Close-up #3

Inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff: this magazine shows the connection between public and research 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.

Open magazine (in PDF)

Asking questions and listening

The Centre for Science and Culture actively seeks people out rather than simply inviting them to take part in the conversation. Focusing on people’s questions, concerns and expectations is at least as important as taking the scientific perspective in that context.

Read the foreword by Femke den Boer

In other words, you need to ask questions and listen first. You can respond to their questions and share your views as a researcher afterwards. That is how you build real dialogue.

Interview: The university as an anchor institution: a long-term partner of the city

Sharing knowledge with local communities and tackling societal challenges together. That is key to Anders Utrecht. Anders Utrecht maps and connects Utrecht initiatives that deal with social and environmental issues, develops podcasts to give initiatives a voice, and stimulates collaboration through workshops and research.

Read the interview with dr. Ozan Alakavuklar

We really want them to get their hands dirty.

Behind the scenes: A governmental perspective on science communication

The Netherlands will have its own national science communication centre. These words from Minister Dijkgraaf in May 2022 sparked a momentum that has not stalled ever since. Erik van Zwol, who has been closely involved in the process since the beginning, shares his story.

Read the article

First and foremost, the centre should play a connecting role.

Close-up: Following up on A word about tomorrow

Some 300 visitors at local libraries in Utrecht struck up spontaneous conversations with Utrecht University researchers during the ‘A word about tomorrow’ programme in November 2022. The conversations took place in follow-up to the 2021 edition, when library visitors formulated 500 questions for science with the participating researchers. Four of those questions formed the starting point for this year’s discussions.

Read the article

I really felt I was being heard. The conversation really made me reflect on my own ideas.

Visitor at Overvecht Library

Behind the scenes: Geology of the Tour de France

Endless Tour de France stages in which cyclists struggle to climb a mountain ridge suddenly become a fascinating geology excursion in Geology of the Tour de France. For example, did you know that those weird cones dotting the landscape – many of which are topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary like the one in Le-Puy-en-Velay – are called volcanic necks? Time to chat with geoscientist Douwe van Hinsbergen about his initiative.

Take a look behind the scenes
Illustratie van een wetenschapper in de publieke arena
Illustration: Frank-Jan van Lunteren

In practice: Academics in the Public Arena

Engaging in public debate is important and offers opportunities for researchers, but there are also inherent risks. For example, you need to be prepared for angry reactions – sometimes from unexpected quarters – when you are dealing with difficult issues. This prompted Utrecht University to organise the “Academics in the Public Arena” programme. This interactive series features researchers and support staff discussing their role in the public debate and explaining what it takes to do so effectively and safely.

Read the article

You never really know what kind of responses you’re going to get when you discuss your research in the media.