“We are in this together”

Interestingly during my late Wednesday afternoon scrolling I bumped into a recorded livestream about “recognition & rewarding education” at the University of Twente, as part of the faculty of Science & Technology’s month of education. This browsing was inspired by my wondering about whether it would help if we would use the term “team education” alongside the “team science” discussion that is part of the recognition & reward programme (see the position paper “Room for everyone’s talent”), or whether education is seen as a part of this team science?

Image taken from the Dutch Recognition & Rewards programme website.  

Team science, just to explain, is e.g. referred to in this open working blog of my former colleagues at TU Delft Library. The blog provides a summary of the symposium that was held December 2020 about the “Transition to Team Science and Rewards”, organized by the Young Science in Transition. They state that there does not seem to be a common definition, but “key elements of Team Science are collaboration between disciplines and/or domains, and diversity within and between teams (for example: background, expertise, position, gender, and age).”

NWO introduced a Team Science Prize, in 2020. Here it says: “the added value of team science lies in the mutually reinforcing effects of diversity and complementarity of (technical) skills and expertise of individual team members. Good team science promotes the development of talent within the group, whereby leading researchers in the team attract talented new young PIs who can develop quickly and go on to attract even more new talent.”

So if I understand it correctly when we talk about recognition & rewarding in the academic world, and the change that is needed to acknowledge a diversity of people and activities in performance output, we do take into account a broad perspective, so education, research, leadership, and impact (and patient care for medical centres) are relevant. But if we talk about team science, we actually focus on research.

Fast forwarding through the recordings there were a few nice insights that I would like to share.

Should we have a PT (principal teacher) next to a PI (principal investigator)?

  1. Mirjam Bult, Vice-President at University of Twente, mentions that peer assessment drives quality. For education as well as for research peers are available in your community (and not necessarily in your university). “Take a reflective perspective, compare yourself with educators in your field”. The current teaching framework that is being developed (of course based on Ruth Graham’s) drives a teacher’s career path towards becoming an institutional leader or a national and global leader. However, this should always be in the context of your field, it should not be educational experts (only) who evaluate your performance, you need the disciplinary comparison.
  2. Would having a dual head of department (research and education) be a solution, or, as Stefan Kooij (the faculty’s program director for applied sciences) suggested, should we have a PT (principal teacher) next to a PI (principal investigator)? And that, I suddenly realized, would actually answer my aforementioned question, i.e., to indeed also stimulate having a team education with a PT as we would have a team science with PI’s.   
  3. How wonderful that this faculty organized a month of education! And yes, perhaps we now might understand why our current rector at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Vinod Subramaniam, will move to this university as its President!

Finally another thought to bring up. This team science and team education (and perhaps also team impact?) should or could very nicely connect our academic staff with our supporting staff, and at the same time connect our faculty staff with our central support staff. So that we can also start to work on recognition and acknowledgement of our support staff (and students as a matter of fact). Not really with the idea to change our organisational structure, but to create awareness that in our endeavours to make the world a better place we– researchers, teachers, administrators, students and support staff – are in this together. And I just realize that I am quoting Vinod Subramaniam’s famous words, so I should be right😉!

Wilma van Wezenbeek

16 June 2021

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