New NWO research programme on academic equity and inclusion

WUR's D&I program manager recognises the need for more in-depth knowledge about this.
diversity inclusion With the funding, NWO wants to denounce existing patterns, structures and processes and counter bias. Photo Shutterstock

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) is putting 1.3 million euros into a new research programme aimed at increasing equity and inclusion in the academic world. It entails four studies, notably including one that looks at quotas for teachers and researchers of colour.

This group is underrepresented in Dutch academia, especially in permanent posts, according to the project description. Quotas for this group are therefore ‘indispensable, as has been scientifically proven in other contexts.’ The project aims to collect the building blocks for rolling out these quotas on a large scale. One study will examine the opposition to them in the Netherlands. The successful implementation of quotas in other contexts will studied.

Seeking to understand why people feel so strongly about it seems a helpful way forward

The other studies in the new NWO program are primarily about how so-called norm groups can help break through the lack of diversity in Dutch academia. And secondly, they are about creating a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise around justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and how to apply them within institutions. A third focus is on evidence-based intervention strategies for making academic institutions more inclusive.

On the defensive

WUR’s Diversity & Inclusion programme manager Eva Siebelink acknowledges the need for more in-depth knowledge on these issues, which she notices are present on the Wageningen campus too. ‘Hopefully, this programme’s scientific approach can help people distance themselves from the strong emotions that now often dominate the discussion about academic diversity and inclusion. People are quick to go on the defensive when it comes to the question of why Dutch academia lags behind in terms of diversity and whether quotas are called for. Seeking to understand why people feel so strongly about it seems to me to be a very helpful way forward. Because now resistance is holding up any real progress. I think it is a good thing that the NWO is going to do some solid research into the matter.’

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