Education for Science and Society

Education for Science and Society

Education is the process that facilitates learning. Increasingly there is a need to train students and professionals in science-society interactions in general and inter- and transdisciplinary research in particular. Athena’s research in this domain focuses on two themes in which all three levels, micro, meso and macro, are addressed:

  • Education in inter- and transdisciplinary research
  • Impact on Society

Education in inter- and transdisciplinary research

To study a problem from different disciplinary perspectives requires certain cognitive skills; students need to be able to conduct an in-depth multi perspective problem and needs assessment, and they need to integrate different scientific theoretical models. At the micro level we therefore study the effect of various educational innovations on students’ learning and their learning strategies. A complex problem may be the object of intense debate, but always includes societal groups that have different perspectives on the problem, and different needs and interests. 

Students, who will become inter- or transdisciplinary researchers, therefore, also require an understanding of the social dynamics and basic psychological processes in organizations and society and organizational change. They need to be able to deal with different personalities and cultures, and to adjust their strategies accordingly. Therefore, inter- or transdisciplinary research not only forms a challenge at the cognitive level, but also on the inter- and intra-personal level (for example explaining the value of social scientific models to scientific researchers and lay interest groups). 

Other research questions at this level are what are appropriate methodologies and quality criteria. At the macro level we study the enabling and disabling strategies of to train inter- and transdisciplinary research at the organization level. Universities are developed along disciplinary lines which in most cases inhibits inter- and transdisciplinary research at both the formal and the informal curricula. In this research we assess these factors and develop innovative strategies to support transdisciplinary training. Finally at the macro level we assess the wider developments in education. 

Various innovative educational approaches have been developed aiming to prepare students for addressing complex problems. From the 1960s onwards, learning approaches have shifted from more traditional forms of teaching (memorizing and reproducing) to more inquiry-driven approaches to learning. In this research we assess these wider developments and the contribution to transdisciplinary research.

Impact on Society

The question arises whether students trained in science-society interaction and transdisciplinary research contribute to realizing the development of science and technology in a more sustainable and equitable way. At the micro level we are interested whether the projects conducted by students during the courses of the program and during their internship have a positive societal impact. 

We also investigate to what extent students apply the knowledge, skills and competencies in their further work activities and career after graduation. At the meso level we assess the impact of these activities at the organizational level of the university, internship organisations and future employers. Moreover, we take a system innovation perspective to analyze the extent to which these educational activities contribute to a more responsible research and innovation system.

Current Projects

  • Drivers and barriers for connecting science and society
  • Societal impact of intellectual property rights and patents
  • Transfer mechanisms for academic knowledge
  • Health effects, research priorities and innovation barriers of probiotics
  • Impact of genetically modified vaccines
  • Investment opportunities for neglected tropical diseases
  • OneHealth approaches for emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance