Publi Prize winners use their award budget creatively

Drought explained and vlogging with VMBO students

Niko Wanders en Erik van Sebille
Erik van Sebille and Niko Wanders accepting the prize. Photo: Bas van Hattum

Hydrologist Niko Wanders and Erik van Sebille won the UU Publi Prize in 2018 for their strong and frequent media appearances. Both winners have used the award, which consists of a budget to create a video or reach the broader public via other channels, in their own unique way.

Drought explained

Niko Wanders’ research focuses on extreme hydrological conditions and how they impact society. During the dry summer last year, Niko Wanders became the face of the scientific interpretation of the drought. However, Wanders goes beyond mere explanation: as of recently, he has been serving as an advisor to the Delta Commissioner on ways to ensure the Netherlands is ‘future-proof’ against the inevitable consequences of climate change.

Wanders used the Publi Prize budget to make a video in which he answers some burning questions: What is drought and what role does climate change play in it? And even more importantly: what can we do to keep this drought under control? 

Vlogging with VMBO students

Erik van Sebille, an expert in the area of ocean currents and the plastic soup, chose to use his prize money in a different way. Together with colleagues, all of whom are affiliated with the Utrecht Young Academy (UYA), Sebille decided to take a course in vlogging. The purpose of this vlogging course is reach less obvious audience through vlogging: preparatory secondary vocational education (VMBO) students. With the help of Christine Geense (In de Breedste Zin) and Public Engagement , they made contact with schools and Sebille and his team are now equipped to join the vlog battle.

Towards a more sustainable world 

Both researchers are affiliated with Pathways to Sustainability and strive to achieve a more sustainable world through their research, an aim that also drives and inspires Utrecht University. ‘While Wanders is happy to take the media world by storm when current events give cause, Van Sebille is always willing and eager to share his expertise proactively to make sure plastic soup and other topics make headlines, even when there is no immediate cause’, according to the jury’s comments during the ceremony. The UU Publi Prize was awarded for the last time in 2018.