Recommendations research assessment 2021 WIMEK as a whole, and Wageningen University and Research

Executive summary

The committee found that on the whole WIMEK has managed to create a brilliant mind-hub for junior researchers, with on the whole impressive research quality and societal impact. Overall, the committee encountered a good, safe, and interacting atmosphere within the clusters. It considers it quintessential to preserve this atmosphere in the coming years. An issue that all clusters seem to grapple with to some extent is the ambition and necessity to stimulate collaboration across disciplines. Also, for all clusters a long duration of PhD trajectories is on the agenda, although it was not always identified as a major problem by PhD candidates themselves. Societal impact becomes more and more important for funding agencies, for the assessment of research organizations and for individual careers. However, the committee found that societal impact seems not yet to be sufficiently recognized in tenure track criteria. For all clusters, this seems to get in the way of truly boosting societal impact.

Main Recommendations

  • Give the WIMEK clusters a helping hand in stimulating exploratory interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, high-risk research with high impact, to ensure that this kind of research becomes more structurally embedded.
  • Be aware that interdisciplinary and practice-oriented research cannot be directly compared with single-disciplinary research. The criteria for the assessment of academic outputs should therefore be adapted.
  • Share experiences on co-creation, in order to better understand the conditions under which participatory methods will have added value and lead to larger societal impact.
  • Give junior researchers more accountability and acknowledgement for scientific advancement and highlight achievements at the junior level. This may ultimately encourage more junior researchers, and in particular female and non-Dutch academics, to look for long-term research opportunities at WIMEK.
  • Prioritize the types of societal impact and then strive for explicit and objective recognition of societal impact and activities, to align human resource processes with organizational objectives.
  • Avoid fierce competition between individual researchers, since this does not contribute to a happy working environment, fruitful collaboration, and productivity in general.
  • Integrate supporting activities for PhD’s (such as peer groups, buddy system, postdoc being coaches to PhDs) are well appreciated. It would be good to integrate such activities in a WIMEK-wide policy.
  • Assess the needs of postdoctoral students and help them, for instance with career guidance tools.
  • For all PhD projects, make ambition meet duration. This pertains both to the scope of the project and the number of papers needed to be able to graduate.
  • Add intermediate milestones explicitly in PhD guidance and policy, particularly in the second and third year, where they are now lacking.
  • Make sure that staff has sufficient time for mentoring and supervision.
  • Set clear goals for the training of junior as well as senior scientists in research integrity.