Letter from the director

Dear Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to write you in this new CaRre Newsletter. We are looking back to our yearly CaRe days on Thursday May 18th and Friday 19th in Maastricht. Many PhD students from our four participating institutes attended these days and enjoyed the Thursday program in Castle Vaeshartelt, developed together with the PhD representatives. The exciting program was a great success. Also the Friday program was very good with several interesting speakers about the societal impact of our research. This day closed with the inaugural lecture of Prof Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ and our first CaRe professor. Many enjoyed her inspiring and fascinating talk about scientific integrity. In her words: “The principles of evidence based medicine remain as sound today as when they were first articulated in the 1990s: that we should integrate individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. But the medicine we practise and preach can only ever be as good as the evidence on which it is based. Over the past 25 years, we have come to a better understanding of the limitations of the evidence base. Now we must look at changing the flawed systems and cultures that create it….These problems are interlinked but they include: positive publication bias and the underreporting of harms; financial vested interests; academic vested interests; regulatory failure; undetected error, data manipulation and fraud; incomplete reporting and hidden data; the failure of post-publication review; the mismatch between clinical need and the research agenda; and the failure to involve patients in research design. Journals are all too often part of the problem rather than the solution….” We are very glad that Fiona Godlee is appointed in CaRe and will be available for all participating Institutes during a few days every year.

Last year during our CaRe days we discussed the possibilities to have more influence on research policy in the Netherlands and to enlarge funding possibilities of our research area. As a result we had several discussions with the scientific director and chair of the board of Nihes (Netherlands Insitute for health Sciences). These discussions led to a meeting between the directors of ZonMW, Prof Johan Mackenbach (chair of the board of Nihes) and me, in which we discussed the fact that in the past few years there has been an actual underrepresentation of granting in our research area in the so-called prestigious funding (Veni, Vidi, TOP and Investeringssubsidies). From the 299 applications to ZonMw from the research area Health Sciences only 13% was granted while these 299 applications accounted for 21% of the total number of applications. The directors of ZonMw acknowledged this problem and they assured that they will do everything that is possible to make these figures more in line with each other. The will instruct chairs and co-chairs of these commissions to get these percentages more comparable when priority decisions for funding are taken. Moreover, they will take care that more commission members from our reseach area will be appointed. Another possible reason for lower scores of applications from our research area could be that our applications are systematically underscored by reviewers and commission members. It is unlikely that this is due to a lower scientific performance of our research area as in international comparisons Dutch primary care and public health research is always ranked in the world top performance. So, it might be more related to a different way of scoring practice of our research proposals. To make reviewers and commission members more aware of this ‘possible underscoring culture’ Johan Mackenbach and I recently send a letter to all professors in primary care and public health in the Netherlands. To read this (Dutch) letter see the link below this message. We hope that these measures together will enlarge our funding possibilities!

Another development within CaRe is that we, together with NIHES, are currently exploring the possibility to set up a leadership programme for talented researchers within the field of Public health.

If you have any suggestions for CaRe, please do not hesitate to contact me or your local director. All suggestions are more than welcome.

Kind regards,
Onno van Schayck
Prof dr Onno van Schayck