Opening Academich Jaar 2014

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Policy for Science and Science for Policy !
Dirk Jan van den Berg President of the Executive Board Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year 2014-­‐2015 Delft University of Technology 1st of September 2014 !!
This summer I spent my vacation in Weimar Germany, already for centuries a Euro-­‐
pean hub of cultural and academic activity. I had the opportunity to attend an opera masterclass, featuring extraordinary talents from all over the world. During the per-­‐
formance a moving and powerful statement was made: the Russian and Ukrainian singers insisted on performing together. They wanted to demonstrate that the cur-­‐
rent political tensions between the Russian Federation and the Ukraine and its wider implications for international stability are not representing the younger generations. This gesture underscores the futility of old-­‐fashioned territorial power politics. Arts and Sciences can never be bound by politics. Scientists and artists will travel and wil connect world wide, bridging cultures and countries, creating new realities and es-­‐
tablishing new spheres of inSluence. A hopeful perspective, especially in the light of the tragic events of this summer when our TUDelft community has suffered the loss of Wim Bakker and his wife Annet, and Fatima Dyczynski in the MH17 plain crash. They will be remembered and our thoughts are with those left behind. !Somewhere in the fall the ministry of Education wil issue its vision on science policy. A very important document for universities, since they provide 85% of the scientiSic output in the Netherlands. Not much is known yet on where the thinking of our poli-­‐
cy-­‐makers and ministers will go. Therefore, I can feel free to make some comments on what a productive outcome could look like. I welcome very much the vision on science policy, since the academic research community in the Netherlands performs remarkably good, not withstanding the fair but certainly not exceptionally high fund-­‐
ing levels. I sincerely hope this simple fact will be recognised, since it was also one of the conclusions of the inter-­‐ministerial working group (IBO) on research funding in the Netherlands. The joint -­‐ government and research community -­‐ challenge is to set the conditions right in order to maintain and even expand our prominent global research position in the coming decades. There are four conditions to be met: the acquisition and retention of excellent researchers, the provision of world class re-­‐
search facilities, a reasonable research funding system and the autonomy of univer-­‐
sities. In fact, these conditions were more or less in place in the last 30 years or so and have underpinned our current excellent research reputation. !Having served as a policy-­‐maker myself, I know that my four conditions, although necessary, will not be sufSicient. We enter the complex relationship between science, policy and politics. Furthermore we have to acknowledge the fact that about 70-­‐80% of the research at universities comes from public funding. The question arises what all these research efforts and the funds invested in it bring to society; this is a per-­‐
fectly reasonable and legitimate question. At this point however, we risk the follow-­‐
ing pitfall: are we discussing policy for science or science for policy? These two no-­‐
tions are very distinct, and hopefully, well separated in the upcoming vision docu-­‐
ment. Obviously the mentioned four conditions fall in the category of policy for sci-­‐
ence and in particular I hope the minister will expand on our global competitive po-­‐
sition on the issue if acquisition and retention of researchers. !
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What can we say about science for policy? In an ideal world, the challenge is identi-­‐
Sied, science produces fact-­‐based solutions and recommendations, policymakers translate these into policy and the world is saved. This is not exactly how things pro-­‐
ceed in real life. Policy-­‐making is much more of an iterative process, has to include political interests and is open to other stakeholders. Science is not always -­‐ or should I say always not -­‐ univocal on recommendations and frankly the time-­‐cycles of sci-­‐
ence and politics are seldom in sync. This is frustrating and could give rise to policy considerations affecting the conditions under policy for science. That would be a grave mistake and in fact will put the cart before the horse. !The science vision provides an excellent opportunity to do two things in the science for policy part. First a science agenda comes into play as a means of communicating the challenges and objectives which the government deems important for our soci-­‐
ety and economy. This agenda could serve as a very useful set of coordinates for our researchers to work on. In my view this agenda consists of four parts: 1) science and its contribution to the societal challenges, more speciSically a translation of the H2020 societal challenges into the Dutch context; the ministries could be asked to produce such an agenda; 2) science and its contribution to a competitive economy; a chapter that already has been largely covered by the topsector approach; 3) research areas in which the government judges it necessary to have a stake in the world wide research efforts in these areas, like new materials, quantum computing, computa-­‐
tional science and cyber security and 4) an open chapter simply to allow for a free blue sky type of research, giving the opportunity to our researchers to explore and to investigate without knowing what the outcome will be in terms of usability; this is all about how astrophysics ends up in your smart phone. Obviously these four chap-­‐
