Is Ghent University stepping out of the ratrace? An interview with Jan Dumolyn about the goals, strengths, and potential pitfalls of the new personnel policy

By Valerie De Craene, Anton Froeyman, Freek Van Deynze

In 2018, the University of Ghent and the Socialist Trade Union announced a new personnel policy, calling it “stepping out of the ratrace” and “no longer wishing to participate in the ranking of people”. The press release (by the University of Ghent and the Socialist Labour Union) was picked up by many scholars and media, also internationally. Inside Higher Ed even interviewed Rik Van de Walle, rector of the Ghent University.

Slow Science in Belgium read the new policy, followed the debates, and ended up with numerous questions. What is the new policy about? Will this policy be a start of a broader and fundamental change on the way universities are organised? Will this policy lead to different types of knowledges being valued and validated by universities and funding agencies, while preventing precarity in our universities? Or is this nothing more than window dressing with minor changes, and even only for the happy few? What about the broader context in which this policy is implemented? Luckily we found Jan Dumolyn -senior lecturer at Ghent University and, as member of the Socialist Trade Union, one of the people responsible for the negotiations and implementation of the new policy- willing to answer all our questions about the goals, strengths and potential pitfalls of the new direction Ghent University seems to take.


Slow Science: Very briefly and concretely, what are the main characteristics of this new policy vis-à-vis the previous system?

Jan Dumolyn: The former system was completely based on so-called quantifiable measures. Not only publications (with an elaborate ranking system) were measured, but grant applications and service as well, sometimes to the point of ridicule. The terms for promotion from one level to another stay the same: five years as a tenure track lecturer (docent, maître de conferences, assistant professor); then ten years as a senior lecturer (hoofddocent, associate professor); then eight years as a professor (hoogleraar, professeur); after that, one finally becomes a full professor (hoogleraar). Now, the quantitative approach has been replaced by a more qualitative method. A commission of five persons will be created for each staff member. This commission will be consist of the head of department, the president of the ‘education commission’ of the programme in which one teaches, a close colleague who knows the field, an HR-specialist and a member of the faculty board. In the first meeting the staff member presents a plan for what she will do during the next couple of years, then there is a feedback meeting two years later and finally after five years an evaluation. The idea is that every staff member who does her job correctly and adequately (so research, teaching and service) will be promoted. If this is not the case, the promotion is delayed. There is the possibility to appeal when one does not agree with a negative decision.


Slow Science: How long has this policy been in the making? And why did it get introduced now? Are there any examples or templates which served as inspiration (e.g. website of Leiden manifesto suggest so)

Jan Dumolyn: As trade unionists, we have been protesting against the former system from the moment it turned out that it would be based upon a purely quantitative logic (something that we never agreed to in the first place and was imposed upon us by the faculties). This is already ten years ago now. I had not heard about the Leiden manifesto before you asked me this question. In fact, we can be proud to say we were much earlier in saying this with ACOD-UGent (the socialist trade union at the university). When I already protested against this metric fetishism ten years ago, I was mocked by almost every powerful person in the Flemish academic world. Gradually, opinions changed, and now those in power mostly agree with us.


Slow Science: In the new policy, there is an important role for the so called HR-committee. Is it possible that people’s research will be assessed by someone who might be unfamiliar with your field?

Jan Dumolyn: I don’t see that as a problem, on the contrary. The HR-commission should contain both specialists of the field who understand the staff member but also other people who might have a fresh look or are not implied in specific feuds or controversies within the field. The composition of the HR-commission is made up by checks and balances.


Slow Science: One of its members is a person from DPO (Personnel Department). Who is this person, i.e. what is their profile/expertise/background? What is her/his role?

Jan Dumolyn: Her role will be that of a trained HR-specialist, a kind of career coach. These people will be mostly trained as pyschologists I suppose. Their task is to provide general suggestions for career management.


Slow Science: Will one person be performing this role for the entire university, or will this be several people? Do you expect this person to, officially or unofficially, also serve as “antenna’s” to give the central university level an idea of hiring and promotion practices?

Jan Dumolyn: Our university is recruiting them at the moment. There will be a few of them. And yes, I suppose they will serve as antennas in that way.


Slow Science: Part of the new policy is the requirement for academics to submit a so called ‘inpassingstekst’ or integration text: a text in which they show how they fit in the department. What about external people who do not know the department that well? Won’t they be disadvantaged by the new policy?

Jan Dumolyn: I don’t see why, they should be coached in this as well by the colleagues of their department. It’s normal that when teaching and service are concerned as a newcomer you don’t know everything.


Slow Science: In the new policy, there is a bigger role for the academic to choose to prioritize research, teaching, and/or service. How will this be evaluated? Are there any minimum criteria? What if, for example, academics choose to not publish any articles but rather aim to make a documentary or book? Would this be considered enough? Does all research need to be innovative, or is popularizing (existing) research also considered as valuable output? What about arts? What if someone aims to write a new opera? Is this considered research output?  Services? If so, will faculties allow it? What if they don’t?

Jan Dumolyn: In principle, all this should be allowed as long as one fundamentally remains a scientist. Of course, a lecturer or professor cannot just say ‘I don’t want to write scientific publications anymore’ but changing the focus to books or focusing more on science communication is of course a very valuable option. Of course, a researcher should always continue to engage in innovative research, we cannot just be popularizers or artists, these are different professions. So let’s not take things too far. Most of us are paid by tax payers’ money.

 The quantitative approach has been replaced by a more qualitative method. The idea is that every staff member who does her job correctly and adequately (so research, teaching and service) will be promoted.

Slow Science: Related to the previous question: do faculties want to focus on and value teaching and service more? If so, what needs to change in order to make this happen? Think about academics who are often present in mainstream media (e.g. Koen Aerts – Kinderen van de collaboratie, Carl De Vos): Aside from playing an important role in bringing scientific insights to the larger audience, they only provide an indirect benefit to their departments, in the form of publicity and possibly higher student numbers. Which role does this type of service play?Will this change anything in the current relationship between research, teaching, and service?

Jan Dumolyn: I think this type of academics are exceptional when you start counting them. In practice, universities have already for a long time been happy with well-informed and eloquent researchers who appear in the mass media. In all fairness, I do not believe in academic positions without research, or mostly oriented towards service. There can be no academic teaching or service which is not based upon original research.


Slow Science: Do you think the FWO too can validate this type of service like the one discussed above?

