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Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences publishes advice on dignity and respect in academia

If universities and research institutions want to tackle unacceptable behaviour in academia, they must shift their focus from dealing with complaints to preventing such behaviour in the first place. This is what the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has concluded. It has therefore published a guide, which two researchers from Leiden helped write.

The report Social Safety in Dutch Academia – From Paper to Practice offers an analysis and recommendations for the organisational structure, working culture and systems for tackling unacceptable behaviour in academia. It also offers practical suggestions that will be of use to all.

The high workload and power imbalances in academia can make it difficult to maintain a culture of dignity and respect. If academic institutions wish to shift the focus to prevention, they will need to foster cultural change from within. This requires dialogue and good leadership.

Angelique de Bruin, Deputy Head of HRM, is pleased with the report: ‘Here at Leiden University we’ve been working for some time to create a culture of dignity and respect. We are willing and able to improve. The advice from KNAW feels like a helping hand.’

‘Our priority is to promote dignity and respect and to prevent unacceptable behaviour. We are working to reduce work pressures and have special programmes to foster good leadership and open communication. We’ve also had an ombuds officer since April who can conduct an independent investigation within the organisation. And we’ve made sure it’s easier for people who do experience unacceptable behaviour to contact our confidential counsellors, for instance.’

In a recent interview President of the Executive Board Annetje Ottow spoke about how creating a safe environment is a top priority at Leiden University.

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