The Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, 2007-now
On 16 January 2007, the research institute Materials Science Centre (MSC) and the top research school Materials Science Centre plus (MSC plus ) merged, to form the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials. The institute derives its name from University of Groningen researcher Frits Zernike, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics 1953 'for his demonstration of the phase contrast method, especially for his invention of the phase contrast microscope'.
The Dutch law regulating the organisation of universities recognizes research institutes within faculties, but not research programmes that extend over several research institutes (as did the MSC plus programme). To remedy this oversight, the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials has introduced the concept of members and associate members. Members are researchers participating in the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials' research programme and belonging to the research institute of the same name. Associate members participate in the research programme, but belong formally to another research institute within the Faculty of Science and Engineering; in particular, to either the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry or the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB). In practice, the difference between members and associate members is hardly noticable and actively de-emphasized.
Almost simultaneously with the name change, the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials was informed by the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science, that its status as national research centre was to be continued until 2013.
In 2010, a formal evaluation of the Institute was started, with a view to a possible further continuation of this status. In this NWO-procedure, all six national research centres were ranked. Simultaneously, a KNAW-advice was requested by the Minister of Education on the future of the national research centre as an instrument of government science policy.
The outcome of this was that NWO published an evaluation report (Evaluation of Leading Research Schools 2009-2010; NWO Den Haag 15 June 2010), in which two research institutes, including the Zernike Institute, were ranked "exemplary". The other four were deemed to be "excellent". later, the Minister of Education decided to extend the additional funding for the two "exemplary" institutes until 2018. Simultaneously, a call for proposals for new centres of excellence was published, under the name "Zwaartekracht". This was in line with the KNAW-recommendation to open up the field for new initiatives (Bundeling van kwaliteit. Vernieuwing van de Dieptestrategie voor fundamenteel wetenschappelijk onderzoek. Advies. KNAW juli 2010).
In 2015 the national research centre was evaluated again with an overwhelmingly positive feedback of the commission. As a consequence the minister prolonged the financial support by another three years until 2021.
Related chapters on our history:
1970-1987: Informal co-operation
1987-1993: Research Institute
1993-1999: Research Institute and School
1999-2006: National Research Center MSC plus
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