Jan Dumolyn: I don’t think it should. Fundamental research is the main objective for the FWO and it should remain so. Other types of funding could be created next to it. Fundamental research is always potentially under threat so we should not give too much weight to ‘impact’ either. There should be a balance. Otherwise private companies will tighten their grip on the universities. You and me are from the humanities, but let’s not be naïve, we don’t really count in the bigger picture, when it comes to money and funding. When we say ‘service to society’ we mean something else, in practice this will mean ‘service to big corporations’.


Slow Science: (How) can individual professors and/or the university avoid that this new policy eventually still leads to an output focused on quantitative metrics? The discourse might have changed, but how can this be applied in practice? Especially since the incentives that lead to the use of quantitative indicators (such as the internal allocation model, the financing decree and the BOF-distribution key) are still in place.

Jan Dumolyn: Yes, this is the next step that should be taken now; this is already going in the right direction, but slowly. Some rectors support moving away from focusing on quantitative aspects in order to divide the money between the universities in Flanders. The KULeuven however is trying to block a fundamental change as it profits most from the current situation and it has the most outspoken neoliberal discourse since a long time. It is up to the colleagues in Leuven to more actively resist their university leadership in this.

Rethinking the career of PhD-students and the ‘scholarship’ system, which is de facto a labour relation, is on our agenda for the coming year.

Slow Science: To what extent is the new policy part of a larger process of change? At this moment, the (external) incentives have not changed: the Flemish financing system as well as international criteria for funding remain the same. What about those incentives that undermine the new UGent policy? Will this affect competition to other universities who do not implement a similar policy?

Jan Dumolyn: Yes, but we are only the trade union of one university, we cannot do everything at the same time and we have to start somewhere. I would urge academics to join a labour union and work in these structures instead of only writing endless blogs to complain about ‘academia’ in purely individualist terms or signing the occasional petition. Only through collective organization one can  gain strength. And that is in a union. Academics should learn that they are workers too and are not ‘above such things’ as a labour union.

Evaluators could use their position to settle scores with the person being evaluated. We would have wanted a veto right by the candidate against members of the HR-commission as well, when she would think they are biased.

Slow Science: What about the careers of PhD students and Post-Docs? Is there something in the pipeline for them as well? And what will be the effect on PhD students and Post-Docs as long as there is no specific policy implemented for them?

Jan Dumolyn: Rethinking the career of PhD-students and the ‘scholarship’ system, which is de facto a labour relation, is on our agenda for the coming year. We have also recently reformed the statute of the ‘scientific staff’ i.e. mostly postdocs financed by external funding. As to the problem of the postdocs in general, the main solution is to create a lot more positions of lecturer, so more of them have a chance.


Slow Science: What do you, as labour unions, foresee as potential problems within the new system?

Jan Dumolyn: The downside of not using a purely quantitative logic is that there is more room for purely subjective judgments. Evaluators could use their position to settle scores with the person being evaluated. However, due to the composition of the committee, which is supposed to be balanced. And there are also possibilities to appeal.


Slow Science: Are you as ACOD happy with the new policy? Are there issues you wanted to see included too? What proposed elements didn’t make the cut?

Jan Dumolyn: We pretty much succeeded in obtaining the most important aspects of what we wanted. We would have wanted a veto right by the candidate against members of the HR-commission as well, when she would think they are biased. We lost on that one in the negotiations. Now there is the possibility to protest and write a letter to the dean and the faculty council but they can then decide if they want to maintain the nomination or not.


Jan Dumolyn (1974) is a senior lecturer in medieval history at Ghent University, a shop steward of the ACOD (Socialist Trade Union) and a member of the Staff Negotiation Committee.


Read more

UGent press release: (Nl)
UGent press release: (En)
ACOD (Socialist Trade Union) Q&A on new policy: (Nl)

Interview with Rik Van de Walle in Inside Higher Ed (En):


What does it mean to be a researcher… 2019 Doctoral Course – Day 1

Last week, we held the first session of this year’s Inter-University Doctoral Schools Course (UGent/VUB/UAntwerpen/KULeuven) regarding the question ‘What does it mean to be a researcher in 21st century academia?’

Rather than starting from a predetermined programme and set of topics, we used open space technology (under the skilful guidance of Elvira) to allow the participants to come up with topics which they felt were relevant. Among other topics, we talked in small  groups about the tension between teaching and research, the “ivory tower”, decolonization, scientific method and objectivity, and mental health. Patricia Schor, who had kindly agreed to provide her own reflections based on the input provided by the participants, went from group to group to collect impressions. After the individual group sessions, we ended with a collective forum where the  groups informed each other about the points that had been discussed. Patricia Schor shared her impressions and thoughts.

We were very glad to see that the course had attracted a heterogeneous group of people, coming from different disciplines (both from the humanities and natural sciences) and from different backgrounds (both Belgian and international Phd-students). Because the format was based on the active participation of the attendants and because it allowed them to share their own experiences, we were able to get to know each other and create a positive group dynamic.

We are looking forward to the next sessions on april 25 and 26. We will keep you posted!

In the context of the course, we are also organizing a public debate. Those interested are more than welcome!

Doctoraatsbeleid doorgelicht

door Freek Van Deynze

De voorbije jaren had ik het geluk en, bij momenten, het ongeluk om dieper te graven in het Vlaamse doctoraatsbeleid zoals het zich de afgelopen dertig jaar ontwikkeld heeft. Het was een proces met momenten van inzicht en actie, maar evenzeer van vallen en opstaan. Vergeten waar men nu juist mee bezig was om dan later de draad opnieuw weer op te pikken en er toch een coherent, verdedigbaar geheel van te proberen maken. De ambiguïteit of het nu gaat over mijn eigen ervaringen of het ontwikkelde doctoraatsbeleid is opzettelijk. De vlieger gaat voor beiden op.

De afgelopen dertig jaar heeft de Vlaamse overheid sterk geïnvesteerd in de productie van doctoraatshouders. Deze investeringen hebben duidelijk hun effect niet gemist. Jaar na jaar behalen steeds meer mensen een doctoraatsdiploma. Door de klemtoon op het kwantitatieve aspect stijgt in Vlaanderen al drie decennia het aantal afgeleverde doctoraatsdiploma’s. Voor sommigen is de numerieke groei nog niet voldoende. Zij vergelijken Vlaanderen graag met Europese koplopers zoals Duitsland, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en enkele Scandinavische landen. Daarbij gaan zij echter soms voorbij aan de lokale context, en verliezen uit het oog dat de historisch gegroeide betekenis en waarde van een doctoraat verschilt van land tot land.

