Wouter Brok
Wouter Brok

Column Wouter Brok: What determines quality?

The reason for this question is a recent topic I am working on with faculty colleagues: examining what we as faculty consider high quality research. For us, what are the characteristics of good research and good researchers? How do we map this out, how do we have the conversation about this, and how do we assess this?

Before I try to answer this question, I will first introduce myself to those who do not know me. I have been part of the Faculty Board as secretary since April 2020, which is usually the least visible member of the board. Together with the administrative affairs team, I mainly operate in the background. My primary role is to support and facilitate the board members process-wise. And that is why it is extra nice that I, too, get the opportunity to write a column.

So, back to my question: what defines quality? It turns out not to be a simple question with a simple one-size-fits-all answer. In searching for answers to this complex question, it often helps me to replace the issue with something simpler, something tangible. To tell a little more about myself, I am a lover of wine and preferably good quality wine. Which surprisingly comes in handy here.

But what makes a good wine for me?

My first thought is the methods and techniques used to make the wine. How were the grapes picked and selected, were pesticides used, and how were the grapes ripened?

It's also important to me on the location and environment. What is the quality of the soil, what is the place of the wine region, and what is the climate?

I wonder whether quantitative information is also relevant. Price is an indication but does not say everything. Then again, the vintage of the wine is decisive. And usually, I prefer wine produced in smaller quantities.

The story around wine

What excites me most is the story around the wine; to speak in research terms, the 'narrative'. Who is the winemaker? What is their philosophy in producing? What has been going on in the year the grapes were grown? And let me also not forget that it matters when and with whom you drink the wine. After all, wine drinking is teamwork.

As far as I am concerned, the above questions are also great to use with the faculty theme of research quality, where the quality of the researcher(s) is essential. The Faculty Board is very curious about your ideas and images in this regard. I, therefore, call on everyone to join an initial faculty discussion on this on the 20th of June! 

Wouter Brok
Secretary Faculty Board Social Sciences

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Faculty of Social Sciences
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W. Brok (Wouter)