SRON rated ‘excellent’

An international evaluation committee has assessed SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research as ‘excellent’, the highest score that can be achieved. The committee was impressed, for example by how the institute had made use of the resources available in the period 2005-2010 to maintain and strengthen its leading national and international position in space research. Dutch space research has clearly benefited from these efforts. However, the committee believes that the institute’s budget must be increased if it is to maintain its strong position.

In short, the evaluation committee was impressed by the quality, productivity, relevance and vitality of the institute. This also applies to how SRON has continued to fulfill its mission in recent years – to develop and use innovative technology for groundbreaking research in space, focusing on astrophysical research, earth science and planetary and exoplanetary research. Based on its successful ‘expertise-triangle’ of fundamental science, groundbreaking technology development, and state-of-the-art instrument construction the institute can develop a highly promising new long-term strategy.

The committee also concludes that the relationship the institute has with Dutch universities is mutually beneficial, as equally the training of PhD students and postdocs in both scientific and technical research. The committee was very pleased to learn that following the closure of the Astronomy Department at Utrecht University, the institute expects to establish close ties with other universities very shortly (in particular at Science Park Amsterdam). The committee also noted that SRON’s research is throwing new light on our understanding of key societal issues, such as climate change and air pollution, and that the institute collaborates well with the Dutch space sector and other industries.

The committee strongly recommends increasing SRON’s budget to ensure that it can still fulfill all aspects of its mission successfully and can continue its prominent role in international space missions (such as SPICA/SAFARI). The institute has acquired its leading international position by competing for and winning principal investigator roles in large missions, while at the same time participating in smaller missions and successfully obtaining research grants on a competitive basis. Thanks to its ‘excellent’ evaluation SRON will receive a bonus of more than 1.6 million euros from NWO.

‘We are of course delighted with the committee’s positive evaluation,’ says SRON’s Scientific Director and General Director professor Rens Waters. ‘Together with the Roadmap funds for the development of our super camera SAFARI (18 million euros) this evaluation means we can face the huge challenges that confront us now with optimism. I am confident that with the new long-term strategy we are developing – which the evaluation committee was positive about – SRON will be able to consolidate and strengthen its leading international position in space research.

To download the evaluation report from the website of NWO, please click here.