Bovendien is de laatste tien jaar deze groei voornamelijk te wijten aan het grote aantal internationale doctorandi[1]. De Vlaamse instroom stagneert. Dit hoeft niet noodzakelijk een probleem te zijn, maar biedt een kans tot reflectie, consolidatie en versteviging van kwalitatieve en inhoudelijke aspecten.

Op deze vlakken is immers nog heel wat verbetering mogelijk. Pijnpunten zijn de aansluiting met zowel de academische als niet-academische arbeidsmarkt, het statuut van bursalen, gebrekkige begeleiding, de kwaliteit van het onderzoek en onderwaardering van andere vaardigheden. Helemaal nieuw zijn deze problemen niet. Meermaals werden bepaalde aspecten ervan aan de kaak gesteld in de media, en ondernamen de overheden en universiteiten pogingen om deze zaken aan te kaarten. Toch is er nog werk aan de winkel. De volgende aanbevelingen zijn gebaseerd op een historische analyse van het beleid, de eigen werkomgeving en gesprekken met vele andere doctorandi, promotoren en beleidsmakers in een veelvoud aan instanties.

Overheid, bezint eert ge begint! En als dat niet meer lukt, nadat ge begint.

De overheid dient na te denken over de finaliteit die het wil bereiken met de investeringen in het doctoraatsbeleid. Daarbij moet verder gegaan worden dan het louter nastreven van een numerieke ouput en ook enkele inhoudelijke aspecten expliciet onder de loep genomen worden. We dienen ons niet blind te staren op het voorbeeld van de koplopers, maar zouden verder moeten  nagaan waar in eigen land de vraag naar doctoraatsgediplomeerden ligt, en in welke sectoren zij een meerwaarde kunnen leveren

Discussies over de meerwaarde van het doctoraat worden doorgaans gereduceerd tot een vergelijking tussen doctors en mastergediplomeerden. In tegenstelling tot die laatsten zouden deze vlotter aan een job geraken en meer verdienen. Dit zegt echter niks over de meerwaarde van het doctoraat vanuit het oog van de maatschappij die deze financiert, maar louter over de persoonlijke meerwaarde van het behalen van een doctoraat binnen die maatschappij. Het lijkt plausibel om ervan uit te gaan dat geschoolde onderzoekers een meerwaarde kunnen betekenen binnen allerlei sectoren, maar paradoxaal genoeg is dit net een kwestie waar bitter weinig onderzoek over bestaat. Over welke sectoren gaat het? Hoe vertaalt deze meerwaarde zich in verschillende sectoren, en is het doctoraat zoals het nu wordt opgevat wel degelijk beste manier om mensen voor te bereiden op het leveren van deze maatschappelijke bijdrage? Is de manier waarop we heden ten dage investeren in doctoraten wel degelijk de beste manier zijn om bepaalde maatschappelijke en economische doelen te verwezenlijken die wij ermee in verband brengen?

Overheid, zorg voor een duidelijk en eerlijk statuut voor doctorandi.

Wettelijk gezien zitten doctoraten tussen een studenten- en werknemersstatuut in. Dit administratief compromis à la belge brengt heel wat onduidelijkheid en nadelen met zich mee.

Het huidig statuut is voornamelijk gebaseerd op een aantal fiscale rondzendbrieven en juridische precedenten die hierrond ontstaan zijn. Het is minder duidelijk wat nu juist de rechten van doctorandi zijn, en bovendien is het niet vanzelfsprekend om deze af te dwingen.

De weinige duidelijke regels die gepaard gaan met het statuut van bursaal worden op regelmatige basis met de voeten getreden. Doctorandi vervullen meer taken ter ondersteuning van de universitaire gang van zaken dan strikt toegelaten. Dit is ook nodig, want anders heeft de universiteit het lastig om haar onderwijs en onderzoekstaken naar behoren te vervullen. Zij vervullen dus een takenpakket en functie binnen de universiteit die vergelijkbaar is met dat van een werknemer. Toch kan de universiteit, noch de promotor, strikt gezien hiërarchische controle uitoefenen. De huidige situatie is er dus een die uitgaat van goodwill van zowel de promotor als de doctorandus. Het is echter naïef om te denken dat dit om een symmetrische machtsrelatie gaat.

Doordat doctorandi tussen student en werknemer invallen is het ook niet duidelijk wie hen als groep kan vertegenwoordigen. In de praktijk blijken zij niet vertegenwoordigd te worden door studentenorganisaties als de Vlaamse Vereniging van Studenten. Vertegenwoordigers van de AAP-WP geleding binnen universitaire beleidsorganen denken voornamelijk vanuit een universitaire en facultaire logica en komen slechts moeizaam tot een overkoepelend beeld. Het zijn voornamelijk de vakorganisaties die het voortouw hebben genomen en het recht hebben geclaimd om doctorandi te vertegenwoordigen en hen te informeren over hun rechten. De meeste kennis en expertise rond het bursaalstatuut en de problemen die ermee gepaard gaan is bij hen te situeren. Zij dienen dus noodzakelijkerwijze betrokken worden bij een mogelijke herziening van het statuut.

De Vlaamse regering en volksvertegenwoordigers dienen de regie te nemen en het Dehousse-statuut, een federale erfenis van de jaren negentig, aan te passen. De toekenning van een werknemersstatuut aan doctorandi zou een goede vooruitgang betekenen en komaf maken met een aantal van de bestaande problemen. Tevens is het ook een erkenning aan de buitenwereld dat een doctoraat moet erkend worden als onderzoeks- en werkervaring en dat er hier sprake is van early career researchers of junior onderzoekers. Het argument dat doctoreren louter een opleiding is dient van de tafel geveegd te worden.

Overheden, weet dat meten niet alleen weten, maar ook vergeten is

Het aantal afgeleverde doctoraatsdiploma’s is een van de indicatoren in zowat alle financiële verdeelsleutels die Vlaanderen rijk is. Kwantitatieve indicatoren hebben zeker hun nut, maar hun aandeel binnen de financiering van de universiteiten is echter te groot geworden. Dit leidt al snel tot goal displacement, oftewel middel-doel omkering. Scoren op de indicator wordt dan het doel, eerder dan het proberen goed doen op wat die indicator zou moeten indiceren.

