"Free and fundamental research, that's what I stand for", stated Minister Van Engelshoven about her science letter. "In my opinion, research always starts with curiosity, only later will a possible application come into play. I will therefore continue to commit myself to giving fundamental research more than just application-oriented research."
The financial impulse stems from the coalition agreement in which it has been announced that the Cabinet will invest 250 million euro annually in science and research. In addition, a one-off 100 million euro is allocated for research infrastructure. The expenditures mentioned for 2019 are part of this.
Dutch participation in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a partnership of 11 countries, is made possible by the investment of 30 million euro. SKA will be the world's largest radio telescope. Hundreds of satellite dishes and thousands of antennas spread across Australia and South Africa are needed for this. This instrument will produce the first images from the time when the earliest stars arose and can thus provide fundamental breakthroughs. "Thanks to our telescopes in Drenthe, the Netherlands is among the best in the field of radio astronomy. Participation in SKA enables us to strengthen this globally leading position." The Netherlands also has a chance to host the European data centre for SKA, given its extensive experience in this area. Not only science, but also the economy can benefit from this investment.
Strengthening the globally leading position of Dutch research is one of the three ambitions that Minister Van Engelshoven has for science. Furthermore, the Minister wants to strengthen the bond between science and society by investing in the National Science Agenda and communicating research on society. Finally, the Minister considered it important that the Netherlands remain attractive for academic talent, with a commitment to greater diversity and a broader appreciation for researchers. This is evident, for example, in the organisation of a new prize, which puts the spotlight on excellent education, following research and impact awards.
In order to strengthen the link between science and society, the budget for the National Science Agenda will be increased from 70 million to 108 million euro in 2019, with which research can be done into solutions for major social and scientific challenges such as climate change. The NWA is based on 12,000 questions from citizens that have been submitted previously. "With that, the NWA is, as far as I am concerned, the agenda for Dutch science. In 2022, this agenda will be revised, with broad involvement of citizens, because scientific questions will change just like the challenges", stated Minister Van Engelshoven.
Scientists who communicate well about their research will be rewarded by the Minister, because she thinks it is important that the results reach society. The Cabinet is working towards greater connection with society through its commitment to open science, because research results and data become public and accessible to everyone. The government is also committed to open science in a European context, including the negotiations on the new European research programme 'Horizon Europe'.
The Minister's third ambition is for the Netherlands to remain a breeding ground and a haven for scientific talent. Part of this is that academic staff must be valued more broadly than just by their publications. In this context, the Minister also wants to make agreements with the universities about better contracts for researchers.
"In addition, I want to increase the diversity within science more quickly, because this is going far too slow. That is why I will donate 5 million euro annually to stimulate research careers for women in the natural sciences and researchers with a migrant background." The Minister will also organize the European Gender Summit in the Netherlands on 3 and 4 October 2019. International policy makers, scientists and social organisations will participate. A national diversity action plan will be drawn up on the basis of the knowledge that is shared during this summit.