10 April 2018 • HOP Bas Belleman
Fraud also lurks in the research conducted at universities of applied sciences
Supervisory officer Pim Breebaart is enthusiastic about the fact that universities of applied sciences are conducting more and more applied research on behalf of institutions and companies. But, at the same time, he believes they need to more closely monitor the integrity of this research.
The universities of applied sciences have not been carrying serious research for very long, as a result of which such values as independence, integrity and quality at such institutes are less deeply rooted than at research universities. Moreover, the research is strongly linked to the professional field. “That is always a dangerous combination, especially when the research or research group receives funding,” writes Breebaart in the annual report for The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.
Change for the better
“In the past, Supervisory Boards focused primarily on housing and finances,” says Breebaart. “Other topics were simply not on the agenda.” In recent years, however, the Supervisory Boards have also started examining the quality of the education and, in his opinion, could also devote more energy to monitoring research at universities of applied sciences.
They need to hold Executive Boards accountable if no evaluations of the research take place or if quality problems and the danger of fraud and integrity violations are not considered. “We now have hundreds of research groups, which is very positive. But this also requires asking difficult questions.”
A ways to go
They have much to learn from the research universities, believes Breebaart. “Scientists occasionally make mistakes and fraud may also be involved at times. The positive aspect of this is that this is addressed and dealt with immediately at research universities. We have not yet come so far at universities of applied sciences that we have a clear and joint vision of integrity monitoring in research.”
The supervisory officers cannot do all the work themselves, he says, because they only have a few hours per week available for universities of applied sciences. However, this problem can be prioritised by the Executive Boards. Incidentally, if they are to examine not only the annual figures and development plans, but also seriously consider the quality of education and research, as well as the strategy of the educational institutions, they will need a lot more time. Breebaart concludes, “No matter how smart you are, you need more than a few hours to do this right.”