Het beleid kan hierdoor contradictorisch zijn. De overheid wil bijvoorbeeld dat doctorandi beter inzetbaar worden gemaakt op de arbeidsmarkt, en zet hun hoop hiervoor in op de zogenaamde doctoraatsopleidingen. Tegelijk incentivized ze de productie van doctoraten en publicaties voor de universiteiten. Voor universiteiten en promoteren loont het dus amper om tijd en geld te investeren in cursussen en opleidingen die deze directe doelen niet dienen. In deze context is het bewonderenswaardig dat de overheid gekozen heeft om het OJO-fonds (Omkadering Jonge Onderzoekers) in het leven te roepen, waarbij bij voorbaat vast ligt waar het geld in geïnvesteerd kan worden. De overheid zal dergelijke ingrepen moeten blijven toepassen waar nodig, in plaats van vast te houden aan principes van autonomie en aangestuurde competitie tussen de universiteiten. Het beleid aan de universiteiten is te belangrijk om alleen over te laten aan universiteiten en professoren.

Ook is er soms sprake van bizarre circulaire redeneringen. Zo worden doctoraatsdiploma’s opgenomen in innovatie-indicatoren. Hierdoor gaat men investeren in doctoraatsdiploma’s. Vervolgens kloppen we ons op de borst omdat Vlaanderen gestegen is op de innovatie-indicator. Maar is er werkelijk sprake van toegenomen innovatie?

Universiteiten, zorg voor een degelijke begeleiding. Ook voor de begeleiders.

Het mentaal welzijn van doctorandi kreeg al behoorlijk wat aandacht in de media. Dit ondanks het taboe dat errond heerst en soms bewust in stand wordt gehouden binnen sommige universitaire beleidskringen. Daarbij beroepen ze zich op een ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’- mentaliteit. Deze gaat echter voorbij aan een aantal zaken. Vanuit het standpunt van de overheid is het niet te verdedigen dat universiteiten als het ware gewoon belastinggeld en doctorandi naar een vogelpikbord blijven gooien in de hoop dat er wel een paar zullen blijven plakken. Bovendien is het uitermate naïef om te geloven dat het al dan niet uitvallen of lijden onder mentale problemen louter te wijten is aan het individu in kwestie. De context speelt een belangrijke rol, en niet iedereen heeft het geluk in de voor hem juiste context terecht te komen.

De problemen die er zijn hebben ook te maken met een simpele mathematische wetmatigheid. De groei van doctoraten heeft immers nooit tred gehouden met de begeleidende groep. Professoren moeten, naast hun al gevulde takenpakket, ook een steeds grotere groep doctorandi begeleiden. Al dertig jaar vragen universiteiten om meer ZAP-leden, maar waar de overheid mee over de brug kwam was nooit meer dan een druppel op de hete plaat.

Momenteel heerst er een piramide-model aan onze universiteiten. Deze zou formeel gezien geen hiërarchie zijn, maar is dat in de praktijk wel. De hiërarchie wordt geacht gelegitimeerd te worden door een verschil in onderzoeksexpertise.  Maar een goed onderzoeker is niet noodzakelijk een goede onderzoeksgroepleider. Al verwacht men dit de facto wel. Bovendien hebben de meest ervaren onderzoekers vaak ook minder tijd voor het onderzoek zelve.

Universiteiten moeten inzetten op een duurzaam HR-beleid dat de verschillende talenten van personen erkent, waardeert en laat groeien. Deze moet gelden voor doctorandi, post-docs en professoren. De overheid dient het kader te creëren waarin dit mogelijk wordt. Het lineair loopbaanmodel waar trechtergewijs meer en meer individuen afvallen dient plaats te maken voor een gedifferentieerder systeem met een stabiel middenkader. Hierbij zullen ook heilige huisjes gesloopt moeten worden, want nog steeds houden heel wat professoren vast aan het ideaal van de academicus die onderzoek, onderwijs en dienstverlening in één figuur verenigt. In de praktijk blijkt dit echter moeilijker te liggen.

Niet iedereen kan, en moet, in alles even goed zijn. Het zal wellicht nog even duren vooraleer we de ideale superacademicus in een proefbuisje kunnen kweken. Tot dan moeten we het hiermee doen.

Universiteiten, werk beter samen voor een afgestemd interuniversitair kader voor doctoral school courses

De Vlaamse overheid pleit al vijfentwintig jaar voor meer samenwerking tussen de universiteiten voor het inrichten van de doctoraatsopleidingen. De laatste tien jaar zijn al heel wat belangrijke stappen gezet. Toch is hier nog verbetering mogelijk. Momenteel hanteren universiteiten verschillende evaluatie- en terugbetalingssystemen. Dit leidt tot een nodeloze administratieve vermenigvuldiging bij het organiseren van een interuniversitaire Doctoral School Course. Een uniform kader voor interuniversitaire Doctoral School courses zorgt voor minder werk, en verhoogt de kennisuitwisseling en contacten tussen doctorandi van verschillende universiteiten.

Universiteiten en professoren, beoordeel meer dan alleen onderzoeksoutput van doctorandi

De inhoud en betekenis van de doctoraatsinput verschoof in het verleden meer en meer van een dik boek naar een bundeling van artikels. Een portfolio-aanpak zou echter beter zijn. In een dergelijk doctoraatsportfolio zouden ook andere elementen ter beoordeling kunnen ingebracht worden dan louter onderzoeksoutput, en dan nog eens onderzoeksoutput binnen een strak academisch keurslijf.

Zo zou ook wetenschapscommunicatie, breed opgevat, moeten kunnen ingebracht worden, maar ook concrete voorbeelden van andere vaardigheden die aangeleerd en versterk zijn tijdens het doctoraatstraject. Op deze manier erkennen en valoriseren we het werk, de tijd en de moeite die doctorandi steken in andere zaken dan louter het onderzoek. Dit ligt in de lijn van het huidige beleid en de verwachtingen die geuit werden in een parlementaire resolutie[2] en het is te verwachten dat een dergelijke regel- en mentaliteitswijzingen ook positieve gevolgen zal hebben voor de bredere maatschappij. Uiteraard mag dit geen verplichting worden en moet het onderzoekscomponent behouden worden, maar dienen ook andere elementen in de globale evaluatie ingebracht te worden, eventueel ter compensatie van een lagere output in wetenschappelijke artikels.

