Research is expensive and there is always more to research than money is available. Did you know that private individuals can also give money to science through the university fund? This is often not well known, while this support is desperately needed. That is why, during the months of February and March, all university funds in the Netherlands, including the University Fund Wageningen (UFW), are drawing attention to research into solutions to pressing questions that concern our society.
While it is clear to many that researchers at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) are searching for solutions to important social issues, such as climate change and food security, not everyone knows that this research is very expensive. Much research is supported by government grants, such as grants from the NWO. However, not every study qualifies for this. “There is more to research than there is money available. And research into subjects that are still in their early stages – fundamental research – or research with a daring character, usually does not meet the requirements for applying for a regular funding,” says Lies Boelrijk, director of the University Fund Wageningen. “Even though it is often this kind of research that has the potential to arrive at groundbreaking solutions that our society desperately needs.”
Boelrijk: “As a university fund, you are kind of like the good cause of the university. Donors who want to support education or research at WUR, donate money to us. We are a recognized ANBI, so donors can be assured that their money is spent responsibly and according to clear rules.” At the end of 2021, UFW had more than 3000 donors. They contribute, among other things, to providing scholarships and supporting activities for students in addition to the curriculum. A number of private individuals and philanthropic foundations also donate money for research. For example, research into sustainable agriculture in East Africa is currently underway, supported by the IKEA Foundation, and research into the use of lupine as an alternative protein source has been possible with the support of a private individual. “In these cases you are talking about a contribution of around 50,000 to a few million euros,” says Boelrijk. “But if various people donate a small amount to the same research project during a campaign, such as this national campaign of the university funds, a lot can be achieved with it!”
Is there still life on Earth without biodiversity?
In this campaign, UFW draws attention to the alarming loss of biodiversity with a question that makes you think: 'Is there still life on earth without biodiversity?'
Boelrijk: “A question with an easy answer: 'no', because without diversity of species there is no food or clean water, and no clean air. And we hope that leads to some sort of awareness among the public, that biodiversity is just hugely important.” That is why UFW calls on the public to support research into biodiversity restoration within WUR. With the donations, UFW supports research into nature restoration in agricultural landscapes, in this case in the South of the Dutch province Limburg. In this project, WUR researchers David Kleijn and Philippine Vergeer connect agricultural landscapes with nature reserves by reintroducing rare species to farmland and investigating whether this leads to genetic exchange and more robust populations. In addition, natural gradients in the landscape are restored, for example from calcareous to calcareous poor or moist to dry, and missing species are brought back. This broad approach at different scale levels in the gradients will once again create a robust landscape with associated rare species that will be more resistant to extremes in climate.