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The Hague

30 March 2012

This week starts in the usual way with the Board of the University meeting in the morning. In the afternoon I attend a meeting at the Residence of the Canadian ambassador in The Hague, where John van de Pol, on behalf of INCAS3, and Prof. Wilson, on behalf of Saskatchewan, sign an MOU regarding collaboration on the use of sensor technology for improved efficiency of heavy oil extraction.

The meeting is attended by the minister of Education, Research and Economics of Saskatchewan, who gives an interesting and informative speech about the rapid developments in Saskatchewan, where in addition to potash and uranium (25% of the world production), large reserves of natural gas and oil have also been found, resulting in rapid economic development. There are also substantial investments in research and education, since in Canada these are provincial, not national, responsibilities. I am struck once more by the fact that countries like Mongolia or Canadian provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta are profiting directly from the natural resources in their region through investments by the respective governments in the knowledge infrastructure, including the universities, whereas over the past 50 years this has certainly not been the case for the northern part of the Netherlands.

In the evening, the Boards of the University of Groningen and Twente meet in Zwolle to talk about intensifying our collaboration in a number of research and teaching areas and to prepare for the meeting we are going to have with the provincial governments in May. The intention is to see how the provinces, in conjunction with the national government and the EU, can support the further development of a knowledge economy in our regions.

The following days I do what is part of the duties of every academic, serving as a member of an external evaluation committee, in this case of the Max Delbrück Center (MDC) in Berlin. This is a top research institute, ranking 14th in the world in the field of Molecular Biology. The Center is extremely well funded, including by the Helmholz Foundation. Together with a large team of some 30 top scientists from around the world, including Rene Bernards of the Dutch Cancer Institute, I spend an intensive few days reviewing and ranking the 62 individual MDC programmes. I must admit that listening to and discussing heavy science feels like playing a soccer game after years of no practice. I particularly enjoy the conversations covering my own fields of interest with people like Klaus Rajewski, who after 10 years in Boston has returned to Germany to continue his exciting work on Hodgkin’s disease and other EBV-related lymphomas in Berlin. However, the many excellent postdocs and PhD students are also a true pleasure to talk with. After the first day the rustiness disappears and by the end of Thursday the report is completed and the reviewers can find their way home via the train station or airport.

Then on Friday morning I have two conference calls with steering groups of the VSNU – a great way to save the time otherwise spent on the road to The Hague or Utrecht. In the afternoon I meet with representatives of the Korean embassy to talk about the ceremony involved in becoming the honorary consul for Korea. At the end of the day the Board of the University meets with several of our prominent professors involved in leading positions in KNAW and NWO.

Last modified:29 January 2018 3.44 p.m.

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