“Resilience and broad-based knowledge sharing in a turbulent year”


Resilience and broad-based knowledge sharing in a turbulent year

2020 was an exceptional year. In February, we stood side by side discussing posters at an event and talked over drinks afterwards. Just a short time later, our only contact was seeing each other on a screen during one of the after-lunch webinars – an easily accessible alternative valued by partners. We celebrated Netspar’s 15th anniversary in a suitably distanced manner. For me, it was the year in which I was handed the baton as general director by Casper van Ewijk, who made Netspar into a broad network that includes a variety of disciplines.

And 2020 was also an exceptional year because the hard-fought pension agreement became a reality. The agreement lays a firm base for the reform of the Dutch pension system. Various Netspar scientists were active in working groups and in consultations with the scientific community to support the development of the agreement. They worked hard to share relevant research-based knowledge and insights with various stakeholders both within and outside the pensions sector. These efforts focused on the new pension contract, the transition to the new system and communication.


I am proud of the fact that we as Netspar, together with our partners, have shown resilience, creativity and innovative strength. For example, we quickly adapted our research agenda to the current events surrounding COVID-19 and the details of the Dutch Pension Agreement. These were expressed in a variety of exceptional events, such as:

Marike Knoef
General Director Netspar

  • The conference Pensioenakkoord… en nu? (Pension agreement… what now?), which we organized with the Federation of the Dutch Pension Funds and the Dutch Association of Insurers immediately after the outline agreement on 7 July. At the conference, we provided information and inspiration in relation to the new agreement to more than 500 online participants.
  • Twenty-two online ‘after-lunch webinars’, at which new research was presented by and discussed with scientists and experts from the field.
  • Our 15th Netspar Anniversary Meeting was renamed the Pensioen en Wetenschap Jaarcongres (Annual Conference on Pension and Science) with the topic of Low Interest Rate. Klaas Knot, Bas Jacobs and Casper van Ewijk gave their views on the developments and impact of low interest rates, and there was a panel discussion. Both of these can be seen on YouTube and heard as a Podcast.
  • In November, Netspar researchers actively contributed to the Pensioen3daagse (three-day pension fair). With the Dutch Money Wise platform ‘Wijzer in Geldzaken’, the Federation of the Dutch Pension Funds and the Dutch Association of Insurers, we organized the presentation of the Pension Guide, knowledge sessions on pension communication and webinars for all those who want to know more about pensions.
  • And on 15 December, we celebrated our 15th anniversary – also online – with an ode to all committed and visionary members of our official bodies.

I am also proud of the fact that we promptly liaised with partners to identify what additional research was needed for pensions as a result of COVID-19 and that we made funds available for this.  Furthermore, we worked together with partners to map the questions regarding the pension agreement that required short-term research. This enabled us to be up to date and relevant.

Broad-based knowledge sharing

These activities are characteristic of the course that Netspar has embarked on, focused on broader knowledge sharing. New means of communication, such as one-pagers that summarize conclusions and policy implications of research, are contributing to this. We have also launched accessible podcast series and in 2020, the network grew further and became stronger. Efforts to involve new partners resulted in a renewed partnership with pension provider MN as well as a new partner in the rail and public transport pension fund, Rail & OV. With its partnership, Rail & OV aims to enhance further its attractiveness as employer. Finally, our official bodies also received reinforcement in 2020, as Wouter Bos and Bianca Tetteroo joined our Supervisory Board and the reception of Roos Vermeij. And at the beginning of this year, we welcomed Mathijs van Dijk as the new scientific director, bringing substantial expertise in the area of sustainable investment, enabling Netspar to take extra steps in this area.

A word of thanks … and a look to the future

Over the past year, we have been working to highlight the value of science to practitioners. Attracting new partners and sharing knowledge more broadly and effectively within partner organizations were also key priorities. Thanks to the commitment and efforts of our partners, members of official bodies, researchers and staff, we have been able to take major steps in these areas. And together we are also taking steps towards the future again. Completing the pension agreement is high on our agenda, as well as the further implementation of sustainability and pension. We remain fully committed to the acquisition of new partners. And what’s more, we will work together with researchers and sector partners to jointly develop a challenging new research agenda and work program for 2023-2027.

To all those who have worked with us: our sincere thanks for your efforts and we hope that we will soon be able to stand side by side again at an event.

Marike Knoef
General Director Netspar

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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