Press release: Change of board PNN

Meaghan Polack new chair PhD Network Netherlands


September 27, 2021 – During the General Members’ Meeting (GMM) on September 24, Meaghan Polack was elected as the new chair of PNN, the respresentatives board for PhD candidates. Polack herself is a PhD candidate at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Department of Surgery on the subject of colorectal cancer and will succeed Rosanne Anholt, who will leave the board of PNN after a year as chair.


Polack looks forward to working with her PNN board members in the coming year with the various partners of PNN. By strengthening the ties with the members of PNN, the local PhD organizations of the universities, colleges and university medical centers (UMC), and with national authorities such as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Association of Universities (VSNU) ), the Dutch Federation of UMCs (NFU) and the trade unions, Polack hopes to improve the position of PhD candidates in the Netherlands. Polack: “Structural underfunding in research, as the PwC report also shows, together with the high workload in an output-driven, competitive world with little prospect of permanent contracts, particularly affect the vulnerable PhD candidates at the bottom of the hierarchical ladder. The PNN unites PhD candidates and is committed to making their voices heard towards policymakers and politicians, for example by drawing attention to the high run-off of young talent, or by raising awareness about significant amounts of undesirable behavior towards PhD candidates and mental health issues.”


Various topics will be discussed in the coming period. For example, PNN will closely monitor the NPO support package, intended to financially cover the consequences of the corona crisis for PhD candidates, and the allocation of those funds. Polack: “The option of extending the contract or, in consultation with the PhD candidate, adjusting the requirements that a thesis must meet, can absorb a lot of damage. Support from the institution is very important, especially in light of the high risks of burnout or other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or anxiety.” In addition, PNN is involved in the final evaluation of the experiment on PhD education in Groningen, in which, after years of effort, PNN hopes for a good completion in favor of disadvantaged PhD candidates there. Finally, PNN focuses on joining the new Recognition and Rewards, and the collective labor agreement negotiations, Monitor Labor Conditions 2021 and a PhD Supervisor of the Year award are on the program.


For the upcoming board term, PNN has attracted no fewer than four new board members. Anneke Kastelein (LUMC) will strengthen the board as external commissioner and treasurer. Joanna Porkert (RUG) will work for university employment conditions, and Joanna Rutkowska (Donders Institute Nijmegen) for external, international and scholarship PhD candidates. Malika Ouacha (Erasmus University Rotterdam) will work for the working conditions of PhD candidates and the Recognition and Rewards program. Marc Vervuurt (Radboudumc), formerly board member of the employment conditions of universities, will succeed Meaghan Polack as secretary and vice chair. Manon te Dorsthorst (Radboudumc/Maastricht UMC), Lisa Oskam (Utrecht University) and Charlotte de Blecourt (Donders Institute Nijmegen) had already taken office as members of the UMC employment conditions, Open Science and Career, respectively. Polack: “With the board of PNN, we strive to collaborate even more with our various partners and to continue to fight for the rights of PhD candidates in these difficult times”.