We’re one step closer to a brain computer

Mysteries of nickelate

We’re one step closer to a brain computer

Scientists of the University of Groningen made significant progress in their search for a material that they can use to mimic the neurons of a human brain. The discovery was published last week in Nature Communications.
25 June om 10:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 29 June 2020
om 11:55 uur.
June 25 at 10:00 AM.
Last modified on June 29, 2020
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Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

25 June om 10:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 29 June 2020
om 11:55 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

June 25 at 10:00 AM.
Last modified on June 29, 2020
at 11:55 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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The human brain can process huge amounts of data, despite its relatively small size. It’s also very energy-efficient. For years now, scientists have been searching for ways to build a computer that works just as well. That’s a difficult challenge.

‘The neurons in your brain have thousands of dendrites, like little legs, connecting to the dendrites of thousands of other neurons via synapses. This means that information can be transferred through many channels at the same time’, explains professor Beatriz Noheda of research centre CogniGron. ‘Whereas regular computers work with transistors that can only process information sequentially. One to one.’

Too much space

The reason that the brain is so energy-efficient is because storage and processing of information are done in the neurons, whereas regular computers use different locations to do that. And finally, the neuroplasticity of the brain makes it possible for the neurons to strengthen some connections and weaken others. ‘So when you work hard to learn something, for example, more energy flows through them. But you can lose memories too, when connections get lost.’

You can lose memories when connections get lost

Big companies like IBM or Intel already tried to mimic the brain, by making chips that arrange thousands of transistors to resemble one neuron. But even though power consumption went down significantly, the thousands of chips that would be needed before you have a ‘brain’ would simply take up way too much space.

Other researchers worked on so-called memristors – electrical devices that make it possible to adjust the level of resistance between them by allowing the movement of ions, like the brain does with the synapses between neurons. ‘However, that is not reproducible enough’, Noheda says.

Controllable

So Noheda and her team have been trying to develop a memristor mechanism without the electronics, but based on the transport of electrons. ‘So they are faster, but way more controllable’, she says. It’s deeply fundamental research that has only been going on for only a handful of years.

And last week, she and her PhD Qikai Guo published an important discovery in Nature Communications on the way to a material that could realize just that. 

The two had high hopes for neodymium nickel oxide (NdNiO3), a material that can go through a metal-insulator phase transition. That means it can be very conductive at one time, but has insulating properties at another, which is essential for a device in which you want to adjust the resistance. 

Usually materials like that are manipulated through temperature. This stuff turned out to be more mysterious than they had realized, though. Some researchers claimed it was a normal metal, meaning it was conducting like copper. The conductivity could be explained by electrons interacting with vibrating atoms. ‘But others believed something more exotic was going on. They believed the electrons were interacting among themselves’, Noheda says. Both sides had the experiments to prove their point.

Argument

Guo and Noheda set to work to settle the argument once and for all. But when they did, they discovered that no matter how carefully they tested, their readings changed every time. ‘We found we could get literally any value, even values nobody had found before.’

What if the cause is not the strain itself, but something caused by it

For quite some time, neither researcher knew how to explain their results. They did know, however, that the conductivity of the material was not only related to temperature, but also to the material they ‘grew’ their nickelate on. ‘We created extremely thin films of material, thousands of times thinner even than a human hair. But we did that on a crystal substrate with a slightly different structure’, Noheda says.

The atoms in the substrate were slightly further apart or closer together than those in nickelate. But by making evaporated nickelate settle on it, they forced the atoms of the nickelate into the same position. ‘The crystal was working as a template.’

Rearrange

Noheda and Guo discovered that the more strained their nickelate was, the higher the conductivity. But the effects they found were too big for the strain alone to explain the results. ‘So what if the cause is not the strain itself, but something that is caused by the strain?’

Further experiments showed that the strain in the nickelate films caused the nickelate to lose oxygen. Normally the metal will have one atom of nickel, a neodymium atom and three oxygen atoms forming a crystal. ‘But we found that from time to time an Oxygen atom would be missing. That would cause the other atoms to slightly rearrange themselves’, Noheda says. And that explains the difference in conductivity.

It means the researchers have done two very important things. They added to fundamental knowledge of nickelates, but they also put an important step towards the dream of a brainlike computer. ‘We now have this control over the material’, she says. ‘We have a turning knob now, we never knew we had.’

Absenteeism at FSE keeps rising, cause unknown

Cause is difficult to pinpoint

Absenteeism at FSE keeps rising

The long-term absenteeism at the Faculty of Science and Engineering keeps rising, the recently published Health, Safety and Environment Report states. But the cause is hard to pinpoint.
22 June om 16:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 June 2020
om 16:53 uur.
June 22 at 16:53 PM.
Last modified on June 22, 2020
at 16:53 PM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

22 June om 16:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 June 2020
om 16:53 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

June 22 at 16:53 PM.
Last modified on June 22, 2020
at 16:53 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Absenteeism among staff at the science faculty has doubled over the course of the past six years. In 2014, staff members were absent 0.9 percent of the time, while now, that number is 1.8. Among women, absenteeism has risen from 1.2 percent to 2.9. Among PhD candidates, the increase is even larger: it went from 0.9 to 2.6 percent.

