On 25 November Queen Beatrix received the first copy of the jubilee volume SER 1950-2010: Zestig jaar denkwerk voor draagvlak from Prof. Bas van Bavel, one of the authors. The book disproves the idea that the SER and other institutions in the Dutch corporative economy are too sluggish. On the contrary, research shows that the SER’s consultative culture has increased the social basis and therefore has quickened policy implementation. The editors and authors of the book are researchers at the Utrecht knowledge centre Institutions of the Open Society.
An enthusiastic group of young people, including many students and alumni of the New Media and Digital Culture study programme, are currently forming a media lab in Utrecht. From April to June they conducted a pilot programme called SETUP. Over the course of three months, they organised dozens of events, varying from software development workshops to debates on civil rights in the digital age. The goal is to found a permanent media lab in Utrecht by 2011, similar to the labs that currently exist in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. The media lab will form an inspiring crossroads between academic research, technology development and the public domain.
On 3 June, the Meertens Institute brought the 'Nederlandse Voornamenbank' (Corpus of First Names in the Netherlands) online. The database contains the 500,000 different first names that occur in the Netherlands. The originator of the project was name researcher Dr Gerrit Bloothooft from the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS at Utrecht University. For each first name, the database shows how many people have that name in the Netherlands and how often the name occurs as a first name and as a middle name. It also displays the changes in the name’s popularity since 1880.
In the spring of 2010, Professor Peter L. Galison (University Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University) held the Treaty of Utrecht Chair at the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. The theme of his Visiting Professorship is 'Truth be said': how truth is conceived in science. Galison studies how conceptions of objectivity have developed since the Enlightenment.
In the autumn the Chair was held by Frans Timmermans, Dutch Member of Parliament and former Minister for European Affairs. In his Visiting Professorship he focused on the relation between European citizenship and the role of European universities.
The Treaty of Utrecht Chair is an initiative of the Province of Utrecht in collaboration with the Treaty of Utrecht Organisation and Utrecht University's Centre for the Humanities.
Erik-Jan Bos, a researcher on the history of philosophy at Utrecht University, has discovered a previously unknown letter from the French philosopher René Descartes in the library of an American college. The four-page letter provides a unique insight into the creative process behind Descartes’ most important philosophical work, Meditationes de prima philosophia (1641). It shows that Descartes had dramatically revised the original structure of his work. The letter was originally held in the library of the Institut de France in Paris, but was stolen sometime in the 19th century. Via a roundabout route it ended up in the collection of Haverford College in Pennsylvania. On 8 June, during a special assembly of the Académie des Sciences that attracted considerable attention from the media, Haverford College returned the letter to its rightful owner, the Institut de France.
The Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS (UiL OTS) and the Koninklijke Auris Groep (Royal Auris Group), a professional partner for people with difficulties in hearing, speaking, reading, writing or comprehension, have signed a covenant to structurally increase awareness for research and applications of new knowledge in the field of language, language acquisition and language therapies. This collaboration will make it easier to convert the results of academic research into professional practice. The collaborative efforts will involve both institutions jointly organising an annual exchange day as well as submitting joint research subsidy applications. Utrecht University will also conduct research for Auris and Auris will give preference to hiring researchers and interns from UU.
On 17 February, a variety of academic and cultural institutions officially launched the Dutch Biography Portal. The institutions joined forces to collate as much biographical information as possible for figures from Dutch history into one website. Utrecht historian Dr Els Kloek is the project leader.
Also under the direction of Els Kloek, the Online Dictionary of Dutch Women (Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon) was completed in December. This dictionary now contains the biographies of 1001 remarkable women from Dutch history before 1900. The Online Dictionary of Dutch Women is incorporated in the Dutch Biography Portal.
In December Marlous van Waijenburg, graduated in Comparative History, won the Volkskrant-IISG History Thesis Award with her Master’s thesis Living Standards in British Africa in a Comparative Perspective, 1880-1945: Is Poverty Destiny? In September she had also been awarded the Faculty of Humanities Thesis Award for the Master’s thesis with the largest social relevance. In her thesis on living standards in various parts of British Africa between 1880 and 1945, Van Waijenburg refutes dominant stereotypical notions on poverty in Africa.
Ruben Schalk, a history student from Utrecht University, found the world’s oldest known ‘share’ during his thesis research in the Westfries Archief in Hoorn. It dates from 1606 and was issued by the VOC chamber of Enkhuizen. The share certificate was presented on 9 September amid great public interest. Thanks to Ruben’s finding and research at Utrecht University it becomes clear that the VOC’s financial situation was much less favourable than is commonly assumed and that the operational management did not pass off smoothly. The share featured prominently in an exhibition on the VOC in the Westfries Museum in Hoorn.
In 2010, the Humanities Science Shop is offering the course De onderzoeker als adviseur Geesteswetenschappen (The Researcher as Humanities Consultant) three times. Student interest in the course has increased dramatically since 2009, when the course was offered only once. This growth is due to the students’ increased interest in conducting research based on actual requests from society – a good preparation for entering the job market. In the course, students work together in small groups on a research request from an organisation in the non-profit sector or from small- or medium-sized businesses. They receive instruction in research and consulting skills and learn to apply them in the real world. Each case study results in a tangible finished product for the client, varying from an advisory report to a publication. The Science Shop offers the course in cooperation with the Language and Culture Studies study programme.
The European Commission awarded ATHENA, the Advanced Thematic Network in European Women's Studies coordinated by Utrecht University, the prestigious European Award for Lifelong Learning. These awards recognise the important role of innovative and creative projects and activities in modernising education and training systems in Europe. The Advanced Thematic Network in European Women’s Studies has brought together 112 partners in the interdisciplinary field of Women's and Gender Studies in Europe. Scholars, teachers, and stakeholders from civil society and public institutions work together within ATHENA. Since it started in 1997, it has contributed to the success of the relatively new field of women’s studies and has added a clear European dimension.
Paul Ziche, Professor of the History of Contemporary Philosophy, has been awarded Utrecht University’s Lecturer Prize for 2009-2010. The award was announced during the Education Parade, a day organised to highlight the education available at Utrecht University. The prize for Young Lecturer Talent also went to a humanities scholar: Marjo van Koppen, lecturer and researcher of Modern Linguistics.
Paul Ziche has been affiliated with Utrecht University for two years and, according to the jury report, he has more than earned his spurs in that brief period. He teaches philosophy with a new élan, and according to the students who nominated him, Ziche’s lectures give philosophers and their ideas a refreshing vibrancy and he encourages his students to think outside of the usual constructs.
Marjo van Koppen impressed the jury with her ability to take the students on a journey through the complex linguistic study materials and to explain them in a clear and structured manner. In so doing, she introduces her students to the beauty of the field of linguistics. Her students appreciate the pleasant atmosphere she creates with her openness and enthusiasm, and her ability to motivate almost any student.