A look at... Working together by going down unexpected paths

The Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo) enables young researchers to do interdisciplinary research that can make a positive contribution to social issues. At the 2021 Betweter Festival, the research on chronic pain by Hanneke Willemen et al organised by the Centre for Science and Culture, took centre stage. They drew the public’s attention to the issue by way of experiments and conversations.

Chronic pain is an underestimated problem: one out of every five persons worldwide suffers from it. Our main goal was to inform people about chronic pain and to invite them to share any personal experience of it. What was the festivalgoer’s definition of chronic pain? This led to interesting exchanges and refreshing perspectives. We also drew people’s attention to the vital importance of interdisciplinary research to understand chronic pain better. This will help the development of efficient and safe treatment methods. We carried out experiments to measure sensitivity to pain. Pain was triggered by a device that can put pressure on the calf muscle, and by creams that produce hot and cold stimuli. It’s interesting to see that people respond to pain stimuli in very different ways.

Dr Hanneke Willemen is a researcher at the Centre for Translational Immunology of University Medical Centre Utrecht.

CUCo wants to increase the joy and creativity in research by going down unexpected paths. Cooperation in research continually requires translating perspectives: between scientific disciplines and with social groups. The Betweter Festival is an ideal setting for young CUCo researchers to translate perspectives for the benefit of a young and enthusiastic audience. This also involves reflecting on the research itself. The collected results are immensely useful for the project. The team had a lot of fun designing and preparing the experiment. This has whetted CUCo’s appetite: the next Betweter Festival will again involve projects, and we’ll share a contribution about the (difficult!) process of cooperation.

Corinne Lamain is the director of the Centre for Unusual Collaborations, one of the core groups within the Strategic Alliance between Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, UU and University Medical Centre Utrecht.


This article also appears in the second edition of the magazine Close-up, full of inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff.

View magazine
Experiment over pijn tijdens het Betweter Festival