Scientists have been saying this for years: they want more than a billion euros a year to reduce the workload and make more space for free research. This opportunity has diminished now that the current alliance has made a fresh start.
They stood at Hofvijver, and protested at the opening of the school year and threatened with a blow. Time and time again, universities, scientists, and trade unions, often along with students, have informed politicians that more money is needed.
They continue to fall into a wall of political unwillingness. After all, there was a coalition agreement, from which it was impossible to break, perhaps the next government could withdraw the wallet, and good luck with it.
VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie together again table. In the end GroenLinks and PvdA were not allowed to participate, so it is likely that the same four parties will continue to rule. It’s like a broken computer: you just need to restart.
The question is what does that mean for science. D66 in particular would like to allocate additional funds to education and scientific research. But this billionaire, whom even Minister Van Engelschoven seemed to support, did not succeed in the present alliance. Is this different after a reboot?
Earlier in the formation, VVD and D66 jointly wrote the main points of a potential coalition agreement. Both parties wish to “invest heavily in education and science” and increase “public and private investment in research and innovation.”
They didn’t even know what that meant. It will come. “We are in the process of formulating a clear national scientific ambition that targets societal challenges,” she said. Amounts are not mentioned.
The D66 aims high, but recognizes that a compromise must be made – just like last time. Perhaps the other three parties did not suddenly change course. They may want to spend extra money on research, but this may pass, for example, through the National Growth Fund, where the money is earmarked specifically for strengthening the Dutch economy. Think AI and all that.
VVD, CDA and ChristenUnie have a penchant for applied research by collaborating with the business community or other parties. The National Research Agenda is a case in point: its researchers focus on major societal challenges such as population aging, security and climate change.
“We are seizing the opportunities that research and innovation provide,” says the CDA election program, for example. “Investing in science and research keeps our country livable, prosperous, and competitive,” ChristenUnie sums up.
This is a different tone from the D66’s beat. The party wrote in its electoral manifesto: “Science increases our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us.” So the D66 wants to “invest heavily in science and scientists”.
In order to settle the discussion, universities and activists would like to point to a report by the PwC consultancy commissioned by the Cabinet. It will be mentioned that scientific education needs an additional 1.1 billion euros annually. But it depends on how you read it. With this advice in hand, you may also get 600 million annually and after tough negotiations, that amount can go down again.
In addition, VVD has proposed slashing €200 million in direct funding for higher education. In short, if the current alliance is restarted, that extra billion of universities is still a long way off.
What is possible in a new coalition? Maybe something will happen about science’s “useless circus of apps,” as the D66 calls it. This is also ChristenUnie’s commitment: “Part of the energy that is now being expended in applying and evaluating research must go back to the research itself.”
It also appears that the CDA is paying for it. In their election manifesto, the Christian Democrats called for a new system of “private working capital for young scholars and professors.” This is reminiscent of the renewable grants proposed by the KNAW science community to create some peace of mind in science.
Only VVD says nothing about it. This party prefers to give money to the best (or most useful) scholars. Then you also need a rating system. So even in this matter, the noses are not exactly in the same direction.
It will be a long negotiation, and the outcome may not please everyone. A “gentle first step” seems to be the highest possible achievement. Banners don’t have to go in bulky waste right now.
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