Over the years, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Maastricht University (UM) have established a strong partnership in which they share their expertise and knowledge. There are joint, long-term research programmes, workshops and presentations at CBS for UM students, and temporary positions at CBS that enhance PhD students’ knowledge of statistical methods in practice. And there is PREMIUM.
Interdisciplinary teams of excellent PREMIUM students have already completed five research projects for CBS on themes ranging from traffic and transport to globalisation. The biggest PREMIUM eye-catcher was the development of a quiz app that will help CBS spark young people’s interest in statistics. Devised by five talented UM students, the app encourages users to think and to apply the right facts. It is part of an innovative communication strategy at CBS focused on reaching Generation Y.
All PREMIUM students left a big impression on CBS. Sector manager Jo Thomas was astonished by what they were able to achieve: “They were incredible, without exception. I’ve rarely seen so much independence and self-regulation in such young people. The way they allocated the tasks, approached the subject matter and delivered on time was amazing. I could have hired them all.”
His colleagues, the CBS programme managers Hans Schmeets and Martin Luppes, couldn’t agree more. “They had great capacity for learning. They were expected to work with tools and knowledge outside their study curricula, but they picked these up in no time,” says Luppes. “The team members hardly knew one another when they started, but they very quickly managed to become a real team with clear tasks,” Schmeets continues. “They didn’t compete, but complemented each other,” adds Thomas. “There was synergy.”
In return, CBS did great things for the students. Some were introduced to the Director General, while others were invited to The Hague to see a different side of the institution. Yet others attended the Floriade in Venlo in 2012, where they gained input for their research from different organisations and experts in the fields of traffic and transport. Both CBS and the students highly appreciated these visits. Thomas: “They were proactive, wanted to learn as much as they could and spoke freely and with interest to everyone they met.”
CBS has several motives for cooperating with knowledge institutes like UM. It aims to acquire broad knowledge of different methodologies and content areas, share its vast expertise and present itself as an interesting employer. “And of course, this fits with our principle of pursuing sustainable entrepreneurship in the region,” says Thomas. “We have to invest in building bridges between our data and knowledge. UM, for example, has extensive knowledge about the labour market, and we have a great deal of data on business, industry and the labour market,” explains Luppes. “Combining these two sources allows us to study issues from different perspectives.”
UM’s future at CBS looks bright. “It’s easy to think of new projects,” says Schmeets. “For example, research on labour market or traffic data in the Belgian and German border regions as compared to other Dutch provinces. Or studies in the field of sustainability, which is a spearhead theme at both UM and CBS.” Thomas: “We’re increasingly emphasising the connection between different statistical themes, so that we can better describe the underlying phenomena. Collaboration with UM allows us to gain deeper insight in these matters.”
Luppes has a plan: “UM and CBS should meet twice a year to explore current and future themes. This would allow us to anticipate and investigate what we each have to offer. We could create a long-term programme based on policy, academic knowledge and data infrastructure. I see numerous new PREMIUM assignments ahead.”
This article originally appeared in Engaging excellent students: Reflecting on five years of SIRIUS.