Inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff: this magazine shows the connection between public and science at Utrecht University. Let the stories in this magazine inspire you, develop your own ideas and look for the right partners to put them into practice.
Engaging a broad audience in science involves organising encounters. Precisely this has been a challenge in the past two pandemic years. Some programmes involving partners at the university and elsewhere had to be postponed until better days. On the other hand, we discovered just how flexible we could be.
The university sees ever more opportunities for inspiring encounters between science and society, made possible by cooperation.
Science with and for society
Being appointed Professor of Oceanography and Public Engagement at the end of 2021 was a dream come true for Erik van Sebille. Not only can he now study the workings of science communication, he was finally able to participate in Meet the Professor. How important is it to have a Professor of Public Engagement, and what will he be working on this year? We picked Erik’s academic brain.
Science communication is not about conveying the facts, but about an understanding of how science works.
In practice: making time for public engagement activities
It can be a challenge to find the time to engage in public activities in addition to one’s research and teaching tasks. We asked three Utrecht University staff with practical experience for their perspectives. "We, the researchers, can solve a lot of things ourselves, and we’re creative when it comes to this. However, you don’t just want university solutions at the level of the individual researcher. You want solutions at a higher level as well."
It’s often enjoyable, it keeps you on your toes and you meet people who know more about a specific subject. This helps you ahead in your own research.
Double interview: Competing interests, successful cooperation
Utrecht University conducts research using laboratory animals, which the organisation Animal Rights opposes on principle. Even so, they’ve cooperated successfully for years. Monique Janssens (Utrecht University) and Jen Hochmuth (Animal Rights) talk about the cooperation, in which mutual trust is key.
At first, researchers shy away from conversations with animals rights organisations
Being open involves being vulnerable
“So, how are you doing?” my colleague asked me one Friday afternoon in the university library. Two weeks earlier, I’d delivered a lecture on ‘Life in the here and now?’ at Studium Generale in the auditorium of the University Hall, and before that I’d appeared on the radio programme ‘De Nacht van NPO Radio1’. My research is about the experience of time. I convert some of my findings into compositions, and I use this music to have conversations about psychological suffering. It was during these public appearances that I first tested, on a large scale, a new treatment ritual involving the audience. It was very successful, but in the office, I burst out in tears.
This, too, forms part of open science: paying attention to people and their stories.