In October 2019, Marketing & Communication, Strategic Program I&I and the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology held a 3-week publicity campaign – mainly based on story telling by patients, investigators and clinicians - on the subject of (difficult-to-treat) rheumatoid arthritis. Objectives of the campaign were (1) to support the mission and positioning of UMC Utrecht and (2) to enhance the academic profile of UMC Utrecht (by increasing internal/external visibility of the specific expertise in our strategic themes to a larger audience). The primary audiences were: general public, (potential) patients, investigators and (potential) employees.
Result The campaign appeared highly successful: we interacted with more people that anticipated (based on impressions, reach and link clicks), which was partly due to a fruitful collaboration with ReumaNederland. The campaign resulted in more than 250 new followers of UMC Utrecht on social media.
“Microplastics accelerate cell death at 3 times the normal rate, study says”
Nienke Vrisekoop (Inhabitat.com)
“Verontrustende’ eerste bevindingen Nederlands onderzoek microplastics”
Nienke Vrisekoop (Volkskrant.nl)
Item also on NRC.nl and DVHN.nl.
“De arts en de vaccinatiecrisis”
Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen tijdens het Betweter Festival (TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht)
“The Last Mile over genezing HIV”
Monique Nijhuis (Spraakmakers, NPO Radio 1)
“Antibioticum ontdekt in de Mexicaanse modder”
Marc Bonten (De Ochtendspits, BNR)
General observations During the presentation of the general findings, committee chairman René van Lier (professor of Experimental Immunology, University of Amsterdam) made clear that UMC Utrecht can be proud of the overall quality and relevance of its research. According to him, the strategic program approach has led to multidisciplinary research and
collaboration across divisions. However, the mandate of the divisions and the strategic themes should be more clear, because the ongoing discussions about the implementation of the strategy are counterproductive.
He also praised the participation of patients as innovative and very good. UMC Utrecht considers patient participation pivotal and a group of patient representatives was included in this SEP. Van Lier highly appreciated this and advised UMC Utrecht to adopt their recommendations. One of those was to develop an overarching policy in this area for all strategic themes. The committee was also positive about the position that UMC Utrecht occupies in the field of Open Science, although it did wonder how widely it is supported in-house.
Talented researchers Van Lier also spoke highly about the organization of the PhD training. PhD students are happy to work here and the dropout rate is low. He was remarkably critical about the perspective of talented researchers after their promotion: their career path is unclear and it would be good to develop a policy for talent development and guidance. He was also critical of the lack of dedicated research time for clinical scientists and the unclear position of non-medical researchers. Although he praised the broad ability to raise research funding, he also identified that there is room for improvement when it comes to individual grants. Central coordination and support could be a way to improve this.
Conclusions and recommendations The committee concluded that the research across the four themes of I&I is of high quality overall but with some heterogeneity between the themes. Each theme has distinct research lines, and clinicians, researchers and research groups are often active in several themes, but the greatest international impact is probably theme one under the banner of ‘One Health’. The strategic research theme is well led and has good channels in place for consultation at all levels of staff appointments.
The committee identified 5 issues that need to be addressed:
There are too many PhD candidates trained given the financial incentives in play;
More direct financial control is needed for the I&I strategic research program;
Greater thought needs to be given on how best to support clinical scientists in order to give them clear guidelines on how much time should be spent on clinical duties and on research;
A strategic vision of the future technologies that need to be acquired and supported across the research program needs to be developed to plan for future financial spend on equipment and facilities;
International links within Europe are excellent but more needs to be done to strengthen links to other continents.
After having assessed the research quality, relevance to society and viability, and comparing that to the developments and standard in the field of Infection and Immunity, the committee comes to the following quantitative assessments:
Research quality: very good
Relevance to society: excellent
Viability: very good
Site visit SEP Research Evaluation
In October 2019, an international committee of top scientists visited UMC Utrecht to review its research. Every six years there is such a mandatory assessment according to the Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP), which applies to all universities and UMCs. Recommendations from this evaluation will be used in the formulation of the UMC Utrecht research objectives for 2020-2025. Prior to this visit, the committee members had read the self-evaluation report of the six strategic programs. They then discussed for three days with researchers from all themes, from PhD students to professors.