Internationale doctorandi verdienen meer dan pump ‘n’ dump

Zoals eerder vermeld is de toegenomen doctoraatsoutput de laatste tien jaar voornamelijk te wijten aan de groeiende groep internationale doctorandi. Het is een groep die veel meerwaarde genereert voor de universiteiten, zowel wat betreft het aantal afgeleverde doctoraatsdiploma’s en onderzoeksoutput, maar niet altijd als een volwaardig lid van de Vlaamse academische gemeenschap behandeld wordt. Ze zijn vaker tewerkgesteld op precaire, kortdurende contracten, genieten niet altijd van dezelfde sociale rechten en kunnen minder terugvallen op een sociaal netwerk. Velen van hen zijn ook tewerkgesteld op beurzen van het thuisland, waarvan de koopkracht in Vlaanderen niet te vergelijken is met die van lokale bursalen. Het reeds indrukwekkende obstakelparcours voor het uitbouwen van een academische carrière is voor hen vaak nog lastiger te navigeren, onder meer dankzij de ons-kent-ons mentaliteit en academische inteelt die in bepaalde departementen nog steeds welig tiert. Mensen die naar hier komen om aan een doctoraat te werken verdienen het om beter behandeld te worden dan als goedkope werkkrachten die makkelijk van de hand kunnen gedaan worden wanneer ze hun rechten opeisen of wanneer ze indruk wekken niets meer te kunnen opleveren.

Overheden en universiteiten kunnen werk maken van extra sociale en financiële ondersteuning voor deze doelgroep. Deelname aan officiële universitaire beleidsorganen moet ook mogelijk worden in andere talen dan het Nederlands, zodat ook deze groep makkelijker met eigen stem kan spreken.

Ter conclusie

De universiteiten en overheid hebben de voorbije decennia flink aan de weg getimmerd en een positieve weg ingeslagen. Meer mensen dan ooit tevoren krijgen de kans om zich gedurende een aantal jaren zich te verdiepen in een onderwerp en onderzoeksvaardigheden en ervaring op te doen. Ook komt er enige aandacht voor hun positie binnen de universiteit en de bredere maatschappij, en hoe dezen op elkaar kunnen afgestemd worden.

Het gevaar dat nu echter dreigt is dat men op de lauweren rust, er van uit gaand dat de grote problemen opgelost zijn doordat een aantal nieuwe structuren opgezet zijn en grote declaraties afgelegd zijn. Toch is er nog werk nodig om de ingeslagen weg te verankeren en te doen doorsijpelen tot op de werkvloer. Universitair beleid in het algemeen, en doctoraatsbeleid in het bijzonder is slechts af en toe een kwestie van geconcentreerde politieke aandacht en mobilisatie geweest. Nu de aandacht weer wat aan het wegebben is het aan ons om verder te hameren op de nog bestaande pijnpunten.




Ethics Week 2018 (VUB)

The first week of December, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel organizes an ‘Ethics Week‘ with a focus on research ethics. They explicitly invite people from the Slow Science Network to participate and/or share their critical questions. The topics discussed are:

Research Without Borders? Ethics of international research co-operation (4/12)

Soldiers in the laboratory? Military and civilian research (4/12)

Medical Ethics (5/12) 

Ethics, Human and Social Sciences (6/12) 

Ethics & Animal Testing (6/12)

Ethics and Valorisation of Research (7/12)




Action at arms lobby event (conference of the EDA)

In June this year, the Slow Science Network published an op-ed on the problematic nature of the influence of the military industry and the arms lobby on European policy, especially with regard to scientific research.

On November 29, Vredesactie will organise a non-violent action at the conference of the European Defence Agency. Vredesactie gives the following description of the action:

On 29 November, we will take nonviolent action at the conference of the European Defense Agency in Brussels. Arms dealers and policy makers meet behind closed doors and decide what the world of tomorrow will look like. Critical voices are not welcome.
We invite ourselves and enter the conference to make our voice heard.

Our politicians are outsourcing the security and migration policy to the arms industry. The results are appalling: the conference theme speaks for itself: ‘From unmanned to autonomous systems: trends, challenges and opportunities’. In other words: how can we make killer robots and deploy them in wars?

We will not let that happen overnight. Our future is at stake. We are going to the conference to make the case for a safe and peaceful Europe on a human scale, for sustainable solutions and good governance.

** Want to join or know more? **
Send a PM or an email to and we’ll send you more info soon.

More info about the arms lobby event:
More info about our campaign and actions to stop the arms trade:


Slow Science interview #2 – an interview with Javier Ruiz-Tagle (4/4)

Author: Sofia Pagliarin

The cultural hegemony of the English language: a way out!

Foto carnetJavier Ruiz-Tagle is an Assistant Professor specialised in housing segregation, housing policies and urban politics and working at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He completed his PhD in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In our previous post, we left our discussion suggesting that there might be ways to overcome the cultural hegemony of the English language in academia.

In this post, I summarise Javier’s point of view on how academic production could become ‘multi-lingual’, and how conferences and events could be organised differently to represent and reflect non-Anglo-Saxon cultures and contexts of scientific production.


Sofia: Javier, do you have practical suggestions in mind to overcome the hegemonic ‘mono-linguism’ of the English language in the future?

Javier: Yes, well, the key factor here would be technology. A conference should not only be multi-lingual, but language barriers should ideally be overcome. So that’s why I don’t believe there can be a lingua franca – not even Esperanto – but that there should be many at the same time.

For instance, at a conference, everybody should be able to speak in whatever language they want (at least the 7 most spoken in the Global South: Mandarin Chinese, Indi, Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English). In an exercise of imagination, for my ideal conference, the name tag should also include the native spoken language of the person, and everybody would go around with his/her smartphone and set the language of that person to communicate with each other. We could talk to our smartphones and then let the app translate to the language of the person we are talking with – that’s even already possible today. Or when speakers are presenting their papers or talking at a plenary, the content of their speech would be translated simultaneously in several languages on the screen, so that people can read it in their own languages. Another thing would be to make conferences more virtual – the ones who can make it to conferences in the Global North from the Global South are just the privileged – because of the cost of the travel, but also because they are the ones who can actually communicate in English.
Sofia: So a sort of not multi-lingual, but ‘post-linguistic’ conference?

Javier: In a way, yes. Technology can really help us overcome linguistic barriers – maybe even in the next few years, and I think for instance that Google could be interested in showing off its products during a conference – that’s why I say we should transition to a type of communication that does not necessarily flow into and through the English language.
Sofia: …A transition?

