Four of the 12 “distinctions in science communication” awarded this year by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) and the Jonge Academie have gone to VUB researchers. The prizes are awarded to researchers who have worked intensively on a project relating to science communication in the past two years.
Jan De Beule, Kenny De Commer and Ann Dooms of the Faculty of Science were jointly crowned for their conference The Beautiful Impact of Mathematics in Society (BIMS), which aims to make maths a more attractive choice of study subject. “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done as a team,” says De Beule. “This recognition is a great reward for our efforts. I hope we can use it to increase the visibility of our beloved domain, maths, even further.”
Charlèss Dupont, of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, used her card game Levenswensen to make it easier to discuss difficult subjects related to early or advance care planning, end of life decisions, dying and death. At the same time, she gave an insight into the scientific process behind her approach. “I’m very happy that we received the prize,” she says. “I want to stress that this success has only been possible thanks to the efforts and support of countless people and organisations who were willing to work together. The prize not only confirms the value of the Levenswensen cards project, it also emphasises the importance of open communication around subjects such as dying, end of life and personal wishes. I believe it will help put Levenswensen on the map and contribute to our goal of normalising conversations on dying, end of life and personal wishes in a society where they are still often treated as taboo subjects.”
The Welgemeend podcast and accompanying website Welwerk, by Francisca Mullens of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Solvay Business School, have made a definite contribution to increasing knowledge and supporting nuanced opinions on work among the general public. “The distinction from the KVAB and the Jonge Academie is a great recognition for the often lonely work that I have put into the podcast and website,” says Mullens. “I’ve always found science communication to be important. There is so much knowledge on subjects such as work, well-being and reducing work, but lots of this expertise never finds its way to the general public. It’s often the same people who we hear from. With the podcast and website, I hope to make this expertise, from various disciplines, much more accessible and give a platform to less well known and younger experts.”
Citizen science and communication on exotic plants
Iris Stiers of the Faculty of Science has organised many citizen science and communication activities, such as this Universiteit van Vlaanderen lecture, about exotic plants and the environment, in which informing and raising awareness go hand in hand. “I value the societal importance of science and research, including in my research projects. And that’s the icing on the cake,” she says. “As a teacher trainer, I chose to link the citizen science project with schools and young people. In the school context, citizen science can be a powerful didactic means of delivering specific lesson content. What’s more, it can also provide new knowledge for science. Citizen science in the classroom has many advantages: pupils develop research skills in an authentic context that increases motivation, it shows how research is creative and it contributes to general scientific literacy.”