The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has instructed NWO to make cutbacks. Some of these cutbacks are to be passed on to the divisions and institutes, including ZonMw. For ZonMw, this means a cut of € 1.4 million in its basic grant for 2012. The size of the cuts in the years to come are as yet unknown.
In response to the cutbacks the ZonMw board and management have decided not to apply the ‘salami slice’ method, but to cut an entire budget item: the Agiko Stipends programme. The reasoning behind this decision is that the University Medical Centres, which have now successfully mainstreamed the Agiko programme after a long period of incentives. In practice, many UMCs have implemented the model in different ways. Some prefer a consecutive period of training. ZonMw could refine the details through its grant terms and conditions, but this would mean impinging on the policy of the institution.
In 1995 MW-NWO, the medical faculties and university teaching hospitals established the Agiko Stipends programme as an incentive for combining clinical training with PhD studies by integrating the two processes in a more sensible and appropriate way. It was intended to harmonise the salary costs of the recipient throughout the entire process, with the costs of the basic salary being borne by the UMC in the form of a research assistant position. The idea was to ensure that training would no longer stand in the way of studying for an academic doctorate.
For further information, please contact Marianne Biegstraaten-Meeuws, Agiko Stipends programme officer, on +31 (0)70 349 5171, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The name of the Agiko programme is taken from the Dutch acronym for ‘qualified doctor training to become a clinical researcher’. The programme aims to improve scientific research in clinical practice, and to support clinical practice by raising the qualification level of medical professionals, and providing them with practical scientific training. The stipends enable qualified doctors to take a follow-up course combining clinical and scientific training. Having completed their Agiko training, doctors emerge as fully qualified clinical specialists, general practitioners or community medical officers with a PhD, who have developed an abiding interest in scientific research, and are thus able to build bridges between clinical practice and the laboratory.
The Netherlands lags behind other countries when it comes to patient-based and clinical scientific research. This was the message given by the then Science Policy Advisory Council some fifteen years ago. To rectify this situation, not only would more resources have to be pumped into clinical research, more doctors would also have to be encouraged to perform research. This led, in 1991, to the introduction of Agiko stipends, which fund qualified doctors not only to take further training in order to become medical specialists, general practitioners, nurse practitioners, or community medical officers, but also to spend two or three years conducting research for a PhD.
The Agiko stipend programme targets individuals. Candidates are selected in collaboration with the research offices of the University Medical Centres (UMCs ). Applications are submitted by the head researcher and the staff member training Agiko candidates as medical specialists.
Around 20 new Agiko stipends are awarded each year to candidates put forward by the UMCs. Up to December 2004, some 170 Agiko trainees had completed their training and research, both internally and externally, with joint financing from the institutions, in a wide range of clinical disciplines (numbering around 25) including general practice, community medicine and veterinary science. Around 30 of the stipends granted have been funded under the Agiko Chronic Diseases sub-programme, part of the ZonMw Chronic Diseases research programme.