What do we perceive as successful science practice in universities? Is it winning a prestigious research grant? Publishing in leading journals? Providing insights on a talk show to expand the reach of research. Working together with governments and businesses to realise real social impact through research? Or developing a new curriculum or demonstrating good team leadership?
It’s probably all of the above. But, as an academic, do you have to be able to do all these things well or can you choose to specialise and follow a different career path than your colleagues? Where people use their diverse talents to enhance the results of a group or team as a whole.
These and other questions are the subject of a lively debate in all universities in the Netherlands under the umbrella of 'Recognition and Rewards (Erkennen en Waarderen)'. These discussions are intended to yield concrete ideas for making academics’ careers more attractive, providing more room for everyone's talent and recognising and rewarding various achievements. This concerns Recognizing and rewarding achievements in five areas:
- Social impact (valorisation)
At the UvA a committee headed by Rens Vliegenthart is investigating possibilities for improvement in the area of Recognition and Rewards.
The committee members are:
Paul de Jong
Is Recognition and Rewards a project? What are its concrete goals? How can I make a valuable contribution to this dialogue within the university? The answers to these and other questions can be found in the Q&A. If you have a question, please don't hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
A UvA-wide committee chaired by Rens Vliegenthart has been set up to conduct the discussion about recognition and rewards in our own academic community. Academics will be invited to share their input through our online system, which will progressively zoom in on topics of concern. In the week of 25 October all UvA academic staff will receive an email inviting them to participate in this dialogue.
Everyone is invited to the online Recognition & Rewards Festival on Friday 4 February. Together we will deepen the discussion, from opportunities and dilemmas to implementations and good practices. Additionally, we offer you several workshops focusing on specific elements of recognising and rewarding academics differently.
Q&A on Recognition and Rewards
What is the purpose of Recognition and Rewards?
The aim of Recognition and Rewards is to recognise and reward academic staff for their broad contributions to science and scholarship. By recognising and rewarding not only publications in leading journals, but also other achievements in the areas of education, research, leadership and valorisation, we are aligning ourselves with the university's core tasks. This will enable employees to better exploit various career opportunities, in keeping with the talents of each individual scholar.
Where did Recognition and Rewards come from?
In november 2019, the VSNU, NFU, KNAW, NWO and ZonMw published the position paper ‘Room for everyone’s talent: towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics’. It advocates a change where universities, research institutes, research funders and teaching hospitals recognise and value academic staff more broadly. Recognition and Rewards is a national programme in which these parties will work together towards a culture change.
What problem is Recognition and Rewards intended to solve?
The recognition and valuation of science and scholarship, and of academic staff, is often one-sided, focused on numbers of publications. With this programme, the affiliated institutions want to find a better balance by allowing teaching, leadership, impact and (in the case of a teaching hospital) patient care to play a role, in addition to research. This will allow academic staff to orient their careers in a way that suits their ambitions and talents. Effective leadership must support this development.
Is more recognition and rewards something university staff desire, generally speaking?
It is certainly a subject that is on many people's minds, especially young academics who still have a significant part of their careers ahead of them. But it's also an issue for academics who can look back on a long career and would like to see certain things change for the next generation of academics. You can read what young academics have to say about this subject in the Amsterdam Young Academy's AYA magazine (in Dutch).
What are the phases of the Recognition and Rewards project?
Within the UvA, a working group led by Rens Vliegenthart is in discussion with representatives from all faculties about what we mean by 'Recognition and Rewards' at the UvA and what we would like to improve. Based on the results, the working group has started an online dialogue with all academic staff in the autumn of 2021. Among other things, the working group wants to identify practical areas for improvement.
Does Recognition and Rewards apply to non-academic (support) staff as well?
The topic is particularly relevant for academic staff, as certain issues (e.g., pressure to publish in research magazines or undervaluing teaching tasks) only affect academics. That being said, however, scientific work is increasingly carried out in teams and involves close cooperation between academics and support staff. This work also calls for Recognition and Rewards.
What is the Recognition and Rewards Committee?
In the Recognition and Rewards Committee, colleagues from staff departments work with academics from all faculties. The committee investigates possibilities for improvement in the area of Recognition and Rewards. The chair of the committee is Rens Vliegenthart, Professor of Media and Society.
- Where can I learn more about this subject?
Does Recognition and Rewards offer a way to reduce workload?
No. But it may help you redefine the focus in your work. A commonly noted problem among academics is that they sometimes feel pressure to be a ‘unicorn’ who is good at everything. If this applies to you, it is important to discuss this with your manager. You can then jointly decide in which area you could and would like to develop, so you don't have to excel in all areas. More recognition for what you do well in your work can also provide an energy boost, making you better able to manage your workload.
Does Recognition and Rewards mean that we will no longer use things like the H-index and Journal impact factor to quantify an academic’s performance?
The UvA has endorsed DORA, an international statement indicating that the content of research is more important than those quantitative indicators. This does not, of course, mean that all quantitative indicators have now become irrelevant. There are also other concrete or qualitative aspects you can use to substantiate the quality of your work. An example of this might be if you have developed a new curriculum, or if everyone in the team sees you as a good team player.
How is this development being received in other countries?
The Netherlands is not alone in this development. Institutions all across Europe are devoting attention to recognition and rewards. It is also a topic of discussion in the LERU, a European group of research-intensive universities, and in the European Commission.