Javier: Yes. So we could in the future have a conference in the Global South where people can talk in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indi, Chinese, Arabic, English, but without feeling ‘less than’ the English-native speakers just because they don’t know or command English as it is expected nowadays, for instance, because they could not access to a certain type of (elite) education. Of course it’s another thing when it comes to the translation of a paper – but for spoken English I think we already have the technology to overcome its use in the near future.
Sofia: But don’t you think that we would then give technology a huge amount of power? We would let technology translate our words without us having any control on this process of translation.

Javier: Yes, that’s also true, but what we would gain from the possibility to speak in our own language would be much larger than what we would lose. It’s a trade-off.
Sofia: What else could be done to overcome the hegemony of the English language?

Javier: Well, another thing I am working at the moment is to build a network of scholars from the Global South regarding urban topics – for instance from other countries in Latin America, but also from South Africa, Lebanon, India and China. The establishment and expansion of this network over time would be extremely important to overcome the Anglo-Saxon-based networks where our knowledge about the Global South is conveyed (which means, not passing through London to have exchanges with other places in the Global South).

An additional thing is – although it’s not my favourite – to publish both in English and in Spanish (or Portuguese), for instance. Then you increase the citations, and hence the journal’s impact factor , by increasing the audience the journal reaches to. But of course there are also resistances – many would just like to keep writing only in Spanish or Portuguese, or are against translations, because they argue that even the best translations are never like the original texts. I think the same happens in France.

In my point of view, I would be more than happy to loose something in the translation of a book or an article if that knowledge can be disseminated more broadly to other audiences. It’s a trade-off, like the one about technology we were discussing previously.

Sofia: But some journals for instance are already translating into French, Spanish or Chinese the abstracts of articles written in English.

Javier: Yes, but this does not mean that they cite it, and make their impact factor increase. For instance, many English-speaking scholars in urban studies writing about Latin America do not cite literature written in Spanish or Portuguese . They cite other scholars who are like them, and who write about Latin America. As a consequence, we from Latin America cannot share our knowledge beyond the ‘language barrier’ set through the English language, nor get recognised for the knowledge we produce.

Therefore, it is not contemplated that there might be a knowledge about Latin America that is different from the view that the Global North has about this area of the Global South. For me it’s clear that any study about Latin American should at least be in three languages – Spanish, Portuguese and English.
Sofia: Thanks a lot Javier for sharing all this with us!

Javier: Thanks to you.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Slow Science.


Slow Science interview #2 – an interview with Javier Ruiz-Tagle (3/4)

Author: Sofia Pagliarin

The cultural hegemony of the English language: the lock-in

Foto carnetJavier Ruiz-Tagle is an Assistant Professor specialised in housing segregation, housing policies and urban politics and working at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He completed his PhD in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In our previous post , Javier and I talked about the asymmetry in academic production, which is dominated by (generally native) English speakers, even when topics are about other cultures and contexts.

In this post, we focus more on how we got to this point – that English has become the language we have to use in academic production and communication.
Sofia: Javier, ok, that’s a fact: the English language is culturally hegemonic.

Javier: Yes.

Sofia: But in the past, in Europe, we had Latin, then French, then German as a ‘common language code’ or ‘passpartout language’ across countries, for commerce, trade, science and literature, and historically there have always been hierarchical ‘power centres’. Now there is English and London, as you said… so why is this necessarily a problem?

Javier: The use of English as a hegemonic language is not a problem per sé, but its consequences are a problem. If we restrict our discussion to scientific production, and within it to the social sciences and specifically to urban studies, which is my field of expertise, it is undeniable that academic production is asymmetrical. It is a North-South relationship, not South-North. I mean, if English would be such a lingua franca, as you say, the Global South would contribute equally or similarly to scientific production. But this is not the case.

Sofia: Can you tell me more about this asymmetry?

Javier: Sure. Let’s start from acknowledging that in the world the most spoken language is Mandarin Chinese. Then we have Spanish, and at the third place we find English. It is clear that the role of English as a lingua franca – as you call it – isn’t neutral, but that it is related to specific path-dependent processes and lock-ins whose persistence is inevitably linked to questions of power and history.

The hegemony of the English language does not stem from its numerical hierarchy – as it is the third most spoken language – but of the specific historical process that made the English language gain a certain status that is now difficult to change. Basically the supremacy of English is a consequence of the influence of the British Empire from the 18th century, and US neo-colonialism since the mid‐20th century.

The use of language is not neutral – the consideration of the English language as a so-called lingua franca is a false universalism. For instance, when in a book the author refers to ‘the city’, it is clear that the author has in mind the US or the European city model.

Therefore, the use of the English language is an aspect of a cultural hegemony that has consolidated over time. It didn’t get to that hegemonic position by accident.

Sofia: Are you saying that all academic production is linguistically biased?

Javier: Yes. Hegemony has a hierarchical structure, which in this case is organised not only around the use of a certain language, but also through ‘centres of knowledge’, for instance in London, and then of course through journals, catalogues, impact factors, and so on. Again, the US fought its ideological battle after World War II also through science and scientific practices. The scientific dominance of the US was grounded on a positive feedback loop: first, the larger the involvement of scholars (directly or indirectly) in Anglo‐Saxon academia, the more consolidated its reputation and hence, second, the higher the attraction for scholars to study, research and publish in English. Third, as a consequence, Anglo‐Saxon academia becomes more important, as well as the use of the English language. Of course, the larger the predominance of English, the more the academic audience gets involved in Anglo-Saxon academia, so the loop begins again.

Sofia: And in what other ways is the cultural hegemony of the English language played out in your own experience?

Javier: For instance, the fact that scholars from the Global South have to make an extra effort. This goes of course also for those scholars in the Global North whose native language is not English. They also have to make an extra effort.

But what I often tell to my students is that, as critical scholars in urban studies, we have to do four-times the effort of a native English speaker. This is because I try not to give translated texts to my students. They should learn to access books and article written in English on their own. This is because I once took the 300 keywords in the leading journal for urban studies in Latin America – and translated those words into English. I searched for those keywords in academic catalogues and the result was that those keywords in English appeared 11 times more on average than they did in their Spanish version. So if I would show my students only academic literature in Spanish, I would basically be hiding from them 90% of the knowledge in urban studies.

So we in the Global South have to make four different efforts: we have to be acquainted with mainstream theories and also critical theories of the North – so that’s already two efforts – and also with mainstream and critical theories of the Global South – so that’s the other two efforts. But despite that – we aren’t even recognised for it. The hegemony of the English language is so powerful that they treat you differently if you cannot properly speak in English. This is discrimination based on language.

