Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Dutch scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society, is reported to have said: ‘Whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that ingenious people might be informed thereof’.
With these thoughts in mind, the Royal Society and the Netherlands Academy of Science (or for all the Dutch speaking readers, the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen) convened at Chicheley Hall over two days to discuss three topics of mutual interest: quantum physics and technology, nanochemistry and responsible data science.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, Professor Richard Catlow FRS, and the Vice-President of the KNAW, Professor Wim van Saarloos, and was the result of a visit to the Netherlands by a Royal Society delegation last year.
Many of the researchers convened at Chicheley already work together, reflecting the strong scientific links between the UK and the Netherlands. Indeed the UK was in the top 3 of the Netherlands’ international collaborators from 2008 – 12. The Netherlands, like the UK, has been successful in accessing research funding from the European Union.
This meeting offered opportunities to hear over 40 presentations across the three topics, as well as plenary talks from Bert Weckhuysen on ‘Catalysts live and up close: the clean energy transition’, José van Dijck on ‘Public Values in a Global Data Society’, and Ian Walmsley on ‘network-based quantum computing’.
Both the Netherlands and the UK have prioritised investment in quantum computing, and it was clear from discussions that it is a strong area for UK-Dutch collaboration, including when it comes to making proposals for European Union funding.
Nanochemistry also offers opportunities for future collaboration, building on the significant joint expertise in areas such as renewable energy technologies and energy storage and the circular economy. Finally, the responsible data science theme included discussion on areas as diverse as trust, and social media analytics and fake news. The group are thinking about how to organise follow up discussions.
So what conclusions can we draw from this meeting? We know that science is a global endeavour, and researchers work across boundaries on shared projects and initiatives on a continual basis. This is demonstrated by the remarkably strong scientific relations between the UK and the Netherlands, both now and in Leuweenhoek’s time, and this meeting was an important reminder of how deep-rooted and valuable these collaborations are, and the appetite for attendees at the meeting for continuing and developing this in the future. The Royal Society is working with its partners across Europe to ensure that this remains a reality.