Support and managerial employees call in sick most often: their percentage rose from 3.5 to 5.7. Once again, the number is much higher among female employees.

Frustrating

Theodora Tiemersma with the FSE faculty service acknowledges the problem. ‘We’ve spoken about it with our medical officer. The board is also worried. But it’s frustrating, since we can’t figure out what’s causing it.’

Obviously, work stress is playing a role. Tiemersma has also noticed that especially young researchers call in sick a lot. That’s not just PhD candidates, but also postdocs.

‘Academics in the early stages of their careers’, she says. ‘Everything is happening at once to them. They’re stressed because they have to present their work, but they’re also starting a family at the same time. It’s a lot to keep up with.’

Solution

Finding a solution isn’t easy. Over the past few years, the faculty has come up with various programmes, like ‘efficient working’ or ‘how to lead’. ‘But not a lot of people show up to those courses.’ Tiemersma also wonders if the people who do show up to courses like that are the ones that need them the most.

Absenteeism at the UG in general has not gone up as fast as at the faculty. The absenteeism rate has remained the same among academic personnel. But among administrative and support staff, absenteeism has gone up from 4.2 percent in 2014 to 6.4 percent now.

UG nabs both Spinoza and Stevin prizes

Photo Reyer Boxem/UG

UG nabs both Spinoza and Stevin prizes

The UG has nabbed two of the most prestigious science prizes this year. Philosopher Pauline Kleingeld has won a Spinoza Prize, also known as the Dutch Nobel Prize. Environmental psychologist Linda Steg has been awarded a Stevin Prize.
19 June om 8:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 23 June 2020
om 9:47 uur.
June 19 at 8:05 AM.
Last modified on June 23, 2020
at 9:47 AM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

19 June om 8:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 23 June 2020
om 9:47 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

June 19 at 8:05 AM.
Last modified on June 23, 2020
at 9:47 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

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After research financier NWO called her with the news that she’d been awarded a Stevin Prize of 2.5 million euros, Linda Steg was quiet on the phone for a while. ‘What?’, she eventually managed. ‘I have to let this sink in.’

She wasn’t allowed to tell anyone else. Only her partner could know, and the people in the university communication department and journalists, as long as they kept to the embargo.

Pauline Kleingeld was also overwhelmed. She has been awarded one of four Spinoza Prizes, which is also worth 2.5 million euros. She hadn’t seen it coming. ‘There are so many people out there doing great research.’

Excellent

Both prizes are to reward the work of excellent researchers. But while the Spinoza Prize mainly focuses on fundamental scientific research, the Stevin is more concerned with social impact.

Steg is being given the prize for her work in environmental psychology. The jury said she is one of the most influential and innovative pioneers in the field. She wants to know why some people display environmentally friendly behaviour, and why others don’t.

She also wants to find out why people prioritise the greater good over their own personal comfort. Her most important discovery is that it’s not just about ‘rational’ facts or a cost-benefit assessment; moral and environmental considerations also play a large role.

She wrote an influential climate report for the UN and featured on Thomas Reuters’ ‘world’s most influential scientific minds’ list no fewer than five times.

Innovative views

Philosopher Kleingeld has been awarded the prize for her innovative views on the works of eighteenth-century philosopher Kant. She not only shows how Kant’s racist and sexist ideas come through in his work, but she’s also using her vision of Kant’s ethics to reach new insights in moral universalism and free will.

Because of the corona crisis, the researchers will have to miss the celebration at Bessensap, the annual conference for science communication where their wins will be announced.

They’re both okay with this, although Steg regrets she won’t be able to see her colleagues when they hear the news. ‘Last year when I got a Royal Decoration, everyone else knew when I didn’t. Now it’s the other way around, but I won’t be able to see their faces.’

Prize money

Both researchers already know what they want to do with their prize money. Kleingeld wants to figure out whether her interpretation of Kant’s ethics can contribute to modern discussions about moral universalism. ‘I’m kind of going against the tide, since we’re living in the days of relativism and scepticism’, she says.

Steg wants to try and integrate her social-scientific research in climate models. ‘In the end, those models are all about human beings and human behaviour.’

Other winners

In addition to Pauline Kleingeld, biophysicist Nynke Dekker at TU Delft, bio-organic chemist Jan van Hest at TU Eindhoven, and immunologist Sjaak Neefjes with the Leiden University Medical Centre have also been awarded Spinoza Prizes.

Cancer researcher Ton Schumacher at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital has been awarded the other Stevin Prize.

Steg’s Stevin Prize is the first of its kind for the UG since the prize was created in 2018. Spinoza Prizes have been around for much longer. Previous winners at the UG were physicist George Sawatsky (1996), medical biologist Dirkje Postma (2000), and chemist Ben Feringa (2004), who went on to win the Nobel Prize.

After the UG not winning anything for a decade, migratory bird expert Theunis Piersma was awarded the prize in 2014, and geneticist and current rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga won it in 2015. In 2016, philosopher Lodi Nauta and engineering physicist Bart van Wees were awarded the prize. In 2019, astronomer Amina Helmi won.

UKrant interviewed Pauline Kleingeld en Linda Steg:

The quest for a just world

Does the world have a set of universal values? Principles that apply to every single human being? UG philosopher Pauline Kleingeld is using the money from her Spinoza Prize to find out. ‘A lot of people nowadays don’t think they exist. But I want to try anyway.’ Read the interview here.

