The University of Groningen Faculty of Science and Engineering has won the very first NNV Diversity Award. The Netherlands Physics Association (NNV) has established the award for physics institutions that best put into practice an open diversity policy. The award is meant as a distinction and an inspiring example for other institutions and departments. Dean Jasper Knoester received the award from Diederik Jekel.
The award ceremony took place on 21 January during the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) dinner meeting for the heads of working groups, prior to the ‘Physics@Veldhoven’ academic meeting. The winner received a plaque, along with the right to use the NNV Diversity Award 2018 logo. The next edition of the
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde
will feature an interview with the winners.
Based on the descriptions of the many original initiatives developed in Groningen and the interviews with a sizeable and diverse staff delegation, the jury unanimously decided that the UG Faculty of Science and Engineering deserved to be granted the first NNV Diversity Award. The Faculty is a trendsetter, both nationally and internationally. The most prominent example of this is the Rosalind Franklin programme, which was initiated by the Faculty and is now a UG-wide success. In addition, the entire UG management and responsible academic staff fervently promote a powerful diversity policy.
The notion that science is the stronghold of men with a Western cultural background is widely shared. Although there is hardly any explicit preferential treatment involved, experience has shown that people from outside this demographic face many impediments to being able to fully develop their academic talents. This is a serious problem both for the individuals who run into these – often barely visible – barriers and for academia. Academia flourishes by deploying the largest possible talent pool and by accommodating the greatest possible diversity in insights and working methods.
All universities and research institutes have formulated measures to promote the diversity of those participating in academia. This may be improving on paper, but in practice, little progress has been made so far. It is exactly in practice that great disparities are developing between academic institutions. The new NNV award allows for the celebration of what has been accomplished, while at the same time drawing attention to the fact that many institutions still lack the truly equal treatment of students, PhD students and candidates for academic positions.
A jury delegation visited the three nominated institutions, speaking with the Deans of Faculty or Management and having separate meetings with a select number of academic staff members, PhD students, post-docs and Master’s students. These meetings were extensive and very candid, suggesting above all that a lot has changed for the better in these institutions in recent years.
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