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In de spotlight: background information, news and announcements.

‘We can only achieve this if we work together.’ This is what Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl emphasised as she spoke about professional research support at the opening of the second Research Support Conference at PLNT on 14 June. For the 80 research support staff present, learning and inspiration was the main theme of a day full of best practices, knowledge exchange and inspiring workshops. Read more

There is now a single contact point for research support staff from the Faculties of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Humanities, and Governance and Global Affairs who have complex interdisciplinary questions about research data. This will make it easier to find answers to such questions.

The pilot was launched because it is becoming more common for researchers and research support staff to have questions about research data that cannot be answered from a single area of expertise. The questions are often about topics where account has to be taken of data management, privacy, security and ethical, academic and legal aspects.

Ask your question
If you have such a question and are a member of the research support staff at one of the faculties above, you use this form on the Helpdesk Portal to submit your question. A team of staff from different areas of expertise will provide an answer. Please note: staff from the other faculties cannot use this form because these faculties are not part of the pilot.

The pilot will run until the end of October 2022. The process will be evaluated afterwards.

International collaboration in academia brings not only opportunities but also risks. Take, for example, knowledge misuse or theft, ethical issues relating to the use of research results or interference that could influence our academic freedom. Not every discipline is an equal target for knowledge theft, external influence or illegitimate knowledge transfer. This makes it important to weigh up the opportunities and risks. To help you answer complex questions about knowledge security, we now have a Knowledge Security Helpdesk. You can contact the helpdesk with questions such as:

  • Can international collaboration also lead to illegitimate knowledge transfer?
  • Is there a risk of covert influence or academic freedom being undermined?
  • Are there ethical issues relating to the collaboration? For instance, could the research results be misused in the partner’s country?

Although the helpdesk is there for everyone’s questions, you should first discuss knowledge security with your manager, ethics committee or data steward. If you are still unsure, the helpdesk will be happy to help. If necessary, the helpdesk can also request information (which is not necessarily publicly available) from the government or intelligence service via the National Contact Point for Knowledge Security.

This Knowledge Security Helpdesk was set up following a decision by The Universities of The Netherlands that all of the Dutch universities should have such a helpdesk. Although it is not a direct result of the LRS programme, we would like to draw attention to the helpdesk, nonetheless.

Contact: adviespuntkv@bb.leidenuniv.nl

This Knowledge Security Helpdesk is not part of the LRS programme, but we would like to bring it to the attention of the Research Support Network. 

That Humanities encompasses more than just reading books was once again made clear during the visit to the Digital Lab and subsequent vid- and podcast room in the PJ Veth building. A lively panel discussion on research support provided room to connect and ask questions. Fortunately, there is still plenty to learn from one another. Hope to see you (again) at the next LRS on Tour on 17 May when we will visit the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Read more in the news item. 

What does research support involve?

The first hybrid Leiden Research Support Conference – organised for and by research support staff – took place on 27, 28 and 29 September and focused entirely on organising effective research support. Read more

Read more in the news item. 

We're off! During the first meeting of LRS on Tour we took an online look behind the scenes of the research support staff at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. A visit in person wasn’t possible, but you can also have a good working visit online. By paying working visits to different faculties, we can get to know one another and see how things are going with other support staff. Silviu Piros is Senior Grant Advisor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA) and he gave an interactive presentation on issues like creating a functional support network. The session ended with a fun and informative pub quiz.

The whole year on tour

LRS will be going on tour throughout the year. During the following LRS on Tour on 22 February 2022, we’ll be visiting the LIC. Put the date in your agenda now. More information will follow soon.

Sieger van den Aardweg is Knowledge Base Manager for the Grant Development Team at the Strategy and Academic Affairs Directorate, part of Administration and Central Services. He is working within the Leiden Research Support programme on tailored information provision, in collaboration with several institutes. Tailored information provision is a way to provide institutes with specific information about research grants and how to apply for them. Read more

Three years ago, the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) started a local contact point where researchers who had questions about grant applications could go for advice. Now, this contact point has evolved to become a local project office where a team of four colleagues work closely with the Grant Development Office, helping researchers with all their questions about grant support. What added value does this local project office have and where do its strengths lie? And how does it cooperate with the central Grant Development Office? We talked to Felix Wittleben and Angela Noble to find out more. As a project manager, Felix was involved in setting up the project office from the start. Angela works as Senior Grant Advisor for the University-wide Grant Development Office.

Local support structure
When Angela started at the University as Grant Advisor five years ago, she realised that there was very little exchange of knowledge between the faculties and institutes on grant support, and that there were a few local project offices where researchers could go with their questions. ‘From my role, I have tried to show the organisation that a local support structure has added value for researchers. I have shown, for example, that you acquire more subsidies when you focus on a number of specific projects rather than on a lot of projects at the same time. The LIACS Management Team (Aske Plaat, Thomas Baeck and Eline Huisjes) had already taken the first steps towards starting a local project office. This resulted in the arrival of Felix. I supported the project office in its further development. Since the project office opened, the number of successful grant applications has increased massively. We should all be very proud of this result.'

