Scientific, societal and political developments and trends steer the Rathenau Instituut’s activities. This is why the biannual Work Programme is designed with a brief outline of the very developments that will primarily determine the institute’s work over coming years.
For this outline, there is regular consultation with the Institute’s Programme Council, an advisory board whose members come from academia, business, politics and journalism. The Rathenau Instituut’s Board then selects the work themes, by taking the following three criteria into consideration:
In the Work Programme we leave space to tackle current political and societal events, or topics from previous Work Programmes as they often become current again. Sometimes, political and social developments require accelerated or tailor-made investigations.In drafting the final Work Programme, the opinion of the House of Representatives is sought. The Work Programme is reviewed by the Minister of Education and Science, who renders an opinion on it and then forwards it to both Houses of Parliament.
The Rathenau Instituut assists in the process of political opinion forming through direct contact with both Houses of the Dutch parliament and the European Parliament. Its staff is called as expert witnesses at formal hearings and organise or take part in round table discussions and expert meetings. The Rathenau Instituut also strives to ensure that all reports and other products are relevant and accessible to decision-makers at all levels.
Researchers of the Rathenau Instituut often meet with policymakers to bring findings to their attention and to make sure that the developments are given a place on the political agenda. The Institute also promotes general discussion of the research topics, making an active contribution to the public debate. Rathenau Instituut experts are regular contributors to the national media and the Institute takes every opportunity to publicize its work at festivals, conferences and debates. The Rathenau Instituut publishes a newsletter and makes full use of digital technology, including social media, in engaging NGOs, stakeholder groups and the general public.
Good methodology is essential to the quality of the work delivered by the Rathenau Instituut. All its activities are based on highly diverse analytical and communicative methods, such as focus groups, citizen panels, statistics, database analysis, questionnaires, interviews, visualisations, debates and presentations. For each project the methods that lend themselves best to realising objectives are carefully considered. If required, new methods are developed which are hopefully suitable for several projects.
To bring science dynamics and international comparisons into focus, the Rathenau Instituut has developed expertise in the domain of scientometrics. It works on social network analysis methods to map science and technology networks, and conducts agent-based modelling pilots whose purpose is to stimulate complicated policy problems, making use of methods and techniques also used for »horizon scanning« and »foresight« among other things. In addition, it reflects on information visualisation, for instance in graphics, diagrams, networks and photos.
How are we to control our position of competing economies?
The Rathenau Instituut publishes scientific reports, background studies and Research Briefs to provide politicians and policymakers with reliable, relevant and up to date information. For a quick overview, we gather experts’ visions around a topical theme in collections of essays. In our twopage Research Briefs, we provide tailor-made analyses and policy recommendations.
The institute uses a wide range of interactive communications tools to disseminate its findings, such as expert meetings, public debates, talk shows, events and forum discussions to promote interaction with citizens, policymakers, politicians and other parties. The aim here is the exchange of thoughts or to initiation of a debate to get the images, visions and standpoints of participants out into the open.
Often, the media are crucial in getting themes onto the agenda. Visibility in the media and a good relationship with the press are of a high priority. Opinion pieces by Rathenau Instituut researchers regularly appear in national newspapers. Researchers are also frequently interviewed or asked by journalists to respond to current developments.
Apart from working with the press, the Institute’s own media is used to communicate: a well-visited website and weblogs, a monthly digital newsletter and social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Flux magazine, with accessibly written news and background information on science, technology and society, is published twice a year.
Other creative representational forms and communication tools to involve the public, press and politicians are also used experimentally. Examples include: a television documentary, a theatre play, an interactive exhibition or installation, interactive books, web games and even a »serious« game for the iPhone.
The Rathenau Instituut’s studies and policy briefs often set the agenda for politicians, policymakers and the media, or give a particular twist to debates that seem mired in traditional black and white points of view.
Most of its projects are quoted in parliamentary documents, in the national media and on stakeholder websites. Our experts regularly appear in national newspapers, news sites and on TV. They are frequently asked to appear in – or help organise – debates, parliamentary committees and hearings or expert meetings.
There is a loyal and continually growing following for newsletters and social media projects, and the website pulls in ten thousand visitors a month. A recent survey showed that the readers of Flux Magazine highly appreciate the quality, depth and design of the magazine.
Several projects have led to obvious political and societal impact. Recent examples include the projects Emerging Markets of Body Materials and Effects of Research Priorities.
Emerging Markets of Body Materials was covered by the national media and became a recurring item in popular late night talk shows. It started a debate both on the opinion pages of national newspapers and in scientific magazines. Due to its impact, a Parliamentary Roundtable Committee was organised. The documentary »Baby for Sale« – a subtheme to the project – led to the formation of an official Cabinet Standpoint. Government bodies are currently working on the legislative issues pointed out in the study and the Rathenau Instituut’s researchers are providing assistance as experts.
Effects of Research Priorities (or Focus and Mass in Dutch policy lingo) studied the effects of investments in priority research fields such as nanotechnology, genomics, water, and high tech systems. The conclusion was that investments had not improved the international position of the Netherlands in these fields, nor had there been growth in these fields nationally. It led to a strong political debate within the research community.
P.O. Box 95366
2509 CJ The Hague
Director: Jan Staman
Fon +31 70 342 15 42
Fax +31 70 363 34 88