Environmental and sustainability research in the Netherlands is internationally considered to be of very high quality. More than 25% of the Dutch research groups under review belong to the world top of their field of research. The Dutch institutes are very positively assessed by the international reviewers and are strongly praised for their inclination to interdisciplinary cooperation and the societal relevance of the scientific research. The level of scientific excellence as well as the communicative and leadership qualities of the young professionals trained in environmental and sustainability research in the Netherlands are highly attractive to future employers, both nationally and internationally.
The quality assessment of environmental and sustainability sciences in the Netherlands, which takes place every six years, has been very successful. In order to cover the full scientific width and depth of this research domain, a group of 40 international professors with relevant expertise were invited to the Netherlands for the purpose of this review process. These independent ‘peer reviewers’ have concluded that the environmental and sustainability research in the Netherlands has a very high international impact.
The six Dutch research institutes under assessment have been evaluated very positively and are highly praised for their contributions to interdisciplinary cooperation and societal relevance. The assessed institutes are: Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research (WIMEK, Wageningen University), Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM, VU University Amsterdam), Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (Utrecht University), Institute of Environmental Sciences (Leiden University), Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC, Twente University) en het Institue for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE Delft).
Within these six institutes, a total of 39 research groups has been reviewed, of which more than 25% belongs to the world top of their field and 75% is considered ‘very good’ with respect to scientific quality.
One special aspect of environmental and sustainability research in the Netherlands is the joint PhD training and education programme, including more than 600 PhD candidates from all over the world. These future experts are intensively guided to a successful PhD graduation and high-level employment by the national research school SENSE (for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment). A strong focus is given to the competencies in the field of excellence in research, communication and leadership. This national Dutch cooperation is valued as excellent by the international assessment committee, with special appreciation for the scientific quality, the societal relevance and the strong commitment demonstrated in the work of senior researchers and PhD candidates.
Their communicative and leadership competencies, combined with their scientific excellence, make the PhD researchers educated in the Netherlands highly attractive to future employers in business, government and research – both nationally and internationally.
The international review committee underlines the importance of good communicative efforts between scientific researchers and policy makers, business representatives and relevant stakeholders. This communication and exchange is necessary for the adequate and timely implementation of research outcomes in adequate policies and societal innovations towards more sustainable societies. For this purpose, the communication must be effective in both directions: issues and questions from businesses, citizens and politics who aim for sustainable development must also find their way to excellent scientific research in order to find solutions and innovations for practical challenges.
The review committee highlights the added value of the national and interdisciplinary research school SENSE for the environmental and sustainability research in the Netherlands, in the search for excellence of applied innovations, PhD education and international cooperation.