ters are not mutually exclusive but I do believe that they could serve the government well to explain what they expect from science. !Secondly the onus is not only on policymakers and politicians to come forward with their ideas and expectations. The science community itself should further step up its efforts to better communicate their work. This requires a more active participation of researchers in policy development. Mechanisms should be put in place to make that happen more often and researchers should be prepared to participate in those mechanism, even if there is no direct added value to their research or educational work. I do not recommend a science comitology, Sixed structures of commissions or science advisors, but rather a Slexible project-­‐based approach, focused on well de-­‐
Sined issues. Universities will have to communicate better the kind of research they are undertaking. This is not an easy issue. In Delft our Delft Research-­‐based Initia-­‐
tives are an honest effort to explain our work on important societal challenges. Hopefully the upcoming science vision will deal with the improvement of the inter-­‐
action between science and the shaping of policies. !Finally, a note of warning regarding the instrumentation of the upcoming science policy. I strongly advise against a reshufSling of the existing funding streams. Also, the inter-­‐ministerial working group (IBO) advised against that. My proposition is that universities are best served by funding stability, given the long term nature of their operations. The trend towards performance agreements with universities might be conceptualised in the case of education, but will be quite difSicult to apply in the case of scientiSic research. Regarding the national research council (NWO) let me simply say that in times where there is high demand for science and technology, we expect NWO to be enabled in a way to fully reSlect this in their work outcomes. Finally I recommend Sinancial support to extend our range in our participation in the H2020 program, through Silling the matching gap. !
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Closely related to the topic of science policy is our cooperation with other universi-­‐
ties in the Netherlands. On content and education the 3 universities of technology work productively together. In the context of policy change it proves to be of high value to have this close cooperation within the 3 TU Federation. We will further promote our regional cooperation with Leiden University and Erasmus University Rotterdam. The nine centers so far move at a different pace, but the trend of things is a very positive one. Our Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions opens up new avenues to further strengthen our cooperation with the Amsterdam universities. This year AMS will take root in the Amsterdam academic community. !Thank you for your indulgence hearing me speak at length on science policies. But you will Sind out soon enough that the excellence of research deSines the excellence of education. Research and education are the different sides of the same coin. There-­‐
fore it is a keen students interest to have a science policy in place that will provide the foundation for excellente education !We are very happy at TU Delft that this year again we can welcome so many bachelor students as wel as international master students, Your enthusiasm and eagerness to take up your studies here at Delft clearly reSlects the trend that among young people interest in science and technology is on the rise. High numbers are a challenge but we have put everything into place to deliver a high quality education enabling every-­‐
one who does the effort to obtain the required study points at the end of the year. Additional space is being arranged for in the former Army Museum in Delft. Educa-­‐
tion will be high on our agenda. A formidable effort has been undertaking to apply important changes in our bachelor programs. The executive board will closely moni-­‐
tor during the fall the educational burden in faculties and will take additional mea-­‐
sures if so required. We will continue to further shape the recently established Delft Extension School; already over 220.000 students are or have been connected to TU Delft on line. The Graduate School will further progress so as to provide a serious offering of our university to the many PhD-­‐candidates. In order to expand our capac-­‐
ity for educational activities and study we will develop a new learning center on our campus. !Later in the program the rector will speak about the obligations related to becoming a member of the TU Delft community. It is important to reSlect on the word commu-­‐
nity. A university is not a hierarchical business or a ministry, it is a community of people working on education, research and valorisation who deserve respect in whatever capacity; the professor, the student, the cleaning lady or the professional supporter. Everyone has to play his or her role and so do the different institutions within the university system whether it is the Board, the Deans, the professional support staf or the representative bodies at the university and faculty level. In No-­‐
vember we will have elections for the staff representative bodies. I hope for a high voters turn out, since the representative bodies both of staff and students constitute an important component in the checks and balances in our community. !Let me conclude. I really encourage you take up your studies starting from day one. Experience indicates that those who muster the discipline to start right away stand a much better change of succes at the end of the year. Forget everything previous gen-­‐
erations might have told you about the wonderful student life in which study is sim-­‐
ply one of the activities to be undertaken. Things have changed. It is all about the art of planning your time well to strike the right balance between studying and enjoying your life as a student in Delft. Good luck and I wish you lots of succes! !Delft, 1st of September 2014.
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