Environmental researcher, not an activist

She was already one of the most influential psychologists in the world, but now environmental psychologist Linda Steg has been awarded the Stevin Prize (of 2.5 million euros) for her research into environmentally aware behaviour. ‘I can’t be an activist. Not if I want to be a scientist.’ Read the interview here.

Experts in carbon dating solve centuries-old mystery

Aerial view of Por-Bazhyn, seen from the west. Photo: Andrei Panin

Experts in carbon dating solve centuries-old mystery

No one knew why the mysterious fortress of Por-Bazhyn had been built or why it had never been used. But this week, UG scientists presented the solution to the mystery, thanks to a new method of carbon dating.

10 June om 9:19 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 10 June 2020
om 9:22 uur.
June 10 at 9:19 AM.
Last modified on June 10, 2020
at 9:22 AM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

10 June om 9:19 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 10 June 2020
om 9:22 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

June 10 at 9:19 AM.
Last modified on June 10, 2020
at 9:22 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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The island fortress of Por-Bazhyn, deep in Siberia’s permafrost, is almost as mysterious as Machu Picchu. It may not be as well-known as its Peruvian twin, but scientists have been fascinated by this eighth-century clay building surrounded by twelve-metre high walls for decades. Who built it? Was it a palace? A fortress? A monastery? Why doesn’t it have any fireplaces? Why doesn’t it look like anyone ever lived there?

In an article published in PNAS this week, UG scientists provide the definitive answer: they’ve determined the building was constructed in the summer of 777. They used a new method, looking for carbon-14 isotope peaks in tree rings.  These peaks were caused by rare solar flares, once of which occurred in 775 and another in 994. 

Uyghur ruler

‘This study is a perfect example of how this new method can be used to date archaeological findings’, says the article’s first author, Margot Kuitems. ‘We found the peak in the penultimate ring in a beam from the building. The last ring consisted of only spring wood. That means the tree was cut down in the summer of 777.’

This exact dating allowed the scientists to identify the Uyghur ruler Tengri Bögü Khan as the architect of the complex. Since the archaeologists had previously found out that construction took about two years, their discovery also provided a plausible answer to other questions they had about the building.

‘Bögü Khan had converted to Manichaeism’, says Kuitems. This Christian movement said that good and evil were equal. The Roman Catholic church considered its followers heretics. ‘But in 779, Bögü Khan was murdered during an anti-Manichaeistic uprising.’

Monastery

It’s likely, therefore, that Por-Bazhyn was meant to be a monastery. But because Bögü Khan’s rule came to an end, the complex was never put to use.

Kuitems is ecstatic about the find, since this means solar flare dating can be used to solve archaeological mysteries. And to think, they came very close to not solving anything at all. ‘We didn’t find the peak in an earlier wood sample’, she says. ‘We were really disappointed. But then it turned out that particular sample was missing its last tree rings.’

They hit pay dirt in the second sample, since that did contain the rings. ‘It was a close shave. We were really lucky.’

App to automatically register presence in FSE buildings

Photo by Reyer Boxem

App to automatically register presence in FSE buildings

The Faculty of Science and Engineering wants to automatically register staff members’ presence in its buildings using Eduroam. This means the existing app FSE Presence will have to be adjusted.

3 June om 9:54 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 June 2020
om 13:59 uur.
June 3 at 9:54 AM.
Last modified on June 3, 2020
at 13:59 PM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

3 June om 9:54 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 June 2020
om 13:59 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

June 3 at 9:54 AM.
Last modified on June 3, 2020
at 13:59 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Faculty of Science and Engineering staff members who are still in buildings like Nijenborgh 4 or the Linnaeusborg, buildings which both have large laboratories, have to register their presence through a website or the app FSE Presence. This is to ensure that emergency workers know where people are if something happens. In reality, however, people rarely register. 

‘The system isn’t working properly. It’s really people-dependent’, says biochemist and faculty council member Andy Thunissen. ‘I have the app on my phone’, says faculty council chair and astronomer Mariano Mendez. ‘But almost no one uses it.’ 

The faculty is now working on a new version that will use Eduroam checkpoints. Employees will only have to log on to the WiFi network once; after that, the system will automatically register their presence. The CIT also hopes to use the information to determine where in a building everyone is. 

Respect privacy

The faculty council said the idea in and of itself was a pretty good one. ‘In terms of safety, it’s important to know where people are in the building’, says Thunissen. ‘But it’s important to respect the users’ privacy.’

He doesn’t need to worry about that, according to FSE security expert Theodora Tiemersma-Wegman. ‘You can’t make an app without taking those privacy concerns into account.’ This means the app will not use any personal information while detecting the presence of staff members. The data collected will not be saved anywhere and will only be made available to the people who really need it. ‘On top of that, the app only works in FSE buildings. It won’t detect anyone logging on to the Eduroam network in, say, Rome.’

That still doesn’t mean that everyone will be using the app all the time. ‘Some people just object to it on principle’, says Thunissen. ‘We emphasised how important it is to get this right.’ Besides, says Thunissen, the app should be the only system. ‘It’s important that people have the ability to opt out.’ 

