The Faculty of Science and Engineering is setting up a club of retired professors who will be helping young researchers apply for complex grants. This should make it easier for the researchers to get funds. It would also enable the retired professors to remain active in their field.
Participating in large-scale projects such as the Dutch Research Agenda or the National Growth Fund can turn out to be particularly lucrative for researchers. There is a lot of money up for grabs and participation is seen as prestigious.
However, many researchers are wary of applying for these projects, says Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) research portfolio manager Bert Koolman.
Time-consuming and complicated
‘Setting up these projects is difficult’, he says. ‘It’s really time-consuming and it’s very complicated. The Dutch Science Agenda, as well as other large-scale EU projects, are especially inter- or multi-disciplinary. You have to work together with businesses and applied science universities. It’s not easy for young researchers who haven’t yet established a large network.’
Because of that, young researchers tend to gravitate towards simpler applications in their own fields. International researchers have an even harder time, Poolman thinks. And at FSE, most young researchers are international.
According to Poolman and his fellow initiator Victoria Stoica, there is an enormous potential of untapped resources. Retired professors have time on their hands and possess a network as well as the motivation to remain active in their respective fields. However, they’re rarely given the opportunity to.
‘The cut off between work and retirement is usually quite sudden’, says Stoica. ‘People retire and suddenly they have nothing left to do. But many people still want to make themselves useful.’
The retirees can support young researchers by using their network, but they can also help by writing for them. Stoica: ‘Writing texts is time-consuming and tenure trackers often lack time.’ The retired professors can also provide support when research hits a dead end. However, the young researchers will always remain in charge of their project.
As compensation for their work, Poolman and Stoica think the retirees should get a UG email address, access to the library and conference rooms, indemnities, and potentially a biennial outing with the club. Poolman thinks most retired professors will be happy with this. ‘The people I’ve talked to said they were happy with their pensions and they didn’t feel the need to get paid.’
Retired environmentology professor Ton Schoot Uiterkamp, who also chairs the Senior Academy Society, says the plan is ‘definitely a good idea’. The seventy-eight-year-old researcher is still active within his field. ‘At various faculties, people are frustrated because they’re turned out the moment they’ve said goodbye.’
There are plenty of other people like him, he says, who are still active and want to contribute. ‘But few policymakers understand the need for a good policy for retirees, let alone how useful it could be’, he says.
FSE has taken the first steps to setting up the club. Stoica hopes to make the first matches between young researchers and retired professors by the end of the year.