15 January 2018

“I will keep addressing the need for more collaboration”

Chantal Kemner steps down as Dynamics of Youth programme director

Chantal Kemner has been Dynamics of Youth’s programme director from the very start. Now, six years later, as the foundations have been laid and Dynamics of Youth is ready to enter the next phase, she has decided it is time for her to pass the torch. In this personal message, Chantal reflects on what, for her, is the essence of Dynamics of Youth: working together, in order to better understand child development.

Chantal Kemner

"As of 1 March, 2018, I will lay down my duties as Dynamics of Youth programme director. I do this with a heavy heart, because the essence of Dynamics of Youth is collaboration, the foundation for groundbreaking research."

"We need to abandon the individualistic research culture, and work together by bringing researchers with very different disciplines and backgrounds together, and integrating their knowledge. This won’t  always be easy, but it will be interesting and rewarding. We should also bring together scientists who specialise in fundamental research and those who practice applied science, a vital component in finding more effective treatments and solutions for practical issues. And, of course, we need to keep in touch with the world outside of the university, to let it lead us to new insights and ideas, and to keep our researchers connected to societal developments.

It won’t always be easy, but it will be interesting and rewarding.

Only getting started

It has been a worthwhile challenge to figure out how we could best stimulate and shape these cooperations, and how to turn our ideas into action. Within Dynamics of Youth, six thematic projects based on societal issues are now being developed. In these interdisciplinary projects, collaboration is key. So far, this has resulted in six thought-provoking position papers. And we’re only getting started.

It's not only of crucial importance to the children themselves, but also for society as a whole.

An enormously complex process

And isn’t it wonderful that we are working together like this in the field of child and youth development? Child development is such an enormously complex process, and we will only gain more understanding of it by joining forces to enlarge and integrate our knowledge. This will enable us to stimulate children’s development, and help them find their way in the world, which is not only of crucial importance to the children themselves, but also for society as a whole. The threats our society faces ask for stable and dedicated adults, qualities which are largely developed during childhood.

The need for more collaboration

I will keep addressing the need for more collaboration, for example as representative of the Consortium on Individual Development (CID), a national consortium on child development, funded through the Gravitation Programme. In CID, a group of leading Dutch scientists is working together to unravel the development of social competence and behavioural control from different perspectives. The consortium is now focused on gaining more fundamental knowledge, but our ultimate goal is to find  possibilities to apply these insights.

EEG measurement at the YOUth study

A unique data set

In order to work together, you need high-quality tools, such as shared data that reflect the complexity of the subject at hand. One of my other roles is that of director of the Utrecht-based YOUth cohort study. As a large study into child development, following children from conception until early adulthood, YOUth collects a unique set of biological and environmental data, and ties it to brain and behavioural development. YOUth was set up as part of the Consortium on Individual Development, but is also an important component of the Dynamics of Youth infrastructure.

Going the extra mile together for the science of child development

A challenging mission

Even though I will no longer be heading the research theme Dynamics of Youth, focusing on my other tasks for CID and YOUth will enable me to keep contributing to DoY’s challenging mission: going the extra mile together for the science of child development."

Chantal Kemner will continue to carry out her position as Director for Dynamics of Youth until 1 March, 2018. Her successor has currently not yet been chosen.

Dynamics of Youth

Dynamics of Youth is one of the four Strategic Themes of Utrecht University. Dynamics of Youth connects excellent child and youth research from all seven faculties, and looks for the answer to a crucial question for future generations: how can we help our children with their development into well-balanced individuals who can successfully hold their own in a rapidly changing environment?