Not adequately addressing social insecurity at the source

opinion | by Iris Breetvelt




October 24, 2022 | Although university officials, UNL and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science recognize social insecurity as a risk factor, relevant actions and advice are primarily aimed at mitigating the consequences. The seriously undesirable behavior of a professor from Leiden University, who is still in office, shows that actions must also target the source of social insecurity. That still happens quite a bit, says Iris Breitvelt.





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In the report on a case of dangerous unwanted behavior by a professor at Leiden University, the university refers to KNAW’s advice.Social safety in Dutch sciences. This has been developed and designed by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science as a practical guide with guidelines and advice to prevent or modify undesirable behavior in a timely manner and thus prevent reluctance to act. Given the nature of the analyzed causes of social insecurity, it is questionable whether the measures proposed in that report are effective.

Occupational health and safety legislation is the legal framework for addressing social insecurity as a form of psychosocial workload. It is preferable to take measures against risk factors at work on processing source Focus on this danger Not primarily on the collective or individual protection against it. This also applies to the risk factor “social insecurity”. But in 2021, the Education Inspectorate noted that universities’ action plans in the field of work pressure and undesirable behavior target An individual. So, in these plans No source policy.

Do KNAW Advice Recommendations Form a Source Approach? Not really, I conclude below.

The organizational structure as fertile ground

From KNAW advice and from previous research reports from LNVH and the Trade unions FNV and VAWO Science’s organizational structure appears to have a pattern of resource scarcity as scientists compete with each other over the second and third streams of funding. The selection made on the basis of the inherent quality of “excellence” is in the hands of well-known scholars.

There are strong power and dependency relationships based on functions, tasks, and procedures. Through this it illuminates the student-trainee relationship between young and old scholars with experience. Due to the international character of science, the playing field is not limited to a single university as a labor organization, but extends to the national and international academic world in a field. A career in science is about excellence in research, which is measured by peer-reviewed publications, which grant applications are awarded for research, and student satisfaction in education, which is measured by good educational assessments and high study success rates.

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Due to strong hierarchical relationships, in combination with a culture in which the behavior of stellar scientists is not particularly open to discussion, abuse of power and aggressive behavior occurs and a socially unsafe work climate is regularly created. This manifests itself, for example, in intimidation, exclusion, bullying or scientific sabotage, all of which are stuck in the denominator.Scientific annoyancesVarious excesses of this undesirable behaviour, such as the recent case at Leiden University, have reached the public media.

Recommended measures against resource scarcity

Improved codes of conduct and reporting and complaints systems (intimates, ombudsman and complaints committee) should prevent social insecurity by establishing standards of behaviour. In addition, it should provide a safety net through victim support and should lead to debugging in the workplace. However, the KNAW Advisory Report on Social Safety in Science (which was previously Scienceguide is Summary gave) states that changes in organizational structure and culture must also occur.

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KNAW recommends addressing the “resource scarcity and workload” factor in organizational structure by investing in improving collaborative relationships.
Logically, the mismatch between the available resources on the one hand and the target on the other hand can be combated by increasing the resources or decreasing the tasks. In short, by aligning the task load with the available resources. However, the funding system has been set up in such a way that it depends in part on obtaining variable components (second and third funding for research and the variable portion of funding for education), which leads to increased competition between universities and research. Collections for those rare resources.

So trade unions and WOinactie launched a protest against the late and inadequate funding of universities. Redistribution of indirect financing and contracting of direct financing is an important measure in this regard. How will the new start-up grants and incentive grants, as working capital for faculty, lead to the intended reduction in application pressure, Advice NWO Administrative Committee.

Recommended actions against inequality of power

With regard to the factor of “inequality of power and dependence” in the organizational structure of universities, KNAW advises to work on the good selection and development/training of managers, all aimed at responsible leadership and motivating them towards a common goal.

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He. She position paper From the AOb on “True Recognition and Evaluation of Scholars”, while flattening the hierarchy of functions proposed in it, provides a better measure against “power differences and dependencies”. Positional authority differences should be reduced in the revised WP job construction and dependencies should be reduced by providing more insights into permanent hiring, according to AOb. The tendency to accumulate scientific and administrative power in professorial positions should be less pronounced.

In line with the Working Conditions Act, the Federation therefore calls for a carefully defined approach the reasons of social insecurity. These are located partly in the hierarchical function building for faculty positions.

Objectivity in performance reviews

Inequalities in strength and self-reliance feature prominently in the assessment of basic task performance. This assessment determines individual career development. In terms of research performance, this career development is based on evaluations through an opaque peer review system that acts as a gatekeeper to publications but is not trusted, not good And he bestows power, and exercises anonymity, to his fellow scientists.

Moreover, this stifles academic discussion beforehand. Open peer review In the context of open science it would be a better alternative, where disclosure and evaluation of research proposals can be insightful, disciplined and practically useful, as has recently been the case Described by ScienceGuide.

With regard to educational performance, importance is attached to anonymous educational assessments (Student evaluations of teaching). This places a lot of power on students as consumers of education, but it is It has no justification By its reliability (inter-rater) and validity. Moreover, these anonymous reviews regularly contribute to Social insecurity for teachers. Teacher constructive feedback often requires additional contextual information, other than what can be obtained through abstract and standardized questionnaire items.

unclean and Ineffective measure of desired ‘privilege’ It provides opportunities for abuse and abuse of power by scholars and administrators who wield significant positional power, and should therefore be avoided. The same applies, by the way, to the assessment of “soft skills” such as collegiality and contribution to team performance, leaving room for interpretation in which it is understood as Aligns with company culture and sharing. Performance measures must be objective, reliable, valid and used constructively.

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Regulatory factors are not adequately addressed in the source

The culture factor of “undebatable behavior” is explicitly addressed in KNAW advice via the modulation system, by stimulating discussion about behaviour, by developing skills and by providing space for diversity in employees’ perspectives. However, this ideal world, where responsible leadership can be learned and behavior made a topic of discussion is a skill that actually leads to the intended behavioral changes. some characters They are difficult to modify by manipulating their behaviour.

Social insecurity in universities is adequately recognized as a risk factor by university boards, employers’ organization UNL, and the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. However, there is a lack of approach towards the source. Paragraph 1b of Section 3 of the Working Conditions Act states that it is better to treat a psychologically stressful risk factor such as social insecurity in the workplace at the source. In particular, the actions in the Academy’s advice focusing on organizational structure factors do not appear to directly touch the source.

While KNAW analysis identifies resource scarcity, work stress, and unequal power relationships as fertile ground or underlying causes of social insecurity, improving collaborative relationships and holding managers accountable for the well-being of their employees is not a convincing measure source Treat. Rather, this appears to be intended to protect against the effects of these factors on the organizational structure.

So what does this source do? Flatten the highly hierarchical WP job structure, create less vulnerable legal positions for employees by giving them permanent working relationships and base employee evaluation and promotion to valid standards that the employee can actually influence. In the above position paper of the WO&D sector in AOb and also in the report Harassment at the University of Groningen From the Youth Academy Groningen (2021) these source metrics can be found. So they can be considered as important additions to the Academy’s advice.

As an educational researcher, she was active at the UvA’s Kohnstamm Institute for over thirty years and was a member of the UvA’s Central and Faculty Engagement Council until her retirement in June 2020. After her retirement, she was active for another two years on the WO&O Sector Council of the Public Education Association .

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