A safe haven in the midst of academic craziness
What makes NIAS a treasure to cherish is the opportunity it offers academics to escape from their crazy daily routines involving the knowledge-based economy, international positioning, top studies, student portfolios, multi-disciplinary knowledge strategies, research schools, admission restrictions, PostDoc programmes, the Ba-Ma structure, student vouchers, variable tuition, and so on.
The efforts of so many universities to belong to the top remind me of Lake Wobegon, which is a mythical American town that is an invention of humorist Garrison Keillor. He starts each story with “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”.
What makes NIAS a top research institute is the safe haven it offers in the midst of all this craziness. It gives academics a much-needed opportunity to think. Science does not progress by repeating one simple scientific trick over-and-over again in an effort to maximise the research scores that may thereby be obtained. No, top research requires careful reflection. It requires thinking outside the comfort zone of one’s discipline. In stimulating research in the humanities and social sciences and in promoting interdisciplinary cooperation in an international setting, this is where NIAS has a very important role to play.
About Esther-Mirjam Sent
Esther Mirjam-Sent is a Dutch economist, university professor, and politician. She is Professor in Economic Theory and Economic Policy at Radboud University Nijmegen, the chairwoman of the Labour Party and has been a member of the Senate since 7 June 2011. During her fellowship, she carried out a research project that was to gain a deeper understanding of developments in contemporary economics.
The text above is taken from “Heaven on Earth,” a reflection by Sent on her fellowship period in the NIAS Newsletter 44 (2010).