Minister Djgraf is concerned about the “increasing distance between science and society”. At a conference in Leiden, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science said that science is inaccessible to a part of society, even when it comes to life or death.
He believes that this gap must be narrowed and sees it as important for science and politics and therefore for himself as well. He called on politicians to stand up for scholars and “facts that do not lie, which are much more than opinions and must ultimately have the last word.”
Dijkgraaf, who was a great scientist before he became a minister for a long time, called it a “heroic achievement” for researchers that the first vaccines were approved in November 2020 during the Corona epidemic and worked better than expected: “Thanks to those vaccines, the virus is no longer fatal for many” .
For the minister, the biggest surprise of the epidemic was that “some did not want or could not accept a life-saving gift, that the fight against the epidemic could even be politicized and that misinformation spreads around the world faster than virus particles.” .
Dijkgraaf called the crown as a wake-up call and a unique learning moment. According to him, this is “the ideal state of knowing what happens when a global threat arises, and knowledge offers us a way out, but a part of the population turns out to be inaccessible for various reasons.”
He stressed the importance of investing in knowledge. According to him, the Netherlands should be more aware that research can also be our “salvation” in the event of a subsequent threat. The minister said he did not believe that “the checks and balances of fake news and alternative facts” hamper the fight against problems related to climate, nitrogen, digital security and social inequalities.
Separating politics and science
The minister stressed the need not to blur the division between politics and science. According to him, science should freely define scenarios, point out uncertainties and formulate facts as clearly as possible. Then politicians have to make choices, even in freedom.
In his lecture in Leiden, Dijkgraaf called on scholars to be more straightforward and accessible. The Netherlands is already leading the way, he says, and young scientists are already beginning to find ways to reach new audiences.
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