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Excellence is Extraordinary

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 03 February 5 2019

February 2019
The Rathenau Institute in the Netherlands has published a report ‘Excellence is extra-ordinary‘ on thirty years of focus on excellence in Dutch science policy.
By specifying the meaning of “excellence’ in the context of scholarly research, the report meticulously describes and analyses the the effects of a set of policy instruments that encourage excellence in science, such as the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme, or Talent Scheme, (with the Veni, Vidi and Vici Grants) and the ERC Grants from the European Research Council. It addresses two questions. The first relates to the way in which excellence in research is fostered: does it deliver the intended result, and is it useful? The second considers the various tasks of the universities: does this single focus on excellent research upset the balance at universities?
Based on policy texts and debates, quantitative data from research funding bodies, desk research and interviews, it concludes that Dutch policy to foster research excellence has on the whole been effective. But there were also unintended side effects, like the cost (in time, money, energy and motivation) of the competitive resource allocation and the neglect of other core tasks of the university. It offers some suggestions to address these issues – as a contribution to the discussion rather than with the ambition to provide the golden bullet. An interesting study was offering comparative insights to those in other countries interested in science policy at national and regional level.
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