Recommendations research assessment 2021 Soil Sciences (SSC)

Executive summary

The Soil Sciences cluster is one of the top research and student education centres of excellence globally in soil science. The committee finds that the cluster has a clear and fitting mission. As with the CWS cluster, the intended future destination is less clear. By leading a number of large international projects over the past six years, the Soil cluster has demonstrated its ability to act as initiator of multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects with scientists, governmental institutions, land user associations, farmers, NGO’s and other relevant stakeholders. These and other projects have resulted in many highly-quality publications that are often used by researchers within the field. The globally leading position of the Soil cluster and its strong relationships with the Dutch government, the EU and UN bodies places it in a uniquely strong position. It could and should, in the committee’s view, deploy leadership activities that could build on this position. The committee got a very favorable impression of PhD supervision in the Soil cluster. It sensed a true feeling of excitement about the future. This will be a powerful motor.

Main Recommendations

  • Embark on a dedicated collective effort to set priorities and operationalize indicators and processes to assess how things are developing. This will help you to get a stronger grip on the future and reinforce international leadership. Be ambitious on societal impact.
  • Affirm your international stature by publishing a strategic paper on the role of soils in the UN’s sustainable development goals.
  • For inclusion, safety and equality, do not solely depend on an open culture but have some mechanisms in place that safeguard these aspects.
  • Install targeted measures are required to encourage the promotion of females and internationals to the higher-ranking functions of associate and full professors.
  • Guard the balance in the ratio between PhD candidates and experienced staff, in order to keep up PhD supervision at the present high level.