Opportunities, threats, and ambitions in research
‘We’re out of coffee cups! Madam, we’re all out of cups.’ Attendance at the Strategic Plan debate on research, on Monday 2 November, is much higher than expected. In the Van Lier and Eggink room (Administration Building), extra furniture is pulled out. The key question for the day is: ‘What new research developments – favourable or threatening – does Utrecht University have to take into account in its strategy?’.
First, take a look at the ‘research chapter’ of the current Strategic Plan. What ambitions, objectives, developments and trends were identified four years ago and to what extent are they still relevant?
Some groups get off to a somewhat hesitant start. What exactly was the question? Let’s start with a round of introductions. Faculties and service departments, researchers and policy makers; they seem to be proportionately represented. The assignment is clarified. ‘Don’t think: “I’ll say something and then it will automatically be written down in the Strategic Plan”. However, sharing your ideas and experiences does allow us to identify common themes and decide together which direction to take.’
Here are three common themes, distilled from the session:
Fundamental versus applied research
- ‘Show courage: dare to choose and stick to fundamental research.’
- ‘Fundamental research is not sufficiently represented in the Strategic Themes. Perhaps we should devote a separate strategic theme to it?’
- ‘Fundamental research is the applied research of the future. So, let junior researchers busy themselves, above all, with fundamental research and let their senior colleagues focus on applied research.’
- ‘We’re formulating Strategic Themes top-down, looking at what research is currently being carried out. Give junior researchers the space they need and let them set the agenda.’
Competition and collaboration
- ‘To what extent are foreign universities with a lot of money and facilities a threat to us by poaching talent?’
- ‘A word of caution! It’s not only about money. You can also be competitive in terms of substance.’
- ‘To what extent can you collaborate and compete at the same time?’
- ‘Put more emphasis on collaboration, both interdisciplinary and international.’
- ‘Make sure you have regional alliances; forge ties.’
Communication and visibility
- ‘For many companies and institutions, Utrecht University is a black box. Show them what we have to offer.’
- ‘Research Support Offices and Communication & Marketing should collaborate more intensively with researchers and communicate about our research.’
- ‘We need greater focus on digital opportunities. I can’t keep up at all with junior researchers in how they’re communicating.’
- ‘The countless rules that researchers must adhere to, and all the forms they have to complete show a lack of trust in employees.’
Anton Pijpers, Vice-President of the Executive Board, uses a piano stool on wheels to move between the tables. He is delighted about the valuable and animated input coming through. ‘I’d like to have heard a few more ‘unorthodox’ ideas though. “If you have any, let us know through the various channels available for that purpose”, says Pijpers.
Join in the discussion!
From October to December, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts about the future of Utrecht University. During special sessions staff, students, alumni and partners of the University can discuss themes which they believe are important. You will be able to share your views on education and research, but also on the question of how the University could become even more sustainable and what role the campuses could play in creating an inspiring working and living environment.
Want to know more?
Read more about how the Strategic Plan is created and how you can contribute.