Nieuws - 23 februari 2012

Fundamental research not market-driven after all

+ Business opportunities in research proposals not part of assessment.
+ Rector Martin Kropff meets worried researchers halfway.

Research proposals for the IPOP programme Complex Adaptive Systems are not evaluated on the market value of their research, worried SSG and LSG researchers have been assured. Concern arose in November when it emerged that in an appeal for a programme geared to innovative science, questions were asked about business opportunities and overlap with the top sector policy. This is not the purpose of fundamental research, declared ten researchers, including professors Ken Giller, Michiel Korthals, Wim Heijman, Anke Niehof and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. ‘Government funding is being subjected to business interests', they wrote in a letter to Resource.
Show of support
Last month, the ten researchers asked their colleagues to respond, which led to 66 expressions of support for their stand. The participational council expressed its support too. The concerned researchers have now held several discussions with rector Martin Kropff, who thinks the evaluation of the IPOP science themes for university research groups should be restricted to scientific criteria. ‘Scientific quality comes first. As I see it, there does not need to be a link with one of the top sectors, although the proposals should be related to our field.'
The writers of the letter have since been assured that the proposals in this round will not be evaluated on business opportunities or on their overlap with top sector policy.
But the university IPOP programmes have not been entirely exempted from market thinking. The criteria are being drawn up with input from the six research schools, who are still pondering whether this criterion should be applied in new university programmes.

Seven IPOP themes are outlined in the strategic plan for 2011-2014. These are research themes which are investment priorities for the organization. Four IPOP themes (including nutrition and coast & sea) are geared to supporting society, and three others aim at stimulating innovative science. One of these is complex adaptive systems. These systems are dynamic networks, whether of cells, people, companies or countries, which react to each other continuously