News - October 17, 2019

Van Rijn Committee

Guido Camps

Our very own Board chair Louise Fresco let out a cry of empathy on Twitter recently: more money for science and technology universities is a good thing, but not at the expense of our colleagues in the social sciences. She was referring to the Van Rijn committee, which recommended diverting funding towards the sciences.

Although Fresco’s words come across as sympathetic, she must be secretly rubbing her hands as well. After all, Wageningen is one of the winners in this redistribution. Every chair group gets an extra fulltime staff member to relieve the burden on teachers and researchers: a massive investment, with over 200 chair groups.

Lean years ahead for the arts and social sciences, I fear

Two big names in the social sciences, the Leiden professor Ionica Smeets and the Groningen professor Casper Albers, have voiced protest in national papers and on Twitter. Unfortunately, I think they just reinforce the point the Van Rijn committee is making. They both work in and speak up for social science research, but their own backgrounds are in mathematics and econometrics, respectively, so they are hard scientists themselves.

The thinking in The Hague is probably that investments in scientific research will keep the social sciences going too, in a roundabout way. And of course it is easier for a mathematician or an econometrist to transfer into the business world than for an art historian. I’m expecting  The Hague to focus ever more strongly on tech, and less on the social sciences.

As I was writing this column another press release came from The Hague: two billion euros are going to be invested in artificial intelligence in the next few years. There are lean years ahead for the arts and social sciences, I fear.

Guido Camps (34) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.