Principled objections

Tiemersma-Wegman can’t say yet whether using the new app will be mandatory. ‘We haven’t quite figured that out yet.’ She is aware that there will be people who forget their phone, people who don’t even own a smartphone, or people who object to being registered on principle. ‘No system is airtight’, she emphasises. ‘But this would be such a step forward that we want to develop it.’

Right now, they’re doing a test in the FSE buildings to determine whether the Wi-Fi network covers every nook and cranny. Tiemersma-Wegman hopes to be able to implement the app as soon as possible. Especially in these times of corona, it’s important to know how many people are in the buildings and where they are. She can’t name an exact date for the implementation. ‘But we’re trying for October.’

UG psychologist forces NWO to pay him damages

Stephan Schleim. Photo Elsbeth Hoekstra

25,000 for delayed research

UG psychologist forces NWO to pay him damages

Research financier NWO has to pay UG theoretical psychologist Stephan Schleim 25,000 euros in damages, the Dutch Council of State has ruled. It marks the end of an eight-year battle for a VENI grant.
6 May om 9:32 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 6 May 2020
om 12:45 uur.
May 6 at 9:32 AM.
Last modified on May 6, 2020
at 12:45 PM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

6 May om 9:32 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 6 May 2020
om 12:45 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

May 6 at 9:32 AM.
Last modified on May 6, 2020
at 12:45 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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‘It was an emotional moment’, Stephan Schleim admits, referring to when he read the Council of State’s judgement. It’s been eight years since he started his battle with research financier NWO, and there were times when he doubted there was any due process in the Netherlands.

But now it’s over: he not only received the 250,000 euro VENI grant he applied for in 2012 and which, it later turned out, he had been denied unjustly, but he’s also been awarded damages since his research, which didn’t get started until 2017, will cost more money because of the delay.  

It all started in 2011, when the German Schleim, who’d only just started his career at the UG, applied for a VENI grant. He wanted to study the role of individuals in neuroscientific research, which usually tries to make statements about groups of people.

But his application was denied. He feels the grounds for the rejection were wrong. Initially, he didn’t let it bother him, and submitted an improved application in 2012. ‘But that one was denied as well, and it was so clear that they’d made mistakes in the process that I decided to lodge a complaint’, he says.

Third place

The first time his application was evaluated, Schleim received the highest possible grade from the NWO referents, an A+. He was in third place out of 59 applicants and was through to the second interview round. Then, he suddenly dropped to nineteenth place, which meant he missed out on the grant.

‘The explanation was three short paragraphs containing incorrect information’, he says. It said that Schleim hadn’t properly explained how his research contributed to society. ‘But that had been a point of focus in my application’, he says. ‘It’s just that we didn’t talk about it in the interview.’

He suspects that his decision to do the interview in Dutch is what led to his rejection, when all he wanted to do was show he was committed to the Netherlands. ‘That was my mistake; my Dutch wasn’t good enough yet.’

On top of that, his interviewers were a geneticist, for whom psychology was not an area of expertise, and a social psychologist. ‘The latter said she didn’t understand my research.’ He thinks the motivation for his rejection was ‘a matter of copy and paste’. 

Legitimate objection

His objection was judged to be legitimate, but then NWO came up with another reason why they’d rejected his application. ‘The second time, they said I was too advanced in my career, and the third time they claimed I wasn’t helping them find a solution.’ 

In 2014, Schleim went to administrative court. ‘Then they came up with the rule that if your application had been unjustly denied, you had to submit a new one. I refused to accept that, but I know of other researchers who did that, and they all lost.’

In the end, the administrative court said he had a right to the grant. Nevertheless, Schleim appealed. ‘I wanted the judge to issue a substantive response to the grant rejection and how NWO had done things.’

The appeal worked out in his favour, but he still lacked a substantive response. In 2016, he went to court for damages, since the delay to his research meant his budget had now exceeded 250,000 euros. The Council of State awarded him 25,000 euros. 

Shocked

He never regretted his battle with NWO. ‘Looking back, it took so much time and effort. But it was also a great way to learn Dutch’, he says matter-of-factly. ‘I enjoy writing and I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude.’

Nevertheless, he’s shocked at the way the research financier deals with scientists and how it distributes grants. ‘Other researchers have told me the motivation for their rejections were incorrect, too’, he says. ‘They usually don’t kick up a fuss, since they’re afraid of being blacklisted.’

Too advanced

As for Schleim, the NWO hasn’t asked him to evaluate any grant applications since his appeal, something they used to do before 2012. He’s also no longer eligible for a VIDI, the follow-up grant for experienced researchers. ‘You’re not allowed to apply for a VIDI if you’re still working on a subsidised study’, he says. Since his VENI research was delayed by four years, he’s now too far advanced in his career for a VIDI.

In a response, NWO stated that they and Schleim disagree about the causal connection between the grant and the earlier rejection. ‘The court had initially ruled in favour of NWO. We’ve taken note of the Council of State’s ruling and will implement it.’

Why does corona affect people differently?

Lude Frank thinks it’s in the genes

Why does corona affect people differently?

