Seven researchers receive seed fund to realise public engagement activity

The Public Engagement team approved seven seed fund applications from Utrecht University researchers. Read below which researchers will receive the €5.000 grant to realise their ideas for innovative, research related public engagement activities. 

Dr. Chris Janssen: Humans and machines of the future 

The last few years there have been many innovations around automation (i.e., smart electronics, data science, and artificial intelligence). Automated technology is used by everyone and is radically changing society. One group that faces many changes and challenges in particular are vocational training (mbo-)students: their work changes due to automation frequently and they are at higher risk of job loss. We will develop teaching material using scientific insights on the social aspects of human-automation interaction to make mbo-students resilient for this future. The project builds on recent research at Utrecht University on human-centered artificial intelligence and human-automation interaction. 

Dr. Erik van Sebille: ClimateHelpdesk 

People can turn to the ClimateHelpdesk with all their questions about climate change. These  questions can range from the physical and the social to the economic and psychological causes and consequences of climate change. Researchers and experts will then answer the questions. The aim of the project is to make scientific knowledge about climate change accessible. 

Dr. Ina Koning en Dr. Tessa van Charldorp: Co-creating a parental app to target parents’ social norms 

Parents generally overestimate how “approving” other parents are of drinking among youth and underestimate how often other parents communicate with their adolescent about drinking. Traditional interventions do not seem to adjust these ideas, if parents engage at all in such interventions. In this project the researchers will use a participatory design approach to explore the adaptation of an existing digital parent intervention.  

Dr. Vivian C. Goerlich-Jansson: Science in a nutshell - urban pigeons in Utrecht 

Children in the city come into contact with nature less and less, despite the fact that there is a lot to discover in the city. As long as you know where to look... Together with Academie Tien, a high school in Utrecht, the researchers will set up a citizen science project to bring students into contact with urban nature in a playful way. 

Dr. Franck Meijboom: Precious Ambiguous; scratching the human footprint 

Due to increasing globalization and a growing world population, ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Progressive climate change results, among other things, in more extreme living environments. Biodiversity and habitat loss for humans and animals are the result: humans and animals are even more "condemned" to each other. A good relationship between humans and animals is therefore of crucial importance. However, this relationship is rather ambiguous: different types of contexts contradict each other: a rat is a pest, a laboratory animal as well as a pet. A social discussion on this subject is therefore necessary. This interactive project between researchers and the (zoo) public is the start of this. 

Dr. Koen Leurs: Critical Media literacy through Making Media (MMM): A key to participation for migrant youth? 

During this project, researchers will translate and update a critical media literacy curriculum for migrants and intercultural dialogue, taking into account the views and opinions of local experts and young newcomers across Europe. 

Dr. Ruud Hortensias: Grandpa, grandma, robot and I 

Although a generation apart, children and their grandparents share a future with robots. In this project, they will start the conversation on the integration of robots in their social environment. First, they will play an interactive quiz to explore the scope and limits of robots for social cognition. Next, they will develop sci-fi scenarios using a real robot to sketch future applications. Focusing on real interactions and the conversation with, not about, children and grandparents, this project will give the research team the power to shape future research and their social lives with robots. 

New call 

The Public Engagement Seed Fund grants Utrecht researchers small amounts to help them realise innovative, research related public engagement activities. The next call will be in Spring 2021. Details will appear on the website and intranet in due time. 

Contact us 

If you need advice and help in setting up public engagement activities, do not hesitate to contact us at

Need some inspiration? 

Good examples, background information, experiences of researchers and support staff: the magazine Close-up will give you a look at ​​public engagement at Utrecht University.