It seems that something is really changing

It seems that something is really changing

I was wrong. I wrote here last month that my immediate colleagues could only become professors if a place was available, and that only one of us could fill that position. That was very short-sighted.

A colleague pointed out to me that in general I have a point, but in our college it is easier to become a professor these days than I would suggest.

Anyone who thinks they meet the requirements can submit an application, which is then evaluated – and my colleague insisted that this evaluation is really independent of the question of whether there is a “place”.

This hasn’t been the case everywhere yet, but it’s probably a matter of time (and money, because professors are more expensive than non-masters). A more flexible policy for the appointment of professors fits in with all kinds of other changes that are currently taking place in universities.

Universities are thinking of better ways to assess — or, as they call them, recognize and recognize scholars.

Science is more than just research

Until recently, our ranking system could have been (unintelligibly) summed up as follows: the more publications in top journals, the better, and bonus points if those publications are often cited by other scholars.

This system has two problems: posting too much is not the same as doing good research, and science is more than just research. So universities now want to take a broader view – not only research, but also educational and administrative tasks. And when they evaluate research, they try to find more meaningful criteria for it.

My university, Utrecht University, is making good progress with this new recognition and recognition. To the joy of the many and the dismay of the few. Most notable: Hans Clevers, senior professor at Utrecht, former president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and soon to be head of research and development at the pharmaceutical company Roche.

Since the end of last year, Clevers has regularly expressed concerns about changes in Dutch universities – He created a Dutch Twitter account for him† One of his complaints: his university no longer wanted to use quantitative indicators to evaluate researchers.

this is not true. What is true is that they want to count less than Cleavers. For Clevers, it’s simple, according to an interview in Utrecht university journal: “Just as a car salesman is judged by the number of cars he has sold, you should also be able to judge researchers by the discoveries they make.” So we have to count the posts.

You will say: No one can oppose that

But when I buy a car, I don’t want a seller with high sales numbers, but a seller with good cars. Same with the know: you want someone who does good research, not someone who is helpful putting up articles.

Of course, anyone who publishes a lot can be a good scientist – Clevers seems to be an example – but it doesn’t have to be. Counting posts just doesn’t mean much. That is why we are now looking for new evaluation criteria, some with numbers and some with words.

You will say: No one can oppose that. But it is clearly still a shock to scholars who grew up in the old order. I think fear is a good sign: it is clear that something is really changing.

But we haven’t gotten there yet. Yes, the assessment of scientists is improving. But we still have an undesirable hierarchical relationship between professors and non-professors.

This hierarchy is clearly reflected in the dress, which is allowed to be worn only by masters. The dress also reinforces this hierarchy: each academic ceremony confirms once again that the professors are truly different from the rest.

Fortunately, there is now so much goodwill in universities that this will likely change soon as well. The question is which university will be the first to dare to dress up for the entire doctoral committee. I know a university that has courage for that: Utrecht University.

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