News - May 21, 2015

Wim van der Putten new KNAW member

Roelof Kleis

Wim van der Putten (1958), professor by special appointment of Functional Biodiversity and a researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO), has made a name for himself with his research on the link between how ecosystems function above ground and biodiversity in the soil. That has even resulted in a new subdiscipline in soil ecology. Last autumn, Van der Putten got into Nature with a review article on the subject.

‘I was completely surprised,’ says Van der Putten, when he was told two weeks ago that he would be nominated. ‘It’s recognition for your work. The idea that soil life plays an important role in natural vegetation and its structure has turned out to be a really new concept. It’s always nice if you can contribute to that as a scientist.’

Van der Putten publishes a lot and is often cited by fellow scientists. Scopus (Web of Science) gives 208 scientific publications, an H-index of 54 and more than 6100 citations. He has produced seven papers this year already. The professor works in the university’s Nematology group. Van der Putten is the 11th still active Wageningen professor to be a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The other members are Ton Bisseling, Marcel Dicke, March Koornneef, Rudy Rabbinge, Ivonne Rietjens, Marten Scheffer, Ben Scheres, Louise Vet, Willem de Vos and Executive Board chair Louise Fresco. Fifteen other new members were appointed at the same time as Van der Putten. For the first time there were equal numbers of men and women.

Van der Putten does not yet know what the appointment involves. ‘I need to look into that. At any rate, you’re a member of an exclusive club. Soil has really taken off as a subject. If this appointment lets me draw more attention to the relationship between the soil and soil biodiversity, I will certainly do that.’ New members are chosen on the basis of nominations by their ‘peers’, both in the Academy and beyond. The KNAW has more than 500 members divided into two divisions: Science, and Humanities and Social Sciences. Membership is for life. The inauguration of the new members will take place during a ceremony on 28 September in the Trippenhuis building in Amsterda.