Listen more to young scientists: "They are the future"

Interview with associate professor Daphne van de Bongardt
Campus Woudestein in the morning.
Students and parents in a lecture hall during the Bachelor Open Day.
Alexander Santos Lima

Young scientists advising our Executive Board. That is the Young Erasmus Academy (YEA). According to YEA president Dr Daphne van de Bongardt, Recognition & Rewards is now one of the most important topics: "If you are good at teaching, making impact or being a leader, you can also be a good scientist. We need to recognise and reward these qualities more. Especially for young academics, this culture change is very important."

Young Erasmus Academy (YEA) 

Like almost every Dutch university, Erasmus University Rotterdam has a Young Academy: Young Erasmus Academy (YEA). This is a group of 25 talented young academics who contribute to the development of research, education, impact/engagement, leadership/management and university policy. Their appointment is for five years.

Daphne is still in YEA until the end of 2024. "Every faculty is represented within YEA. This gives us antennas within the entire university, and we also hear quickly if something is going on somewhere. Sometimes we see big differences between our faculties on certain dossiers. Even on dossiers you'd rather not, such as certain aspects of academic career policy."

​​Daphne van de Bongardt contributes a lot at the university. She is associate professor within the Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). Since 1 March 2023, she has also been department director there. In addition, Daphne is one of the founders of the Erasmus Love Lab: the world's first interdisciplinary lab for social and behavioural research on intimate relationships, love and sexuality. She further sits as vice-chair on the EUR programme team for Recognition & Rewards. Since 2019, she has been a member of the Young Erasmus Academy (YEA). And since January this year, also chair of YEA together with ESHCC researcher dr. Amanda Brandellero.

Daphne van de Bongardt in het Erasmus Love Lab.
Daphne van de Bongardt

3 strategic working groups

There are 3 strategic working groups within YEA:

  • Improving the visibility and impact of YEA
  • Recognition & Rewards
  • Sustainability and future-proofing

Daphne: "Improving our own visibility is not in itself the goal. But strengthening the advice we give is. Those opinions are more relevant and have a stronger impact if our university community knows and knows how to find us."

Besides the Rector Magnificus and the Executive Board, deans and professors mainly determine what happens within a university. According to Daphne, it is good that not only the standard people are at the table when policies are made or decisions taken: "It is certainly not the case that older scientists, or scientists who are more advanced on the academic career ladder are worse off for the younger generation. But they just take a different view. They have different interests and different blind spots. It is therefore very important to form a bridge to the younger generation of scientists with YEA. Then you will achieve a healthy, inclusive and forward-looking academic community."

Daphne van de Bongardt at the Erasmus Love Lab.

"The egos then have to step aside. And that is sometimes a pain point within science"

Dr Daphne van de Bongardt

Associate professor

Recognition & Rewards (R&R)

For the university of the future, Recognition & Rewards is very important, according to Daphne. Currently, EUR is implementing the programme within the university. That is why it is also a big topic within YEA. "The emphasis for many scientists is on publishing articles and applying for grants. Getting money actually. Recognition & Rewards is precisely about broadening the definition of talent. If you are good at teaching, making impact or being a leader, you can also be a good scientist and pursue an academic career. Especially for young academics, this culture shift is very important."

Criticism on Recognition & Rewards

Criticisms on Recognition & Rewards vary across disciplines and universities. Yet one point often recurs. "There are concerns about international comparability. That as a scientist with fewer publications and grants you no longer count internationally. I think it's not that bad. It is still thinking from an outdated system. You see changes in other countries as well."

According to Daphne, ‘team science’ is one of the solutions. Working together is the future. 'The moment all scientists keep thinking that they have to be that sheep with five legs, the system gets stuck. Being good at research, teaching, leadership and making an impact too. That cannot all be in one person's hands."

"You have to have a diverse team with talents aligned. Besides those who are successful in grants and publishing, also someone who is strong in leading the research group, someone who provides inspiring educational programmes and another who makes social impact. The egos then have to step aside. And that is sometimes a pain point within science. The profile of ‘the excellent scientist’ is much more diverse than just a focus on research. A university does more than that."

Professors outside in a group with colourful epitoga
Alexander Santos Lima

Are you Veniable?

Recognition & Rewards involves a huge culture change. And that takes time. "It's about daring. Daring to put more value on other kinds of talents. We have very good people in house, but we are also losing very good people in the way things are going now. A common question for young academics is: are you Veniable? In other words, are you going to get the money soon? But maybe you don’t want to land a Veni grant at all and want to use your talents in teaching, patient care, or leadership. The academics with those talents we now frustrate or chase away with our one-sided system. We are losing many different types of talent this way, and the pressure on the five-legged sheep remains unabated."

Education snowballs

The quality of education also benefits from Recognition & Rewards. Teaching is a top task of a university. The aim is to reflect research in an inspiring way in lectures, and to pass on the scientific view of the world to the next generation of professionals and scientists.

"Teaching is now often a must for many university scientists. This is partly due to the increased workload in recent years when we were simply not given enough resources and money to keep teaching up to standard with the huge increase in students. This compromises the time scientists have left for research. Some also consider investing in education less valuable than investing in publications, for example to bring in grants. That is a pity. Instead, we should be proud of the scientific education we provide. It is the first place where we make impact. With scientists using their talents for teaching, quality increases."

Alexander Santos Lima

University of the future: where are we going?

Daphne sees Recognition & Rewards as an important step in the right direction. But certainly not as an end point. “I hope that by the end of 2024 we will have beautifully implemented examples of Recognition & Rewards within all faculties. Scientists who are allowed to choose more emphasis on teaching, impact or leadership. Role models with a career path that suits their individual talents and their team. That we show young academics that you can also become assistant professor (UD), associate professor (UHD) and professor with other achievements than just raising money or publishing articles. That is what we are going to work towards from YEA in the coming year.”

Associate professor
More information

Everything about Young Erasmus Academy.

This is what Recognition & Rewards looks like at EUR.

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