Why do some people get incredibly sick from the coronavirus while others don’t notice a thing? Geneticist Lude Franke thinks it might have something to do with their genes. Franke is heading up a large-scale Lifelines study into corona symptoms that’s set to start this week.
1 April om 10:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 1 April 2020
om 10:16 uur.
April 1 at 10:16 AM.
Last modified on April 1, 2020
at 10:16 AM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

1 April om 10:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 1 April 2020
om 10:16 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

April 1 at 10:16 AM.
Last modified on April 1, 2020
at 10:16 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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That was fast! Doesn’t it usually take a little longer to set up a study like this?

‘Correct. We read all the news about how some people got sick from the virus while others didn’t. We suspected genetics played an important role in this. Through the biobank of Lifelines, we have access to the genetic information of 135,000 people in the north of the Netherlands. Approximately two weeks ago, we figured we might be able to use that.

We started making the switch. I hit pause on everything and collected a large team to focus on this. Everyone was like, this is exactly what we’re supposed to do. We’re not doing it alone, obviously.

We’re collaborating with UG Lifelines and the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health. We had to work really hard and coordinate a lot, but we’re ready to get going.’

The people who participated in Lifelines live in the north of the Netherlands, which fortunately hasn’t been hit as hard as the rest of the country. Is the data collected here even useful?

‘First, we’ll study people suffering from flu-like symptoms. We’ll ask them if they have any symptoms and what they are exactly. It could just be the flu, but it could also be a corona infection.

We’ll then look at locations in the DNA that could explain those symptoms. Once we’ve found those, we’ll need people who’ve been proven to have corona. Then we’re going to compare the effects in the large group to the much smaller group of confirmed corona patients to see if the latter has them as well.

I hit pause on everything and collected a large team to focus on this

In this two-step process, we only need to study a limited number of confirmed COVID-19 patients for the study to be statistically significant.’

Do you have any idea where to look for the genetic deviation? 

‘There’s a location on chromosome 6 which is known to cause a lot of autoimmune diseases. We suspect that people who have such a strong immune response to the virus might have a deviation on that chromosome. We’re looking at the HLA area on chromosome 6 and the KIR gene cluster on chromosome 19. First, though, we need to have all our data in order. Only then can we start studying it.’

Will we have to wait for another two years before you figure everything out?

‘No, not at all! We wanted to get started so quickly to make sure we could contribute. As soon as we collect the information from the Lifelines participants’ questionnaires, we’ll start our first round of analysis. We won’t be doing that alone, by the way; we’re working together with other large biobanks, like the one in Rotterdam and the Dutch Twin Register. I hope it’s just a matter of weeks before we have the first results.’

Will hospitals be able to test their patients for this specific gene profile?

‘Well… We’ll probably find something in the DNA pretty quickly, but I don’t think we’ll have a test ready on the short term or prevent people from getting sick. But once we’ve found those locations, we can figure out what it is they do. Which genes are they impacting, and which cells? Which biological processes were being disrupted?

We have no idea why the immune system goes berserk

Right now, we have no idea why the immune system goes berserk and why people’s lungs fill with fluid. Once we understand that, we’ll have information for the drug developers, so they know what to aim for.’

You also want to study how the virus spread. How does that work? How do you know who really has corona?

‘Everyone is waiting for what’s known as the serological test. The current COVID-19 test determines whether someone has the disease, but once they’re cured, the virus is gone. If we can find the antibodies that protect people from getting infected again, we can determine whether someone had it before. That allows us to look at the population and make a much more precise estimation of how deadly this virus is.

What we need right now is a lot of international funding to expand this research. We’re paying for everything ourselves right now; we were given money by the UG, the UMCG, and Lifelines.

We’ll need more if we want to do those serological tests later on. That would enable us to understand what really happened. The questionnaires from the study could be of great value if we know exactly who’s had the disease and who hasn’t.’

Surely it can’t be that difficult? 

‘You’d hope so, because this is of great importance to the whole country. Two days ago, Harvard virologist Jaap Goudsmit was a guest on the news programme Buitenhof, where he said that we have to systematically record this disease using biobanks like the Rotterdam study and Lifelines. He didn’t know that we would be announcing our study the next day.

What we now need is a lot of international funding to expand this research

Look, this biobank study is extremely important, but it’s difficult to convince policy makers of that. But this is the moment to tell them that research like this is essential to understanding how people’s health and bodies work.

This pandemic is having a colossal impact on the economy. Spend some money on research! It will most likely lead to better insights and more knowledge. If more governments used their biobanks like this, I definitely think it will yield a profit.’

Uncertainty around exams remains

Uncertainty around exams remains

Almost two weeks after the university cancelled all physical classes, there is still much uncertainty about what to do with the exams. Students are inundating their lecturers with e-mailed questions. But they don’t know what to tell them.
25 March om 12:09 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 25 March 2020
om 12:30 uur.
March 25 at 12:09 PM.
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Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

25 March om 12:09 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 25 March 2020
om 12:30 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

March 25 at 12:09 PM.
Last modified on March 25, 2020
at 12:30 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Volledig bio
Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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On Monday, the option to administer exams online became available. Lecturers can use Blackboard Collaborate for oral exams and presentations. Another option is an online written exam. But none of the options are really ideal. ‘Exams have to abide by certain rules and that’s harder to do online’, says UG spokesperson Gernant Deekens. ‘It’s up to the faculty exam committees and the faculties themselves.’

