Case Study

The Dutch Recognition & Rewards Programme

Interview conducted 13 October, 2020  Compare case studies

In a position paper published in November 2019, the Netherlands’ public knowledge institutions and research funders voiced a common ambition to modernize the national recognition and rewards system.1 The purpose is to move toward more holistic evaluation practices in the Netherlands, where the focus is on academic career and research quality assessment. Although the consortium is composed of large national entities, the dynamic for change is largely bottom-up, given the academic stakeholder autonomy within the Dutch system. After developing the position paper, “Room for everyone’s talent: towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics,” the process was decentralized for implementation by the respective Dutch institutions. Implementation of the recommendations in the position paper is currently underway across the Netherlands.

Who: Organization profile

Country Netherlands
Profile of institution comprehensive university or equivalentdistance learning universityresearch fundersresearch institutesroyal academyspecialized university or equivalenttechnical universityuniversity medical centers
Number of FTE researchers > 1,000
Further information Policy
Organization of research evaluation research unit levels
Who is involved? academic leadershipacademic researcherspolicy staffresearch department staffresearch support or management staff

What: What changed and the key elements of change

In a position paper published in November 2019, “Room for everyone’s talent: towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics,” the Netherlands’ public knowledge institutions and research funders (VSNU, NFU, KNAW, NWO, and ZonMw) voiced a common ambition to modernize the current recognition and rewards system.1 They support the following stated aims:

  • The diversification and vitalization of career paths, thereby promoting excellence in each of the key talent areas (teaching, research, impact, patient care and leadership in academia)
  • The acknowledgment of both the independence and individual qualities and ambitions of academics, as well as recognizing team performance (Team Science)
  • A shift in focus away from quantitative elements (such as the number of publications) and toward the quality of the work
  • A stimulation of all aspects of Open Science
  • More emphasis on the value of leadership in academia

The position paper supports a more holistic view of researcher achievements through two specific approaches:

  1. Redesigning academic career paths: the commitment to create a greater diversity in career paths for academic staff with room for individual academics’ strengths and ambitions.
  2. Quality assessment of research and research proposals: Research should be assessed for content and quality, not just for quantity or for the journal it was published in.

Why: Motivation for change

The purpose is to move toward more holistic evaluation practices. The consortium's aim is to realize a fundamental change in behavior and leadership with regard to the recognition and rewards system for academia and academics. This type of change is also conducive to a safer, more inclusive work culture that accommodates the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of current academic and social problems. As such, academics are encouraged to collaborate within and across disciplines.

The consortium is also working to build “a healthy and inspiring environment for our academic staff, where all talents are valued: teaching, research, outreach, patient care and leadership in academia.” So another motivation for change is to “strive for a differentiation of career paths so that scientists, scholars and academics can choose a career path that fits their talents.”

“The desired culture change is a fundamental change of beliefs; not just a change in the rules of the game.”2 In general, the consortium notes that developing specific criteria too early, without a clearly developed vision, entails a risk of changing the rules but not the game. The first step in the transition program is to develop a vision for the desirable behavior and culture, both nationally and within the various organizations. Several Dutch institutions have already published a translation of the aims of the position paper, specific to their respective institutions.

At the same time the first research units are preparing their six-yearly research evaluation according to the new Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP 2021-2027).3 The main goal of a SEP evaluation is to evaluate a research unit in light of its own aims and strategy. To promote the desired cultural change, the new national evaluation protocol allows groups to choose their own indicators for self-evaluation.

One concern regarding the Dutch ambition to change academic career assessment and research assessment was whether the Netherlands should move alone in reforming the recognition and rewards systems for academics. Consequently, there is a push to get international partners to ensure the transportability of researchers’ achievements across international borders.

Concerns were also expressed around the new model disadvantaging cultural groups or genders through the use of narrative CVs. However, preliminary indicators suggest that this is not the case.

How: Processes and dynamics for developing, implementing and managing change

Although the consortium is composed of large national entities, the dynamic for change is largely bottom-up. After developing the position paper, the process was decentralized for implementation to the respective Dutch institutions. This allows the academic stakeholders to set up framework conditions for individual institutions and provide capacity building to make changes in accordance with the aims of the position paper.

In the Netherlands, autonomy for the academic sector and its stakeholders has long been the norm. Importantly, while the Dutch Ministry is supportive of the Recognition & Rewards Programme—even contributing to the subsidization of items within the consortium’s budget—Dutch culture promotes autonomy to those implementing the ambitions of the position paper, namely academic institutions and research funders.

Another key aspect that enabled the development of the new system of recognition and rewards is the small number of universities and institutions within the Netherlands; it was possible for the 14 Rectors to come together and discuss recognition and rewards in academia.

To achieve the stated objectives,1 the members of the consortium have drawn up a common transition program plan that consists of six phases:

  1. Researching and formulating a vision
  2. Increasing the power of imagination and experimenting
  3. Adding meaning
  4. Specifying and developing
  5. Implementing
  6. Consolidating

The implementation of the transition program will be supervised by a program board composed of delegates from participating organizations. Additionally, all consortium member organizations have their own Recognition and Rewards committees, which are responsible for changing the process and culture at their respective institutions. These members will work together throughout the process, and the steering group will be responsible for monitoring cohesion and encouraging consistency.

Specific obstacles faced were: limited awareness of research assessment reform and its potential benefits; resistance to research assessment reform from researchers; complexity of research assessment reform (e.g., different national and disciplinary practices); and alignment of institutional assessment procedures with nationally and internationally dominant procedures.

When: Timeline for development and implementation

Beginning in 2013, there were four national agendas that more or less converged: the ambitious Open Science Agenda, the Science in Transition movement, concerns over work pressure and pressure on the system, and the introduction of career tracks with emphasis on teaching. The convergence of these themes promoted the idea of changing academic culture.

In November 2018, VNSU, NWO, NFU and ZonMw released a statement on recognition and reward of academics.2 In April 2019, KNAW, NWO and ZonMw signed DORA, which VSNU had done in 2014. ZonMw and NWO held a conference in May 2019 “Scientist 2030: Evolution or Revolution.”2

Together, consortia members presented the position paper in November 2019 at a VSNU - EUA Conference on Recognition & Rewards in Rotterdam. The new Strategy Evaluation Protocol was released in March 20203,4 and will be implemented 2021-2027.2


  1. Room for everyone's talent towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics. VSNU, NFU, KNAW, NWO, and ZonMw (2020). Retrieved 27 November 2023 from:
  2. Huijpen, K. Room for everyone’s talent. Presentation for the European Universities Association (2020). Retrieved 22 November 2020 from:
  3. Strategy Evaluation Protocol 2021-2027. VSNU, KNAW, & NWO (2020). Retrieved 22 November 2020 from:
  4. Making way for all aspects of quality. The Dutch Research Council (NWO) (2020). Retrieved 22 November 2020 from:

Additional Resources