With the introduction of a new appraisal system, that was announced last year by VSNU, the umbrella organisation of the Dutch universities, looking with a broader view at the capabilities and skills of academics will be the objective in the future. In an interview with rector magnificus Frank Baaijens that was put online today, he says that he wants to promote team spirit and academic citizenship with it.
Baaijens: “As a university we have responsibilities in the fields of research, education and impact. With Recognition and Rewards we want to take a much broader view of our academic personnel. Find a way of valuing the contributions everyone makes. See the diversity in what people are capable of and recognize where their talents and ambitions lie.”
According to Baaijens at this moment many academics feel they are judged by just one thing, their research. "This leads to other areas being perceived as being less important, even education, which is the university's core task. We want this given greater importance and we want to value people for their other activities within their department."
Baaijens speaks about team spirit en academic citizenship. “Together, you have a department and a university to run. You need people to be willing to join an examination committee, an appeals committee, an appointment advisory committee, and so on. An expression of value is also required for these activities. Not, of course, that you can expect everyone to be equally good at everything. But what you can do is make sure you have a team in which research, education and impact are covered. I believe in team spirit: in a group you can develop an incredible strength that would never be possible as an individual.”
Within research Baaijens thinks that there is a need to place more emphasis on quality rather "than being concerned solely with the number of publications." Within education he wants people to build a portfolio, "so that at an international level they can show what they have conceived in terms of innovations and what impact this has had. So that, like research, this becomes an area in which they can earn a reputation.”
For academics who shine in the field of education and who are fully engaged in educational innovation, career steps must also be in place, Baaijens says. The assessment of this could be done in a "mixed form involving a narrative: what is your vision, what have you achieved. Supplemented with demonstrable results, such as a teaching evaluation, an education prize, a publication about education, an appraisal by colleagues, international standing."
When for instance a professor is appointed, we must also ask that person "about their vision of education and impact, how they deal with diversity, how they ensure that people get the best out of themselves, how they create a safe work environment," Baaijens says. "You can be incredibly good at doing research, but if you intimidate your colleagues and excuse yourself from departmental tasks, do you deserve to become a professor?“
Having a balanced and diverse team is an important asset. According to Baaijens that means that “you are aiming to make better use of each other's talents so that as a group you make headway. If an academic is good at academic communication, you could see that as a core competence. The same applies to someone who is passionate about educational innovation. Provided it fits within the team, this could be a field where they develop professionally."
About the assessment of the impact of an individual's work, he says: “In terms of research impact, this includes any and all activities that generate impact. In other words, it's broader than the number of publications or citations. It would include, say, the patents someone has accumulated, or a business venture someone has started. Or new guidelines someone has developed that have been adopted by, say, the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and Environment, ed.), or getting yourself hired by a company alongside your university work."
The value of open science is decisive "for the validation of research and the speed with which research evolves," Baaijens says. “There are also researchers who have collected incredibly interesting data for research purposes, for example, neatly ordered it and made it publicly available. This isn't a publication but if so many people can use it, it becomes a significant contribution to research. This is something else to be valued.”
This spring, a TU/e taskforce held six sessions with some hundred and fifty academics in order to hear what they think of it. In addition, in the run-up to summer enrichment sessions were held with three interdepartmental committees (IFC) - Engineering; Basic Sciences and Humans; Technology, Management and Design.
Baaijens: “We have formulated six principles (see the box below) and after the summer we'll continue to discuss them with the interdepartmental committees. After that, I hope we'll have a package about which they can say ‘we can use this to evaluate and value people better.’”
1. As well as excellence in education and research, academics will also be encouraged to develop core competences in line with their talents. These would be such skills as entrepreneurship, science communication and leadership.
2. Diverse and dynamic career paths driven by an academic's core competences are to be encouraged.
3. When assessing academics, the focus will be on valuing quality over quantity.
4. The right balance between the individual and the collective (team) is to be achieved.
5. Open science as a way of sharing research within society is to be encouraged.
6. Academic leadership, with a focus on inclusivity, talent development and a safe work environment, is to be encouraged.