Nieuws - 23 juni 2011

'Chances of surprise discoveries reduced'

Who? Dolf Weijers, biochemist
What? Member of the Young Academy of the KNAW (Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences)
Why? Signatory to the protest letter to minister Verhagen, who wants to take 350 million euros from the budget for NWO/KNAW to use for applied research in economic top sectors

Verhagen says your concerns are misguided, and fundamental research will not suffer. Reassured?
'Not in the least. Unfortunately, he doesn't address our arguments. We are all for innovation and top sectors are an appropriate way of stimulating it. What we are concerned about is the financing. That is being provided at the expense of fundamental research, whichever way you look at it.'

Research targeting innovation can be fundamental as well, surely?
'Yes, but that is not the aim of the top sectors. Besides, the chances of making surprise discoveries are drastically reduced. What is more, the sectors which have been selected are those in which research results can easily be valorised. That is not the case in many disciplines, so they will be getting the chop.'

Verhagen wants entrepreneurs and scientists in the driving seat together. What do you think of that?
'Verhagen acts as if that is new, but the top institutes, for instance, have been working like that for a long time. We wholeheartedly support the top sector plan, but we don't agree with the financing plan.'