Learning and growing together
Felix: ‘I had a lot of support from Angela and the Grant Development Team when I was setting up the office. They gave me a nudge in the right direction to grow the project office. I was able to go to them with all my questions, so I never felt I was in it on my own.’ Angela: ‘What makes our field of work challenging is that there is such a broad range of grant opportunities, so each question or problem is unique. There’s no course or manual that tells you how you can offer researchers the best  support. You mainly learn on the work floor and by getting advice from colleagues and working on the issues together. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know that a colleague is facing the same challenges as you.’ Felix: ‘The Grant Development Team has a lot of experience and knowledge that we can use at local level. As an example, Angela introduced me to the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA) and ARMA-NL. These networks organise workshops and conferences that bring you into contact with colleagues from the same field of work. Angela: ‘Our team tries to support the different local project offices. We can give them specific information, help with monitoring the financial landscape, organise information meetings and courses for acquiring grants and we translate the information we gain into handy factsheets and guidelines.’

Putting the researcher first
To find out what the researchers need, Felix spent a lot of time investing in building a good working relationship at the start. ‘I tried to just meet the researchers directly and talk with them whenever possible. At the coffee machine, over lunch, but also in the hallway, or by always having my office door open, so that they could come into my office at any time and talk to me about anything. That way I had the chance to explain what the project office can do for researchers and how we can help them with their concerns. Because the focus is on the questions from the researchers, I am in constant contact with them, but also have an open door policy. I am available for the researchers when they need help. Also, it’s a very direct path for the researcher. They don’t need to remember who to contact for specific issues. We invite our researcher to come to us with anything and we try to find a tailor-made solution for them. That’s not possible with a central office only. At the local project office we are able to work within the same institute-specific work culture.‘ Angela has more tips for colleagues in a similar role: ‘Give the researchers the confidence that you can take work off their hands. The project office is sometimes seen as an office where you can dump administrative jobs. Also, try not to force the relationship with the researcher, but focus on what they want and need. They’re always more open for help when a grant application has just been rejected.'

Scientific director Prof. Aske Plaat and Prof. Thomas Bäck about setting up the project office at LIACS: “Setting up an institute-level project office that supports and manages all the steps – from identifying funding opportunities to supporting our scientists in writing, handling the formal steps (pre-award), making grant agreements, and then managing and supporting the implementation side of projects (post-award) – was an amazing step forward for our institute.”

Building a Research Support Network
Angela: ‘I’m really pleased that within Leiden Research Support (LRS) we are now working with research supporters and researchers to build a Research Support Network within the University. That’s the best way for us to learn and grow together. When I first came to the University, I was amazed that there was hardly any cross-communication among the faculties and institutes. Luckily that communication has grown enormously over the past two years and more local project offices are being set up. We and the Grant Development Team now organise a meeting every two weeks with all the Grant Advisors from the whole University. That way you can share with colleagues the issues you are coming up against and ask all the questions you want. In our field of work it’s important to have a network, otherwise you’re having to deal with issues completely on your own.’

Are you interested in starting a local project office within your faculty or institute? For more information, please contact Dennis Janssen, program manager LRS.

See also

What does a 4-year trainee research assistant’s position cost? How much money is available for purchasing equipment or publishing research results? These and many other questions can arise when the project plan is being converted into the required project budget. A budgeting module has now been developed to make the process of setting a project budget as efficient as possible.

The budgeting module allows the project control support staff to easily calculate the project budget for several common grant applications. Each organisation’s preferences and requirements have been incorporated in the module during its development. One example of this is a budget summary for researchers. Both the grant contribution and Leiden University’s own contribution (where relevant) are automatically shown in the project budget. Handy options from various Excel budget formats that were used within the University have been combined in the module, which greatly improves efficiency. On top of that, the budgeting module also saves time because the project budget is automatically displayed in the funding organisation’s format (for the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Innovational Research Incentives Scheme and EU ERC).

From the academic year 2021-2022, the budgeting module is the standard format within the University for setting project budgets for NWO, EU and Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) grants. On September 10 a new version of the module is supplied to the project control support staff.

The budgeting module has the following advantages:

  • Efficiency has been greatly improved by combining handy options from various budget formats;
  • The HR costs for common grants, such as NWO, EU and RVO, are automatically calculated at the current rates (based on stated FTE/scales/period);
  • A summarised budget overview is available for researchers (in the new update from September);
  • The project budget is automatically displayed in the funding organisation’s format (NWO Innovational Research Incentives Scheme/EU ERC).;
  • Together with the grant contributions from external funding organisations, Leiden University’s own contributions (where relevant) are automatically shown.

Researchers who wish to set a project budget are welcome to contact the project control support staff within their own faculty/unit.

How do you persuade and activate a colleague to sort out the time sheets? Or instil information about laws and regulations relating to research projects, and the responsibilities they involve? The Influencing in one day training course gave 19 participants a better understanding of how to increase their influence. The course was provided by Schouten & Nelissen for the Leiden Research Support (LRS) programme.

