Organisation - May 20, 2010

SSG is just a means to an end

The Executive Board discussed its new strategic plan yesterday morning at the Social Sciences Group, which is being seen chiefly as a means to market technology.

SSG researchers are frustrated that they are not valued for what they are worth, since the management keeps focussing on functional research. 'Certain kinds of research need to be done with no strings attached', says development sociologist Paul Hebinck. Fundamental research could be brought into question if money needs to come more from the market. Denying this, chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen says that government funds should keep such research going. And yet, he sees the social scientist primarily as a link between Wageningen technologists and society, instead of as a top scientist on his own merit.
On the other hand, without this link, Wageningen technologists would find themselves further away from society. In reply, communication scientist Cees Leeuwis remarks that while the Leeuwenborch has expertise for integrating scientific disciplines, much of this is left unused. And philosopher Michiel Korthals laments the fact that he does not get to teach ethics in Biology.
The merging of chair groups has also instilled fear into the group. The Leeuwenborch comprises many small chair groups covering many subjects, such as economics, business studies, communications, law and environmental policy. These will be merged in the next four years into clusters. Their existence has therefore become a subject of debate. 'Stimulating top groups at the cost of smaller ones', is how economist Ekko van Ierland puts it. He finds that new small groups in particular should be given support as well. Rector Martin Kropff in fact thinks that a cluster of smaller groups can easily adopt a new small group. Philosopher Korthals voices his doubts about joining forces in giving lectures. 'I don't think it's desirable to partner an economist in teaching a philosophy subject', he says. 'That's right; let the cobbler stick to his last', echoes the audience.
During this week and the next, the Executive Board makes the rounds of the organization with its strategic plans for 2011-2014. Resource reports on each session.