WUR should stop putting such an emphasis on personal grants. Currently this is often a criterion for progressing on the tenure track. I am sometimes on the committee at NWO, and I know how that selection is made. There are a great many very good proposals that don’t get onto the list. That is no reflection on the quality of the candidate. It is extremely difficult to get those kinds of grants, and it also depends on your subject area. So it creates inequality. If you are in engineering, for example, you quickly get labelled as an applied researcher and you’d need a lot of luck to get a grant. If you’ve been acquiring a variety of project for years in a row, and your group is running well, that is worth just as much as getting a personal grant. WUR is eager to have a social impact, so then it should have a bit more courage to decide for itself what is good. Without necessarily needing an external stamp of approval.’