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New science sector outlines

Changes in our climate, the decline in biodiversity, the development of vaccines against new infectious diseases and whether we are the only inhabitants of the universe: these are just a few of the pressing challenges our society faces today. But which scientific choices must be made at the national level to meet these challenges?

The four science sectors Earth- and Environmental Sciences, Astronomy, Biology and Pharmaceutical Sciences all strive to make an essential contribution to solving these and other important social and scientific issues, based on the nature and urgency of the challenges we face. To that end, on 7 November the sectors published their sector outlines in a joint document titled Voor een sterker fundament (For a Stronger Foundation, only in Dutch). This document was officially handed over to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on 17 December.

Sectors require additional support

The sector outlines describe some of the most pressing challenges our society faces today, and the choices that must be made to face them. These challenges, and the necessity of addressing them in a scientific manner, will require additional support to be devoted to the four sectors. At the initiative of the deans of the participating Faculties of Science in the Netherlands, scientists from each sector have therefore spent the past year diligently drafting the necessary outlines for their sectors, with vital input from NWO/KNAW research institutes and a variety of social partners.

The resulting sector outlines should assist in the development of science policy and the allocation of the necessary funding to address the challenges we face, especially at the national political level. In the outlines, each of the four sectors describes how they aim to develop over the near future.

Multi-, inter- & transdisciplinarity

The main priorities for each of the sectors is the same, including a general focus on a systematic approach, multi-, inter-, & trans-disciplinarity, data science, contact with society, research facilities & infrastructure, and the student/staff ratio. The authors also recommend that the outlines be elaborated into fully fledged sector plans; an approach that has been successful for other sectors in the past.

Chairmen of the four sectors are Appy Sluijs (Utrecht University, for Earth and Environmental Sciences), Amina Helmi (University of Groningen, for Astronomy), Rens Voesenek (Utrecht University, for Biology) and Roos Masereeuw (Utrecht University, for Farmaceutical Sciences).

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