Exams have to meet the right requirements. They should test students’ knowledge of the material properly and cover all the relevant learning objectives, like expertise or analytical skills. Large multiple-choice exams are out, however, and making students do an assignment instead often means too much work for the lecturers. Then there’s the matter of making sure students don’t look up the answers online.

Open-book exams

‘I think we’ll be seeing a lot of open-book exams’, says health law professor Brigit Toebes. ‘We’re discussing the option, anyway.’ She thinks it might be a pretty good solution. ‘In the end, it’s much more like reality than a regular exam. We’re always looking stuff up in our work’, she says.

Pharmaceutical professor Eelko Hak spends most of his time on e-mail correspondence with the exam committee, he says. ‘Teaching online is going pretty well, but I’m mainly worried about the exams. Can we trust the students to do it themselves? Are their laptops and internet connections up to the task? How can I formulate the right questions to test for the learning goals?’

Student pledge

To prevent fraud, the university has included a student pledge in the online testing environment. Students pledge to take the exams by themselves and only use the materials that are allowed. They’re also reminded that fraud and plagiarism are serious offences and will be reported to the exam committee.

Finally, lecturers are advised to randomly contact students through video conferencing and ask them extra questions or ask them to provide additional information. 

Exams in june

No one is talking about rescheduling the exams, however. ‘We haven’t heard anything about that’, says business administration lecturer Derk-Jan Heslinga. He attended a webinar on online testing, but no one has provided any clarity on the issue. 

He argues that all exams should be postponed until June. ‘I think it would be best to schedule one big exam period in June and July, of six or seven weeks. That way, the lecturers have the opportunity to prepare and the ESI will have time to roll out the online options. An exam isn’t something you can just have a stab at. You have to get it right straight away.’

This isn’t the first time the UG has been on lockdown

The fish market at the Hoge der Aa, C.C.A Last, Collection Groninger Archives

In 1826, a disease also shut the uni down

This isn’t the first time the UG has been on lockdown

It’s not the first time the UG has closed its doors because of a mysterious disease. When the Groningen epidemic raged through the city in 1826, classes were cancelled for months, says UG historian Klaas van Berkel.
14 March om 17:59 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 11:39 uur.
March 14 at 17:59 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 11:39 AM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

14 March om 17:59 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 11:39 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

March 14 at 17:59 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 11:39 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Volledig bio
Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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In 1826, more than 10 percent of the people in Groningen died of a mysterious illness that would become known as the ‘Groningen epidemic’. ‘It was impossible to teach classes’, says Klaas van Berkel. ‘Students and lecturer were home, sick.’

Others were working on combating the disease, which was also known as ‘intermittent fevers’. People were laid up in bed and there weren’t nearly enough doctors to help them.

Astronomy professor Seerp Brouwer, who originally graduated from medical school, went back to work as a physician. Medical students helped out where they could. Professor Thomas á Thuessink and Bakker led an emergency hospital set up in the arsenal at the Turfsingel, where the Praedinius high school currently stands.

Panic

‘The city was panicking’, says Van Berkel. ‘No one knew what was going on. People isolated themselves out of fear back then as well.’

For a long time, malaria was thought to be the cause of the Groningen epidemic. But according to recent research by Ulco Kooystra with the Documentation Centre for Dutch Political Parties, this is not correct. Kooystra is working on a book about Sibrandus Stratingh, who made the first electric driving ‘car’ in 1835. Stratingh was laid up with the disease for two months.

‘I always felt malaria was an unusual explanation’, says Kooystra. ‘Sure, the disease was endemic at the time, but it was fairly mild in the Netherlands. It only killed the elderly and the weak. Not unlike corona, really. So why would it be killing all kinds of people now?’

Muck steps

His explanations is much more prosaic. ‘I think it was a combination of typhus and other bowel diseases, caused by contaminated surface water.’

Shortly before the disease struck, Groningen had switched to the barrel system to ‘collect poop and other faecal matter’ at people’s homes. These enormous amounts of faeces were left to drip dry on the ‘muck steps’. Once everything had dried out, it was transported to the Groningen bogs to be used as fertiliser.

The muck steps were located at the start of the Winschoterdiep in the south east of the city, where the river the Drentse Aa entered the city. ‘But it was in an open container, and it would overflow when it was raining. The seepage would contaminate the clean water flowing into the canals.

Canal water

People drank the water from the canals and then pooped it out again, bacteria and all. ‘That’s how that worked.’ No wonder, then, that the disease especially affected the poorer neighbourhoods, as the people there couldn’t afford to drink beer or wine.

The disease was finally under control when the then still very modern solution of chlorine was used, recommended by, among others, Stratingh. ‘Chlorine and chlorine compounds had only just been discovered. People didn’t know anything about bacteria back then, so they thought it was the strong smell that killed the pathogenic miasmas in the air’, says Kooystra.

Chlorine

Groningen was the first city that used chlorine to combat an epidemic. ‘It’s also possible people were less susceptible to it’, says Kooystra.

In the end, the university didn’t start classes again until December, just before the Christmas holidays. But don’t think the UG took things easy.