Sofia: So how shall we change this system? Is there a way out?

Javier: Yes, I think there is. The first step is to recognise that there is not only one lingua franca, but many. And conferences and events can and should be organised differently, and knowledge communicated differently as well.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Slow Science.

Slow Science interview #2 – an interview with Javier Ruiz-Tagle (2/4)

Author: Sofia Pagliarin

The cultural hegemony of the English language: the unequal competition with native speakers

Foto carnetJavier Ruiz-Tagle is an Assistant Professor specialised in housing segregation, housing policies and urban politics and working at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He completed his PhD in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In the previous post, I asked Javier to tell me about the episode at an international conference where he stood up and asked, provocatively, why we were talking in English about the Global South from the Global North (the conference was held in the UK).

In this post, we continue our discussion about the cultural hegemony of the English language.

Sofia: Javier, I understand that English nowadays is a hegemonic language for cultural and scientific production. But that’s our current lingua franca, so we in academia do not have so much other choice but learn it… that’s the game.

Javier: Well, remember that in the Global South many people do not have access to education so easily. So even in higher education, the access to academic literature written in English should not be taken for granted. This is partly why sometimes concepts that are already consolidated in the Global North, might not be so in the Global South, and vice versa. Because there is a language barrier cutting through scientific knowledge.

Furthermore, and you might also have had the same experience, non-native English speakers feel ‘less than’ native English speakers because they do not have the words to express themselves properly. For instance, it was only when I went to do my PhD in the US that I could improve my English proficiency. And at the beginning I could not express myself properly, for instance when it came to concepts – but that didn’t mean that I was wrong or that I was thinking poorly. What I thought was as valid and significant as much as what my native English speaking colleagues were saying. But my words had less power, because they were not communicated properly.

The consequence is that English native-speakers and non-native speakers are competing on an unequal level.
Sofia: But would it not also be useful then to ‘educate’ native English speakers to look beyond their own culturally hegemonic language and knowledge, and to realise that they have to communicate with people for whom English is the second or third language? Shouldn’t they make also the effort?

Javier: That would be great. But I know so far only a handful of people from the UK or the US that know a second language. I saw that effort from other Europeans, like Germans, French, or Dutch, where they might speak Spanish as a third language. But I did not see this effort from the British.

People from the US almost pretend when they travel that people should speak in English. It’s part of their ethnocentrism. And you can see this in academia as well.

Sofia: So the English language cannot be considered a lingua franca?

Javier: Well, no. An additional issue linked to the cultural hegemony of the English language is that it forces people to speak the same language and, consequently, our thinking is ‘narrowed’ to the same conventions and parameters. It narrows and limits our world, because concepts emerged from different cultures and contexts necessarily have to be translated into English – and this is not always easy, or even possible. This is a process of homogeneity, which tends to level out differences, as one of the aspects of the broader globalisation process.

But I myself am part of the problem. I went to the US for my PhD, I often travel to conferences to the Global North… I am also part of the system. I have to recognise that for instance in Chile, only 10% of the population speaks English, which is the elite, who can afford having their children study in the best universities and to study abroad. However, this type of self-reflexivity has to be present in critical social scientists. We can’t just pretend our privileged position doesn’t matter.
Sofia: In your opinion, how could we change this situation?

Javier: People should take more responsibility to work as ‘hinges’. I mean, not gatekeepers that control access, but people that would function like bridges across cultures and contexts. Knowledge is manifold and diverse. It cannot be homogenised and levelled out only because the use of the English language was gradually imposed to us.

Academic knowledge and scientific production should recognise, also in the diversity of languages that are employed, that there are different types of knowledge and different centres of knowledge production – and that many of these are located also in the Global South.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Slow Science.

Slow Science interview #2 – an interview with Javier Ruiz-Tagle (1/4)

Author: Sofia Pagliarin

Why is research about Latin America mostly in English?

foto web


Javier Ruiz-Tagle is an Assistant Professor specialised in housing segregation, housing policies and urban politics and working at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He completed his PhD in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


I met Javier last time during a conference in Leeds in September 2017. At the closing plenary session, focused on African cities, the usual round of questions & answers started. Javier stood up and asked provocatively why Global South issues have to be discussed in Global North venues (especially in the UK) and why, if we were at a conference of left-wing, critical social scientists, we were still only talking in English.

In July 2018, I got in touch with him to know more about that episode, not only to disentangle his motivations, but also to what extent the English language as the current lingua franca can uncontroversially be considered as such.

The following text is a synthetic re-elaboration of our Skype talk – during which, by the way, we could talk in Spanish (another hegemonic language?) – structured in four posts and reviewed together with Javier before its online publication on the Slow Science blog.
Sofia: Javier, can you tell me about how you came to stand up during the plenary and ask why we were talking in English?

Javier: Yes, of course. But I don’t think at all that I was saying that we should not talk in English, nor I was complaining about it. My aim was not to criticise, but rather to put under discussion the asymmetry of academic production among the ‘Global South’ and the ‘North’. I was calling for a joint and serious discussion about this topic.

I was making the point that the Global South is a place where we study and conduct a lot of research, but that at the end of the day our research never makes it to the North – it is the North that comes to us.
Sofia: Can you give an example?

Javier: Sure. For instance, in urban studies, we often have Western scholars from Europe or the US that come to the Global South, for instance India, Africa or Latin America, and do their targeted fieldwork in our cities, go back to their offices in the North and then write books and articles about us in English. Books and articles that are not even translated for instance to Spanish or Portuguese, but that we have to cite anyways, because they become part of the academic and official knowledge about our cities.

Most of the time these scholars don’t even have contacts with local academics, just with a select few – certainly the ones that can speak English -, and then publish stuff about us. This is what happens for academic production about Latin American cities. The research and the fieldwork are neither communicated nor shared with local scholars – it stays within the limits of the English language, as in a bubble formed by language barriers – so how can they claim to have understood something about our cities? Which kinds of theories are made out of this process? That’s asymmetry.

Looking at it broadly, you can see that academic production and knowledge about cities in the Global South is mediated by London, as the capital of the largest empire in human history, and all this comes with that legacy. It has to go to London first and then it is recognised, and comes back to us.
Sofia: But there have been scholars that have been critical about this…

Javier: Yes. This isn’t new of course, and scholars have raised these issues in the past decade or so. However, if you look at what happened to the ‘Global South’ scholars that actually raised these questions, they are now all in the North (i.e. Jennifer Robinson, Ananya Roy, Susan Parnell).

