‘NWO excludes young scientists’

Young social and humanities scientists are angry. Only older, more experienced scientists are allowed to enter research fund NWO’s new Open Competition Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH).
By Christien Boomsma / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘Imagine only women were allowed to enter the competition. Or just men. People would be outraged’, says RUG researcher and vice chair of the Young Academy Martijn Wieling. ‘This competition should focus on the quality of the research, and not about who’s doing the research.’

The new Open Competition SSH is replacing earlier subsidising opportunities that disappeared when NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) merged the social sciences and humanities. But because the chances of success in the field are the lowest of all the scientific fields, NWO is attempting to artificially boost these chances.

Missing opportunities

While applying for the subsidy used to be open to anyone, the current competition is only open to scientists who got their PhD  at least fifteen years ago and who are no longer eligible for a Veni, Vidi, or Vici scholarship. ‘I understand what they’re trying to do, but that is a different problem’, says Wieling.

Especially young scientists who are still working on building a body of work will be missing opportunities because of this. Take for instance the ambitious project of mapping how the Dutch language can be used to ‘frame’ situations, a study that netted Piek Vossen from Amsterdam and RUG linguist Malvina Nissim an 800,000 euro grant. Under the new rules, Nissim wouldn’t have been allowed to apply.

Bad thing

And that, says Wieling, is a bad thing. ‘The chance of succeeding in the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme is very low. And this would rob young scientists of the opportunity to get funds to finance good ideas.’ It will also make it harder for young scientists to cultivate a career: if they can’t get a Veni scholarship, getting a Vidi or Vici will be even harder. After all, their CVs play a large role in whether or not they get such a scholarship.

Older scientists have other options, such as the Gravitation programmes or European subsidies. The Young Academy is asking scientists to share their experiences with them.





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