‘They made up for lost time by cancelling all vacations the next year’, says Van Berkel. ‘They did the same thing after the war. Education had come to a virtual standstill during the last year of the war, even though the university was officially still open. After the liberation, they taught two years’ worth of classes in a single year.’

Scholarship PhD’s flyer to protest their situation

Scholarship PhD’s flyer to protest their situation

As of today protesting scholarship PhD’s will flood the university with their ‘Now Hiring’ posters. By spreading their pamphlet the scholarship PhD’s want to point out their unequal work situation to potentially new PhD candidates.
5 March om 11:25 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 March 2020
om 11:25 uur.
March 5 at 11:25 AM.
Last modified on March 5, 2020
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Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

5 March om 11:25 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 March 2020
om 11:25 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

March 5 at 11:25 AM.
Last modified on March 5, 2020
at 11:25 AM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Volledig bio
Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Despite heavy criticism from current scholarship PhD’s and the Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) the UG just started recruiting new scholarship PhD’s.

‘This leads to dissatisfaction and agitation amongst the current scholarship PhD’s’, says Fieke Visser, one of the protesting PhD’s. ‘Many want to protect future scholarship PhD’s from this kind of contract.’

Job vacancy

The text on the posters
reads like a regular job vacancy, but warns future scholarship PhD’s for the inequality
of their position. ‘Would you like to earn on average 20.000 to 30.000 less
over your PhD-trajectory than your fellow employee PhD? Get the honoured title ‘student’
instead of staff? Be at risk of around 38% or higher to experience serious mental
health issues? (…) Yes? Then the University of Groningen is looking for YOU!’

With this campaign the PhD’s refer to a similar campaign held by PhD’s at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in 1998.

Court cases

Back then scholarship PhD’s also protested their unequal position with satirical recruitment flyers. The protests against what was then known as the ‘bursary system’ led to a series of court cases, which the UvA eventually lost in 2004.

The Dutch High Council ruled that the PhD’s were treated as employees and therefore should also be paid as such. A couple of years later the UG started working with scholarship PhD’s, which led to the current ‘experiment’ for which the Dutch minister of education allowed the university to hire PhD’s on a scholarship.

Increase in incident reports during introduction period

Increase in incident reports during introduction period

The number of reports to the Advice Committee for Orientation (ACI) has increased last year. A total of 49 incidents at student associations were reported.
17 February om 16:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 February 2020
om 16:58 uur.
February 17 at 16:58 PM.
Last modified on February 17, 2020
at 16:58 PM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

17 February om 16:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 February 2020
om 16:58 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 17 at 16:58 PM.
Last modified on February 17, 2020
at 16:58 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Twenty of these incidents took place during the introduction period. Most of the reports (36) concerned general student associations, but incidents also took place at study associations and sports clubs.

The ACI is actually happy with the increase in reports. ‘This means people feel comfortable reporting something’, the committee writes in its annual report. In 2018, there were twenty-six incidents reported. Interestingly enough, back then, the ACI called this number ‘too high’.

Fights

In several cases, the incident concerned an accident. Some of the reports, however, were of fights. Some of these have been reported to the police. ‘In all cases, the ACI feels the boards of the organisations concerned acted correctly after the incident’, the ACI says.

The number of associations that have submitted a plan for their introduction period to the ACI has also increased once again. A total of sixty-seven associations did so this year, five up from last year.

It turns out the ACI is definitely taking these plans seriously. Only sixteen associations’ plans were given the green light, while twenty-nine clubs were sent back to the drawing board.

‘Schools’ to facilitate interdisciplinary research

‘Schools’ to facilitate interdisciplinary research

Over the next few years, the RUG wants to set up interdisciplinary ‘schools’. These would enable researchers from different faculties to work together with universities of applied sciences, corporations, and social organisations on current themes.
17 February om 13:59 uur.
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om 13:59 uur.
February 17 at 13:59 PM.
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Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

17 February om 13:59 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 February 2020
om 13:59 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 17 at 13:59 PM.
Last modified on February 17, 2020
at 13:59 PM.

The RUG cites the successful Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health as an example. At this school, the university is collaborating with the UMCG and Hanze University of Applied Sciences on research, education, and advice on healthy ageing.

Strategic plan

The new schools, which are an important part of the RUG’s strategic plan, will focus on the themes of energy transition and climate change, public health, technology and digital society, and sustainable society. The activities will be expressly determined by the contributions of social parties. The schools will be set up for a period of five years, after which they’ll be replaced by new schools if necessary.

‘We’re building on existing structures’, said rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga during a university council meeting. ‘But we know that we can’t roll out everything at once. Bringing together that which we already have isn’t all that complicated but improving on it is exciting. We’ll be discussing the ins and outs of that in the period ahead.’

Interdisciplinary

The interdisciplinary nature of the schools is an essential characteristic. Collaboration between researchers from different faculties or disciplines has proven difficult. The schools should make this easier. ‘Think of a building, an innovation lab, where people can get together’, says university president Jouke de Vries.

The costs for the schools would be paid for from the RUG’s central policy funds. This means the faculties won’t have to worry about spending any of their current budgets.

The Feringa Building has found a contractor

The Feringa Building has found a contractor

The RUG has finally found a contractor for the technical infrastructure of the Feringa Building. On Wednesday, the university will sign the contract with De Groot-Lammerink Installatiecombinatie. They’ll start on the construction almost immediately.