First, these scholars come from the ‘North of the South’, so to say – so South Africa and India, where English is one of the official languages, and they have – at least partially – an Anglo-Saxon culture. This doesn’t happen with scholars that do publish a lot, but do so in a local language, such as Spanish or Portuguese. Knowledge and research that is not produced in English, in a way, does not exist. So this is the first aspect of the power asymmetry of academic production in English.

The second thing is that, once they are recognised, they flee to the Global North. These scholars are ‘co-opted’ by the centres of knowledge production in the North. From South Africa or India they go to London, Berkeley or Manchester. It is clear that there is a centralisation of academic production by means of the hegemonic role of the English language. This is the second aspect of power asymmetry.

These scholars are of course very progressive and all – but these scholars set the research agenda about what we, in the South, have to study about the South. This means that studies about the Global South are finally made ‘top-down’.
Sofia: …top-down?

Javier: Yes, for instance there is this association, the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), that includes scholars studying and researching Latin America in different fields, for instance literature studies, history, urban studies, geography and other stuff. But the members are mostly English-speaking, from Europe and from the US, and they do their annual conference in the Global North. What happens then is that these people set the agenda, define themes, write handbooks and ultimately decide what we Latin Americans have to study about Latin America (although this is starting to change in the last 5 years or so).

So in this sense there is an ‘occidentalism’ about the Global South – that is, that knowledge about the Global South is mediated by the North which is very much marked by the language we use to produce such knowledge.

And this is also partly our fault: it is difficult for us in the Global South to communicate, network and organise. We from Latin America are not connected to Africa or the Middle-East directly. This is also because we in Latin America first learn about European history, then about our country, and very little is left to indigenous cultures or to other continents. Everything goes through London, which in turn is connected to everybody.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Slow Science.

Opinie – Europese subsidies voor wapenonderzoek (be)dienen vooral militaire industrie

Nieuw opiniestuk van Slow Science in Mo*

Europese subsidies voor wapenonderzoek (be)dienen vooral militaire industrie

Vandaag, 27 juni, lanceren bezorgde wetenschappers en vredesorganisaties het Europese initiatief researchers for peace. Meer dan 700 onderzoekers uit 19 EU landen roepen hun collega’s op om zich uit te spreken tegen een Europees militair onderzoeksprogramma, dat donderdag en vrijdag op de agenda staat van de Europese regeringsleiders.

Met het Slow Science-netwerk ijveren we voor open, democratisch en duurzaam wetenschappelijk onderzoek. De huidige Europese plannen staan haaks op deze waarden.

Met de lancering van de “Preparatory Action on Defence Research” zette de Europese Unie in 2016 de eerste stappen naar het uitwerken van een Europees militair onderzoeksprogramma. De Europese Commissie heeft plannen voor een Europees Defensiefonds waarbij de komende jaren miljarden euro naar onderzoek en ontwikkeling van nieuwe wapens moet gaan. Uit een recent rapport van Vredesactie blijkt dat de wapenlobby een bepalende invloed heeft gehad op het proces dat leidde tot deze beslissing. Zoals te verwachten zijn de plannen dan ook op maat gesneden van de wapenindustrie.

De Europese Commissie stelt het Europees Defensiefonds voor als hét antwoord op de nood aan een Europees veiligheids –en defensiebeleid. Maar de EU slaat een belangrijke stap over: bepalen wat voor beleid ze voor ogen heeft. Dat is een politieke vraag. Pas als die beantwoord is, kan men de verdere vraag stellen hoe dit beleid het beste in praktijk wordt gezet. Hiervoor is kennis nodig, waar wetenschappelijk onderzoek een bijdrage kan leveren. Het soort kennis dat men hiervoor nodig heeft, is niet alleen militair van aard, maar ook economisch, sociologisch (en afhankelijk van het antwoord op de eerste vraag, ook ecologisch).

Het is alsof men de auto-industrie zou vragen om een mobiliteitsbeleid uit te werken voor Europa.

Wat men nu echter ziet is een compleet gebrek aan politieke visie. Iedereen lijkt het er over eens te zijn dat er een Europees veiligheidsbeleid moet komen, maar niemand stelt zich de verdere vraag wat dit beleid dan zou moeten inhouden. Het wetenschappelijk-technologisch onderzoek dat in de pijplijn zit, is bovendien ook niet van die aard dat het kennis oplevert die bijdraagt aan het beter uitvoeren van een politiek beleid of helpt in het uittekenen van ervan. Het vertrekt eerder van de aanname dat militair onderzoek door de privéindustrie het enige mogelijke antwoord is. Het is alsof men de auto-industrie zou vragen om een mobiliteitsbeleid uit te werken voor Europa. Uiteraard zal het “ideale” beleid er dan uit bestaan om te investeren in wegenbouw en geld te pompen in research & development uitgevoerd door de industrie zelf.

De belangen van de militaire industrie

De details van de financiering tonen bovendien hoe de huidige plannen enkel de belangen van de militaire industrie dienen. De EU financiert het onderzoek voor 100 %. De industrie zelf hoeft dus geen financiële bijdrage te leveren, maar krijgt wel de volledige intellectuele eigendomsrechten op de ontwikkelde technologie. Onderzoek houdt altijd een risico in: verwachte resultaten blijven soms uit, experimenten kunnen mislukken.

De samenleving betaalt de kosten van het risicovolle onderzoek, eventuele winsten worden volledig opgestreken door privébedrijven.

De motivatie die vaak gegeven wordt voor het toekennen van intellectuele eigendomsrechten is dat dit bedrijven en onderzoekers aanspoort om toch dit risico te lopen. Een geslaagde en gepatenteerde ontdekking kan namelijk de mogelijke mislukkingen meer dan compenseren. Wat we in het Europese plan echter zien, is een socialisering van het risico en het privatiseren van de winst: de samenleving betaalt de kosten van het risicovolle onderzoek, eventuele winsten worden volledig opgestreken door privébedrijven.

Als Slow Science onderzoekers roepen we de EU dan ook op om de belangen van haar burgers voorop te stellen, niet die van de militaire industrie. Om het beleid niet te laten bepalen door de militaire lobby, maar zelf politieke verantwoordelijkheid te nemen en democratische controle toe te laten. Om onderzoek te financieren dat bijdraagt tot een duurzame en veilige toekomst van de EU en niet louter de bankrekeningen van de militaire industrie spijst.