Wetenschap - 19 april 2011

Cabinet halves funding for ecosystems research

The ministry of EL&I has cut 1 million euros from the budget for ecological research at the Ecosystem Centre at Alterra since last year.

'Half of the cuts have been absorbed with the help of new projects funded by provinces or the EU, but you cannot do this just like that', says Henk Siepel, manager of the Ecosystem Centre.
The centre will be receiving no more funding for research on wild boar, geese, otters and the European hamster. Even the insect monitor, which the institute has kept going since 1946, has been discontinued. A parliamentary debate last week showed that some political parties want to go on funding the insect monitor. But that is not enough to make Siepel optimistic. 'We don't want to become a pawn in the latest political game. We are arguing for a solid research programme so that we can build up our expertise and maintain it. I only want to go on with the insect monitor if we get long-term funding. If not, we are stopping.'
The Ecosystem Centre has a turnover of nine million per year, of which only one million comes from the ministry of EL&I.  Most of the funding comes from the provinces, the water boards and the European Union. Much ecological research has been decentralized to the provinces. 'But that decentralization has not been properly prepared' says Siepel. 'So hardly anyone is giving us research assignments at the moment. You can see it with the wild boar research, for example, where everyone is waiting for someone else to come up with funding.'
Alterra will be receiving a total of one and a half million euros less this year for policy support research for the ministry. It will also have to cut down on its 'knowledge base research', something which most seriously affects the Landscape Centre at Alterra.
Due to the disappointing results, Alterra is not extending temporary contracts anymore. It is also investing less in staff courses. Next year's research budget from the ministry is not yet known. It will be announced in the ministry of EL&I's annual letter of intent in May.

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