Dutch chemistry departments: we are fantastic!

6 May 2011 - PR

The Dutch University chemical departments have hired QANU (Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities) for an external assessment. It must have cost them some money but in return they now have 146 pages of gloating references to impress their friends or more importantly the funding bureaucrats. And do not think the assessment involved any objective data gathering and statistical data analysis: the report is 100% figure-free. Instead a group of scientists from abroad was invited to give their personal opinion. Quality was then ranked on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 unsatisfactory and 5 excellent. Main result: an average 4.2 points, meaning the overall research is nationally leading and competitive internationally in a particular field.

Here are some quotes: On a University of Groningen research group: The leadership is overall quite dynamic , on a VU Amsterdam research group : the group currently has a strong presence in analytical chemistry, and on a Leiden University group : The quality of this group is excellent. These statements appear rather meaningless if based on the personal opinion of a small number of peers. The assessment is also based on a 10-year period which is long if a lot of emphasis is given to leadership skills of the present scientific management. Also a lot of weight is given to relevance of scientific output to a particular field. The relevance of that field in the scope of general scientific exploration is not assessed. And by the way: Dutch universities are already assessed on a regular basis by the Ministry of Education with relevance to educational accreditation, all the more reason this report should not have been written.

The technical universities resisted the cheap PR temptation and are not included in the assessment. Must have wasted their budgets on silly things such as staff & equipment.