Influencing is a process that involves steering things where you want them to go without using force. You set in motion a change in the other person’s views or behaviour. This is usually an unconscious process, but the more conscious you are of this process, the better you can use your influencing skills to your advantage. As a member of the research support team (in financial or other areas), it’s important to provide guidance in managing the project portfolio. A necessary element here is activating your colleagues. While this might be quite easy for the start-up of a project, for example, it can be quite a challenge for other issues, such as compliance with mandatory guidelines.

Push and pull processes

Influencing occurs in many different situations, consciously or not. A good example is when you introduce yourself. In a first interview, you make deliberate choices about what information you include and how you convey it. You can also add some small pointers during the interview, for instance about what motivates you, to make your message more attractive to the listener. But along with the message itself, your voice and non-verbal communication are also important factors in creating the total impression. A further distinction can be made in terms of which ‘power’ (influencing strategy) you use: your intellectual power (reasoning), will power (encouraging), emotional power (investigating) or belief power (inspiring). These four strategies form the basis of the push and pull processes that together comprise influencing.

Online influencing
Now that we’re mainly working online, and often from home, using the four influencing strategies requires extra attention. For example, the position of your camera, the background that other people see and your internet connection. The participants explored the various challenges that arise with an online meeting.

Quote from a participant: “There’s a lot on offer in the candy store called influencing. Looking at your work in this way is an inspiration for me, and I go back to it every time life starts to feel complicated.”

Practising in practical situations
During the training course, the participants went into separate breakout rooms to practise their use of the various influencing strategies. They were given specific practical examples that allowed them to immediately apply the theory in this test environment. Switching between playing the role of influencer, recipient and observer, they gained more insight into the effect of using influencing strategies in practical situations. At the end of the course, the participants were given the assignment to use the various strategies in practice. A follow-up session will be held, where they will discuss their findings.

Would you like to know more about influencing?
You can take a free online training course (in Dutch) about influencing via the University. The course is provided by New Heroes
 and you can start immediately, using your own ULCN account to log in.

Does your research team need large storage quotas, and work collaboratively with other educational and governmental institutions? Research Drive is a shared-storage environment specifically designed for these requirements.

Research Drive is a national, cloud-based, shared storage service, designed for collaborative teams and offered and supported by SURF. It was demonstrated to Leiden University Data Management Network members in January 2020, and then introduced as a pilot service for a number of Leiden research groups during 2020-2021. A data steward within the group (or project) is responsible for organizing the data, managing group membership and accessing the data. Research Drive is available everywhere. 

Pilot of 3 months

Beginning in February 2022, a 3 month pilot will be run with the Humanities, Social Sciences and Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. This pilot is a part of the Leiden Research Support (LRS) Project focussed on creating an integrated approach to compliance and ethics support (LRS Project 7). This pilot aims to create a process whereby support staff can easily and efficiently receive answers to these interdisciplinary questions. Support staff from the three faculties will have access to a point on the Leiden Helpdesk where they can submit these questions. Questions submitted to the Point of Contact will be picked by an interdisciplinary working group. Answers to the questions will be provided directly to the support staff member who submitted the question but will also be turned into generalised advice/knowledge for support staff across all faculties. 

Aim of the pilot

The aim of the pilot is to:

  1. Test out this way of working to streamline the process of getting answers to complex questions.
  2. Gain insight into the types of questions researchers and staff face.
  3. Ensure that the best advice to novel questions is made available to all support staff. 

At the end of the 3 months the pilot team will conduct an evaluation. Based on this decisions will be made about the continuation. 

More information or comments

For more information or comments please contact Joanna van der Merwe, Project Lead Integrated Support on Compliance and Ethics.

Perhaps you’ve already met Johan Verweij? He’s the new project leader of the Research Infrastructure Access and Support subproject. This subproject is part of the Leiden Research Support (LRS) programme. Who knows, you may find yourself discussing this with him soon. The aim of this subproject is to make it easier for researchers to access our existing research infrastructure.

Begin with a clear definition

In the near future, Verweij will be talking to researchers, policy officers, information managers, directors and other stakeholders to gain a clearer picture of what is happening at our university with regard to the research infrastructure. This will enable him to come up with a definition, which would be very useful. Then we’ll know what we are talking about. Verweij will then look at whether the existing lists of the infrastructure at Leiden University and the LUMC are kept up to date. So there’s plenty to do in the near future.

Talk to the project leader

Johan Verweij has worked for the past seven years as an executive secretary and head of the Faculty of Humanities policy department. He has been seconded to the Strategy and Academic Affairs Directorate. ‘I love taking on new things and improving the collaboration and coordination between the different parts of a university. I’m pleased to be spending the coming year doing that for the Leiden Research Support programme,’ Verweij says. You may have already spoken to him. But you can always plan a meeting yourself. If you have any questions, expertise or suggestions, arrange to meet him via  j.a.verweij@bb.leidenuniv.nl. He’d love to hear your findings.

More info about this subproject?

See the webpage on this subproject: Research infrastructure access and support

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