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

Current Projects

The Comenius network was launched on May 16th; a new platform for teachers at universities and colleges that are committed to innovation in higher education. The network is housed at the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences). Experienced educational professionals are eligible for the prestigious Leadership Grant, with projects that match the educational vision of the institution. The aim is to implement a renewal within an entire faculty or institution.

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The InSPIRES project is co-designing, jointly piloting, implementing and rolling out innovative models for Science Shops. The main goal of this 4-year project is to build effective cooperation between science and society by supporting the growth of Science Shops and enabling the expansion of responsible participatory research and innovation in Europe and abroad, in order to tackle key societal challenges that affect the world population.

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Diversity is an important topic on Universities, several projects on this topic aim specifically on admission and study success of students. In the Comenius Teaching Fellow 2017-2018, we focused at diversity at the end of the educational career of students at the Master Management, Policy Analysis and entrepreneurship in the Health and Life Science (MPA);  transition to the job market. There is a major diversity in network and skills of the students and not all students experience this transition successful.

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De VU wil haar studenten de mogelijkheid bieden om zich op academisch, persoonlijk en maatschappelijk vlak, breder te ontwikkelen: studenten toerusten om in deze wereld succesvol en betekenisvol te kunnen zijn. Dat vraagt van studenten o.a. dat zij nadenken over wie ze zijn, hoe ze naar de wereld en hun rol in de samenleving kijken en hoe ze zich tot anderen verhouden. Binnen A Broader Mind leren studenten onder meer een maatschappelijk vraagstuk vanuit verschillende wetenschappelijke disciplines te benaderen of zetten zij via Community Service Learning hun kennis in voor het oplossen van prangende maatschappelijke vraagstukken.

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More and more studies have to do with a diverse influx of students and thus a different background in knowledge. This makes it difficult, especially for large groups of students, to offer lectures at the right level. On the other hand, lectures offer the opportunity for students to speak to (top) professors and prominent guest speakers.

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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.