In Talking Businees -nieuwsbrief van de economische faculteit van de UM vertelt over zijn onderscheiding : “I was very surprised when I learned about this high ranking in the European Knowledge Top 10, not in the least because the list is quite broad and illustrious. Of course I am honoured with the ranking and the words of praise. Speculating on why I received this nomination, I wondered whether it had to do with the fact that I like to take now and then a public position on international, but also regional economic subjects that I find important.
It is my strong conviction that we, academics, have a significant role there. We should regularly step out of our academic, rather isolated circles and contribute to discussions in society. Publishing in academic and scientific journals is of course very important and our trade, but writing now and then articles in newspapers and digital media should be considered also part of our task in society, certainly as academically trained economists. We can use our knowledge to make a well-founded contribution to matters that are of interest to our region and our country. That’s what I have been doing for some years now.
Apart from scientific papers and policy reports for various organisations – the latest was a report for the European parliament on the feasibility of the EIT – I try to continue to publish in Dutch on a regular basis a popular opinion piece on any economic topic which comes to my attention for the local regional newspaper and then elaborate on those articles in more depth and length on my personal website (www.soete.nl). So I am forced to update my website each month and notice that it is relatively well read: an average of about 400 hits a day. That is of course very small compared to the 40,000 hits a day the UNU-MERIT website (www.merit.unu.edu) attracts, but I guess it is not too bad for a personal website in Dutch.
I live and work in the Netherlands. I conduct my academic work in English, but because I live in a Dutch speaking environment I find it important to write in Dutch about topical subjects that are important for the region. Often, these subjects hardly receive any attention in the national, even regional press and even more often, their importance is at first underestimated.
Without wishing to overstretch the importance of such opinion pieces in relation to the ScienceGuide Top 10, I noticed that sometimes after my piece has been published the issue receives more attention. Recent examples are my critique of the Dutch green party’s ideological choice for ‘freedom’ as green-left intellectual challenge, at the time society seems more in need of the opposite. Or the planned take-over by British publishing company Mecom of regional publisher Wegener. In the latter case it is really surprising how few articles are written about this take-over likely to affect both the number of jobs at the local regional newspaper group here in Limburg as well as the quality of the local newspaper. With the proposed take-over, it is likely that the regional newspaper will be turned into a national newspaper with a couple of pages of regional news.
I might of course be wrong, but hopefully my opinion piece contributed to the discussion. After my article, several reactions followed. And that, I consider is also part of our role and duty in society as ultimately very privileged knowledge workers sitting in our beautiful ivory towers.”