Nieuws - 28 juni 2011

Scientists: 'We will do our best'

Polite but reserved. This was the reaction of universities and the research funding organizations KNAW and NWO to plans for more collaboration between scientists and businesses.

The Association of Universities (VSNU), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), which funds research, and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the association of research institutes, issued a joint statement saying they would make every effort to ensure the collaboration with the public authorities and the business community is a success.

They do not go much further. They see many 'potential links' in the plans with their own missions but their main concern is to emphasize how valuable basic, unfettered research is: the curiosity of scientists is the fertile soil nurturing today's priority sectors and 'the priority sectors of tomorrow'.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation has identified nine such priority sectors, including Water, High Tech and the Chemical industry. The Minister, Maxime Verhagen, thinks these are areas where a fruitful collaboration is possible between scientists and business people, enabling the economy to profit from the knowledge scientists have. Verhagen has already said Wageningen is ahead of the field in this respect.

All well and good, but unfettered research is equally important, say KNAW, NWO and VSNU. In their opinion, 'It is not an additional extra, it is an essential, integral part of every research agenda'. They explicitly mention the social sciences and the humanities, which have received rather less attention in the Cabinet's economic plans and priority sectors.