Research and Society

Beatrice de Graaf and Alexander Rinnooy Kan appointed Chairs of Dutch National Research Agenda
 Beatrice de Graaf bij DWDD. Bron: dewerelddraaitdoor.vara.nl

Prof. Beatrice de Graaf (History of International Relations) and Alexander Rinnooy Kan have been appointed Chairs of the Dutch National Research Agenda (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda). Commissioned by the Dutch government, they led the process of drawing up a research agenda containing the questions that academic research will focus on in the coming years.

In April some 11,700 research questions were submitted, both by knowledge institutions and companies as well as individuals. Researchers from our Faculty also submitted various questions. In May, all questions were assessed by scientific juries who clustered them into c. 250 main questions.

On 3 November a discussion meeting was organised within the university’s strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies, where those who had asked a question for the research agenda could meet with researchers, in the presence of both Chairs. The Dutch National Research Agenda was presented on 27 November. To celebrate this event, the EUREKA! festival took place on 29 November with contributions by, among others, Beatrice de Graaf, Katell Lavéant and Suzanne Dikker.

Read more in Dutch on:

Utrecht Psalter added to UNESCO register

The Utrecht Psalter has been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This list with documentary heritage of world significance also includes the original Diary of Anne Frank, the archives of the VOC (‘Dutch East Indian Company’) and Marx’ scheme for his Communist Manifesto and his notes on Das Kapital. The richly illustrated psalmbook was made almost 1200 years ago and has been kept in Utrecht University Library since 1716.

The Utrecht Psalter was made around 830 in or near Reims (France). The dynamic and sketchy style of the drawings was innovative for those days. The importance of the manuscript was stressed in various lectures and media interviews by Prof. Marco Mostert, curator Dr Bart Jaski and Prof. Frits van Oostrom.

Linguists conduct experiment with visitors at Lowlands festival
Mutual Wave Machine

What does it mean to be ‘on the same wavelength’ with other people? Why do we feel a ‘match’ with certain people but not with others? Linguists Suzanne Dikker and Marijn Struiksma studied this phenomenon during the Lowlands festival (21-23 August).

For this research they used the Mutual Wave Machine: an interactive neurofeedback installation designed in collaboration with artist Matthias Oostrik. In a small space with sound and visuals, two people at a time experience how they can use their brain activity to approach each other or create more distance. When brainwaves become increasingly synchronised, the participants are immersed in more lively sounds and images. The research aims to show whether sharing an emotional experience such as a pop concert, influences brain synchronicity. Read more in Dutch.

Spinoza Prize (NWO) and Academy Professor Prize (KNAW) for religious studies professor Birgit Meyer
Prof. dr. Birgit Meyer. Foto Ed van Rijswijk

In June Prof. Birgit Meyer (Professor of Religious Studies) has been awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize, the most prestigious academic award in the Netherlands. Consisting of 2.5 million Euro for further academic research, this award is a tribute to Meyer’s academic work.

In April the KNAW honoured Meyer with the Academy Professor Prize, a lifetime achievement award of one million euro, to spend on a research project of her choice.

From her background as a cultural anthropologist Meyer conducts research on faith and religion in their social and societal context. Her interdisciplinary approach opens a new and promising direction of religious studies, which among other things can help to interpret the renewed and global interest in religion (for example, Islam, but also new forms of Christianity, such as the successful Pentecostalism in Africa).

European grant for research into music in late medieval court cultures
Prof. dr. Karl Kügle. Foto Ed van Rijswijk

Prof. Karl Kügle (Musicology) is one of three researchers of Utrecht University who have received an ERC Advanced Grant. Together with his team he will explore the role of music in late-medieval court cultures of the ‘long fourteenth century’ (1280-1450) on a European scale. The project will last for 5 years. The grant of up to 2.5 million euros is awarded by the European Research Council for groundbreaking projects that open new directions in their respective research fields or other domains.

Kügle's research will focus on music in relation to the other arts (such as poetry, visual arts, architecture), to material culture (such as manuscripts, jewelry, dress), and to the performance of social ritual (such as liturgy and informal interactions among courtiers).

European grant for research on sustainable healthy living in urban areas

Dr Paola Monachesi (Department of Languages, Literature and Communication) is Principal Investigator for Utrecht University of the European research project ‘GRAGE - Grey and green in Europe: elderly living in urban areas’, which received a grant of nearly 1 million Euros from the EU.

A consortium of 10 partners from all over Europe (Italy, The Netherlands, England, Germany, Finland and Greece) and Ukraine will carry out an interdisciplinary study on the challenges of ageing and sustainable development in urban areas. The consortium gathers groundbreaking expertise from different scientific backgrounds (legal, economic, linguistic, engineering), from academic and non-academic institutions.

Oscar Gelderblom receives VICI grant: research into financial behaviour of small and medium-sized Dutch enterprises
Prof. dr. Oscar Gelderblom

Historian Prof. Oscar Gelderblom received an NWO VICI grant of 1.5 million to set up a research group in the coming years. He is one of the six scholars of Utrecht University to receive the prestigious grant.

