Exploratory report advises to strengthen science on the Caribbean islands with scientific network organization

On Wednesday 16 June, Minister van Engelshoven received the exploratory report from Wiebe Bijker with the advice to set up the scientific network organization Dutch Caribbean Research Platform (DUCARP). The report was commissioned by NWO and is part of the Caribbean Research Programme.

The Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) on St. Eustatius was founded nearly a decade ago. The current financing period will end in 2022. NWO has instructed an investigation into what the best options are for the future of the CNSI. The two independent advisors Wiebe Bijker and Jorien Wuite have discussed this with many people throughout the Kingdom over the past year and summarized their findings and advice in this report. They recommend converting the CNSI into a Dutch Caribbean Research Platform (DUCARP), a network organization with a coordinating centre on St. Maarten and physical ‘anchor points’ on the other five Caribbean islands of the Kingdom.

According to the report, DUCARP should not conduct its own research, but should stimulate research in the region by providing advice and support and by connecting people, institutions and parts of the Kingdom. This will gradually lead to increased collaboration between researchers and institutions and to improved embedding in the national and international knowledge system. According to the authors, DUCARP is desperately needed to qualitatively and quantitatively strengthen scientific research on and about the Caribbean islands. According to the report, DUCARP can eventually grow into a knowledge and expertise centre for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The recommendations are addressed to NWO, OCW and other relevant players in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom and in the Netherlands. For the possible realization of DUCARP it is important that they do this together, each on the basis of their own responsibility.

The exploration was conducted within the NWO Caribbean Research programme. The Caribbean Research Programme facilitates high-quality scientific research and a sustainable infrastructure for the growth of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, rooted in society. It makes research relevant to the public and it connects society, science and people. It promotes connections between the six islands and between the Caribbean and European parts of the Kingdom. The Caribbean Research Programme strengthens the knowledge and competencies of the islands and contributes to sustainable structural reinforcement and capacity building in the region.

Continuation of the Caribbean programme with ten million euros

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) has decided to continue financing the Caribbean research programme. With 10 million euros, NWO can further expand the Caribbean programme over the next 5 years. NWO will first develop a research agenda for this.

The ‘Caribbean research: a multidisciplinary approach’ programme was set up in 2013 to strengthen research into (and on) the six islands within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. OCW is extremely satisfied with the way in which NWO has shaped the Caribbean research programme. Research is of great importance for the challenges on the islands, as is capacity building and knowledge. The interest of researchers and stakeholders in the research programme was very high. For these reasons, OCW decided to continue the programme with a new budget.

To date, two multidisciplinary calls have been issued within the programme. Most of the projects from the first call focused on the earth and life sciences; the second call was mainly aimed at regional collaboration and impact and mainly resulted in projects from the social sciences. The programme follow-up is expected to be broadly interdisciplinary. Autonomous lines of research must converge with connections to relevant routes from the NWA National Science Agenda. The CNSI, the research institute on St. Eustatius, will also play a role within the Caribbean research programme.

Research agenda

An inventory of the research activities in the Dutch Caribbean will be made first for the further implementation of the programme. Insight into what research is currently taking place from various initiatives is limited; the image is fragmented.

Partly on the basis of the inventory, a research agenda will then be drawn up in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders. This should also address the priorities of the islands themselves, in conjunction with the UNESCO priorities for Small Island Development States (SIDS) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The research agenda will cover fundamental to practice-oriented research. NWO will only give substance to further funding rounds on the basis of the research agenda.

Source: NWO

Towards a Caribbean research agenda

Science asks the opinion of Caribbean residents and institutions

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) invites residents and organisations from the Caribbean islands of the Kingdom to submit their questions to science. NWO will use this information to draw up an agenda pinpointing the most important scientific and societal knowledge questions that will shape the direction of the research for the coming years.

For example, do we need more research into climate change or coral restoration? Is more knowledge required about the economic development of the islands? Which questions play a role in the field of education? What are the most urgent questions in the areas of nutrition and health?

With this initiative, NWO wants to ensure that future research matches the current challenges and developments in the Caribbean region. ‘We have deliberately decided to submit these questions to both organisations and residents; that will give a diverse picture’, says Josef Stuefer, programme manager Caribbean Research at NWO.

Residents of the islands and employees of organisations on Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Saba can submit their questions via the website until 15 September 2019. The survey is available in three languages: Dutch, English and Papiamento. The information obtained will be linked to experiences from the existing NWO programme Caribbean Research and an inventory of current knowledge projects. Towards the end of 2019 this will result in a research agenda for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

More funding available for Caribbean science

The Netherlands is strengthening its cooperation with the Caribbean thanks to a change in the NWO Grant Rules. This was announced today by Ingrid Van Engelshoven, Minister for Education, Culture and Science, during a visit to Curaçao. As a result of a change in the regulations, scientists at research institutes in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom qualify for NWO funding from now on. Moreover, NWO is contributing to the continuity of the regional research field through its Science in the Caribbean research programme.

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