Foreword Femke den Boer: Asking questions and listening 

Femke den Boer, directeur Centrum voor Wetenschap en Cultuur

When academics engage in discussion with a broad audience, they tend to encounter people who were already interested in the first place. People who value science or are critical of it. However, there are also lots of people who do not feel much of a connection with the subject. Science does not appeal to them because it does not seem relevant to their lives, even when actual researchers are interested in talking to them.

That is why 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. 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. This approach reflects Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf's vision for a new national expertise centre on science and society. The envisaged centre will connect knowledge with the real-world practice in an attempt to facilitate dialogue (see pages 10 and 11). This edition of Close-up features lots of inspiring examples of our existing efforts here at Utrecht University.

Femke den Boer is director of Utrecht University’s Centre for Science and Culture.


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

Go to Close-up #3