Many researchers want new appraisal system

Less counting of points and more emphasis on teamwork and social impact.
Photo Albert Sikkema

Most WUR university staff are dissatisfied with the current staff appraisal system, shows the survey conducted by the Recognition and Rewards Committee. The survey was completed by over 500 employees, 34 per cent of the total. More than half are (very) dissatisfied with the personnel assessment, a quarter are (very) satisfied.

A lot of academic staff are assessed in the Tenure Track system. And many of them feel that this system puts too much emphasis on points, with the assessment depending on how many grants, PhDs and articles in top journals an academic notches up. In contrast, too little weight is given to their contribution to the team, their personal goals, education, social impact and academic leadership.


‘Appraisal committees these days are too busy counting points,’ says Maarten Voors, a researcher at Development Economics, who conducted the survey. ‘There is an obvious wish to see a change in the assessment system, and this wish is especially strong among women and in the Social Sciences Group.’ Voors is a member of the Recognition and Rewards Committee, which has spent the past 18 months identifying the problem areas in the appraisal policy. Now that this phase has been completed, the committee is going to come up with a plan for a better system.

The majority of Wageningen scientists feel recognized and rewarded in their current position; only 17% do not. Remarkably, no less than 43 percent of the academic staff members who are not on Tenure Track feel underappreciated. Voors: ‘This group probably gets fewer opportunities to grow professionally. We want to explore this point further.’


Voors can see starting points for a better assessment policy, but he is wary of making changes ad hoc. ‘At present we have an objective and transparent system and we do not want to go back to subjective preferences and assessments. For example, it is important to assess the contribution staff members make to the team, but how do you do that? It requires the team to have a shared vision, so that you can assess someone’s contribution to realizing that vision, for example.’

‘It sounds great to take diversity into account too, but what does that mean? Do you accept that employees publish less because they have to look after their children or their father? The danger is that you start judging that subjectively. That is why transparent frameworks are needed and committees may need to be trained on how to integrate diversity into assessment procedures.’ 

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