Gelderblom received the grant for the project 'The Dynamics of Inclusive Finance in the Netherlands, 1750-1970'. He will study the financial behaviour of small and medium-sized Dutch enterprises since 1750.

Sandra Ponzanesi starts research into migrant communities and digital media
Prof. dr. Sandra Ponzanesi

Prof. Sandra Ponzanesi has been awarded a prestigious and highly selective ERC Consolidator Grant of 2 million euros for her project 'Digital Crossings in Europe: Gender, Diaspora and Belonging' (CONNECTINGEUROPE). The project will run from 2015 to 2020.

Every year numerous migrants enter Europe legally and illegally, constructing and sustaining transnational networks through online technologies. These ‘connected migrants’ reconfigure notions of  identity, gender and belonging and contribute to a new understanding of Europe as a multidirectional networked society. These issues are at the heart of Prof. Sandra Ponzanesi’s research project.

Horizon2020 funding for project 'Whole-of-Society Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding'
© iStockphoto.com/Rawpixel

An international consortium, in which Prof. Georg Frerks and Dr Chris van der Borgh (Conflict Studies) also partake, has received a Horizon2020 funding of 1,990,115 euros for the project 'Whole-of-Society Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding' (WOSCAP). The project seeks to enhance the capabilities of the EU for implementing conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions through sustainable, comprehensive and innovative civilian means.

This project intends to address the dilemmas and paradoxes that are inherent to external interventions that aim for local ownership in a given context. It will bring together both top-down and bottom-up needs and demands.

Els Stronks presents tool to find words in historical texts

The Digital Library of Dutch Literature (Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren, DBNL) features a new tool, ngram-viewer, with which all texts in DBNL can be searched for specific words in order to assess how often a certain word was used in a certain period. The tool has been deveoped by literary historian Prof. Els Stronks in collaboration with the National Library of the Netherlands. Ngram viewer can be found online at www.dbnl.org/zoek/ngram.php.

Europe-expert Mathieu Segers wins UU Publiprijs 2014
Europadeskundige Mathieu Segers wint UU Publiprijs 2014

Historian Dr Mathieu Segers, assistant professor of International Relations, is the winner of Utrecht University’s Publiprijs 2014. Rector Magnificus Bert van der Zwaan handed him the prize on 6 January for his many media appearances regarding Europe and the European Union.

According to the jury, Segers has a central position in media debates, offering highly relevant explanations and sharp comments. “The media keep coming back to him, even though he is active in a crowded arena where many want to have their say.” The prize consists of budget for a video production about the winner’s research. Watch Segers' video (in Dutch).

For the UU Publiprijs 2015, again two historians have been nominated: Prof. Beatrice de Graaf and Prof. Leonard Rutgers. The winner will be announced on 4 January 2016.


Utrecht University researchers participate in DRONGO language festival
DRONGO talenfestival 2015, Jaarbeurs Utrecht

Around 2,500 language lovers and professionals gathered in the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht on 25 and 26 September for the DRONGO language festival. Utrecht University was present as one of the festival partners.

Our information stand received many visitors who participated in various linguistic experiments and discussions with researchers of the Department of Languages, Literature and Communication. Visitors also showed a lively interest in our study programmes in the field of language and communication. Elsewhere in the hall, scholars from Utrecht University gave workshops and presentations on such topics as Old Irish, online voting advice, and drum languages in Senegal.

Debates about the future of the university

In various university cities, students and lecturers speak out in discussions about student and staff representation, efficiency and profit (‘rendementsdenken’), and the quality of education and research. These are also current topics at Utrecht University, with many Humanities scholars actively participating in discussions: in an open letter by Rethink UU to the Executive Board, in debates (organised, among others, by The New University Utrecht, Studium Generale and the University Council) and in op-eds (in DUB and in national media). At the Dies celebration on 26 March Prof. Frits van Oostrom’s plea for more contact between lecturers and students was warmly supported by many colleagues.

Royal decoration for Ria van der Lecq
Dr. Ria van der Lecq

Dr Ria van der Lecq (Liberal Arts and Sciences) is one of six UU staff members who received a Royal Decoration this year. She has been decorated as Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau by the mayor of her home town on 24 April, the Friday before King's Day (27 April).

She was recommended by Utrecht University for this decoration, primarily because of her influential ideas on education innovation. In 2003 she was the founder of the first Liberal Arts and Sciences degree programme in the Netherlands at Utrecht University, which has been followed by several other universities. Apart from her academic career, Ria van der Lecq is also very active in society. Among other things, she has been a council member in Leiden and a board member of a large school.

Italian language and culture study programme celebrates 80th anniversary
Colosseum, Rome © iStockphoto.com/franckreporter

On 25 April the bachelor's programme Italiaanse taal en cultuur (Italian language and culture) celebrated its 80th anniversary with a festive programme and with the foundation of an alumni association.

Utrecht Centre for International Studies presents itself

The Utrecht Centre for International Studies (UCIS) was created in autumn 2014 to support and encourage study and research on international issues across the humanities and law at Utrecht University. Since spring 2015 the UCIS website http://ucis.sites.uu.nl offers information on the four Master's programmes involved in UCIS, as well as researchers, the student council and community activities.