Climate change, a sustainable food supply chain, and the development of vaccines combatting infectious diseases are some of the major challenges our society faces. What steps does science need to take in order to address these challenges? To answer this question the sectors of earth and environmental sciences, astronomy, biology and pharmaceutical sciences present a joint vision to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science today, entitled ‘Towards a stronger foundation’ (Voor een sterker fundament).
In their vision, the sectors give their mutual perspective on how they can contribute to jointly solving urgent scientific and societal issues and that investment is needed to achieve this. The sector perspectives provide a solid base for a better national organization of these sectors, making optimal use of each other’s strengths in education, research and infrastructure. The sectors of the social sciences, humanities and technology sectors, are also preparing a joint vision for the future.
Investment in the four related sectors not only benefits the scientific sectors themselves but also the employment market and society at large. Stakeholders such as companies and institutions have clearly indicated their need for graduates and PhD students that are able to collaborate within multidisciplinary teams, and society is looking towards the scientific community to propose solutions to urgent societal issues.
The sector perspectives are the result of a nationwide collaboration. They were initiated by the deans of science faculties across the Netherlands, and have been drawn up by academics from all universities involved, including input from research institutes affiliated with the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and/or the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and several societal partners.
The aim is to develop the four sector perspectives for earth and environmental sciences, astronomy, biology and pharmaceutical sciences into sector plans. Such plans have previously been published for sectors such as physics, chemistry, computer science and mathematics. Sector plans are a valuable tool to the national government as they guide and show the necessary investments in the expansion of research capacity via a nationwide, future-oriented plan and good collaboration between universities.
‘It is important that we tackle the effects of climate change now and not pass them on to future generations’, says prof.dr. Freek van der Meer, Dean of the Faculty Geo-information and Earth Observation (University of Twente). ‘At ITC we like to make an impactful contribution to society, by sharing our knowledge and expertise on spatial monitoring and modeling processes regarding earth observation and geo-information. We find it particularly important to lay out a strong foundation from which the global south can benefit.’