The Young Academy of Flanders, founded in 2013 and supported by the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium, the Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature and the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium, brings together top Flemish researchers from all academic disciplines.
The Academy aims to contribute to the public perception of science and arts and to the debate on science policy. Academy members are at an intermediate stage of their career with their PhD completed between 3 and 10 years ago. Membership lasts for 5 years and is highly competitive. Currently, the Young Academy consists of roughly 70 members.
A few days ago, on March 17, Nele Witters, postdoctoral associate in our research group was inducted into the Young Academy. This is a well- deserved acknowledgment of Nele’s contribution to the scientific agenda in Flanders, and a great honor for our research group and Hasselt University.
Nele brings to the conversation within the Academy not only her enthusiasm for better understanding the implications of human actions on ecosystem and for the intelligent use of nature-based solutions for enhancing human well-being. She will also focus on building up a mentoring network for postdocs within Flanders that captures a diversity of career options, both inside and outside of the university. To date, postdocs are generally “groomed” to become professors, but given the pyramidal structure of universities, only a small percentage actually succeed in doing so, which means that the vast majority will eventually need to find other career options, for which they are too often not fully prepared. While some Flemish universities do provide career coaching to postdocs, this coaching currently does not fully include alternative paths. Moreover, these alternatives are sometimes publicly perceived to be “inferior” to the standard professorial career (“He/She wasn’t good enough to make it”), whereas in reality there is a wide array of fulfilling options available, be it a research career in industry, science-based policy-advice as a consultant or government employee, or entrepreneurial activity. As a member of the Young Academy, Nele will work to build a higher consciousness for the many fruitful career avenues of postdocs and to push universities to acknowledge this diversity within their postdoctoral programs.
Many congratulations, Nele!