Approximately 70 percent of the money that the Faculty of Science and Engineering received in financial support during the Covid pandemic has not yet been spent. In the meantime, PhDs were refused extensions on their contracts because their supervisors thought there wasn’t any money.
The government gave the faculty six million euros in support between 2020 and 2022. The money was intended to help researchers whose contracts were running out due to the delays they suffered during the pandemic finish their projects after all.
It now turns out that there is around four million euros left of those six. But supervisors were constantly being told there was ‘no money’, says artificial intelligence researcher Michael Wilkinson during an FSE faculty council meeting. Because of that, he was unable to extend the contract for two of his PhD candidates.
Council member and PhD candidate Alva Bechlenberg had asked the faculty board for the numbers and even they were surprised by them. ‘In the future, we should be more aware of whether the money actually gets spent’, said portfolio manager Esther Marije Klop.
Only the Institute for Science Education and Communication used all the Covid funds. The biologists at the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences also spent quite a lot in relation to other departments; they have 339,000 euros left, 37 percent of their total funds. The physicists at the Van Swinderen Institute hardly used their support funds. They have 86 percent left: 106,000 euros.
The board did emphasise that some money was spent. Some institutes used their own funds to bankroll contract extensions. In those cases, it will simply be a case of transferring funds.
The board has sent another email to the research directors to make them aware of the available funds. It’s of paramount importance that people are aware, because the faculty will have to give account of the more than 4.5 million euros they received from the National Education Programme before September 1. The email had the desired effect, said Klop. ‘The following week, we received thirty applications.’