12 February om 11:17 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2020
om 12:45 uur.
February 12 at 11:17 AM.
Last modified on February 12, 2020
at 12:45 PM.


Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

12 February om 11:17 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2020
om 12:45 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 12 at 11:17 AM.
Last modified on February 12, 2020
at 12:45 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Almost a year ago, contracting for the job stalled as a judge intervened. UCE, a consortium made up of three companies, was in the running for the longest time. However, the RUG felt their offer of 90 million euros was too high and ended up employing a third party which offered to do the job for ten million less. UCE went to court, and the RUG was reprimanded. They shouldn’t have circumvented the tender process.

The new contract has finally been drawn up: De Groot-Lammerink will place all installations that are needed for the building’s climate regulation, water and electricity supply. The contractor will also perform maintenance on the building for the next ten years.

The holdup doesn’t seem to have led to any insurmountable issues. The construction and technical infrastructure need to be coordinated, but construction company Ballast Nedam won’t start ‘real’ construction until now. They have already installed two thousand piles. 

The RUG is not quite done yet. They still have to find someone to install three kilometres worth of lab tables, 450 fume hoods, and thirty laser labs.

Construction of the gas-free Feringa Building, which will be 62,000 square metres, has been happening in fits and starts. The tender process for the construction was halted in 2017 because the improving economy drove up prices. Ballast Nedam wasn’t hired until January 2018. The building is projected to be finished halfway through 2023. 

New organisation tasked with saving FSE educational quality

New organisation tasked with saving FSE educational quality

The structure of education at the science faculty is a mess. Reorganising it should solve the issue. But the changes are drastic and are being implemented quite hastily, the faculty council says.

11 February om 17:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 17:21 uur.
February 11 at 17:20 PM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 17:21 PM.

Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

11 February om 17:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 17:21 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 11 at 17:20 PM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 17:21 PM.

Last year’s report didn’t mince words. The educational quality at the Faculty of Science and Engineering was in danger. Work stress was high, people didn’t quite know who was in charge of what, and in some places working conditions were ‘impossible’, said the report, written by a special committee that investigated the situation. Now, there’s a plan to change it. Last week, the faculty council voted in favour of the main ideas. 

The biggest change is the introduction of one big educational institute, a merger of the current Education Support Centre (ESC), the undergraduate school (USSC), and part of the graduate school (GSSE), managed by an education management team. Each research institute will get its own director of education, who will be in charge of communicating with researchers. 

The thirty-seven study programmes at the faculty will be put into six clusters. This should decrease the distance that employees from the educational organisation and the research institutes feel exists between them. A committee of faculty educational experts will be advising the faculty board and the research management team. 

Organised

‘We really needed a change’, says education coordinator Eva Teuling, who will be keeping an eye on the operation on behalf of the faculty council. ‘We consider clustering and education director a good solution. It makes everything a little smaller and more organised.’ 

A graduate school will focus on the PhD programme and will be separate to the educational organisation. ‘There isn’t much overlap between the master programmes and the PhD programme’, the plan says. ‘There’s no reason to think this will change.’ 

Teuling is essentially in favour of the plan, but she’s critical of how quickly it’s being implemented. The implementation team will start working this month, and the new organisation should start work in September 2020. ‘There are many people who wouldn’t have minded postponing it for another year’, she says. ‘But the board didn’t want the staff to have to wait another year for answers about what was going to happen. I feel differently about that, but it’s fine, I guess.’

Stress

The plan doesn’t solve another pressing issue: the work stress. ‘It’s an entirely different problem’, says Teuling. ‘People still have to teach just as much in the same amount of time.’ She does think the new organisation might make people less frustrated.

The faculty council may have agreed to the plan’s basic ideas, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change during the implementation phase. The faculty board wants to see if it’s possible to decrease the number of exam committees. They might want just one exam committee per cluster, or even just a single large committee consisting of ‘chambers’ providing expertise on various courses. 

The council was especially hesitant about this plan. If the faculty board wants to make any changes in this regard, they have to go past the faculty council. 

RUG will better protect network from hackers

Two-step verification to be implemented

RUG will better protect network from hackers

Logging on to your RUG account using only a password will soon be a thing of the past. The RUG is switching to two-step verification.
10 February om 14:01 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2020
om 10:05 uur.
February 10 at 14:01 PM.
Last modified on February 12, 2020
at 10:05 AM.

The University of Maastricht isn’t the only educational institute that got spooked by the hack that crippled their entire network. Other universities also quickly did a check of their digital systems. The RUG has decided to switch to two-step verification. 

‘The damage we’d suffer if we were taken offline is too big to risk it’, said portfolio manager Hans Biemans with the university board during the university council committee meeting. ‘Anyone who wants to log on will also receive a code on their cell phone.’

Extra vulnerable

Just like many other large universities, the RUG is constantly under attack from hackers and phishing mails. So far, they’ve always been successful in fending off the attacks, but after Maastricht was forced to pay two hundred thousand euros to hackers, the university board is worried. ‘As a research university, we have a lot of research data and studies that run for years, which makes us extra vulnerable’, said Biemans.

The university also investigated whether they could insure themselves against a hacking. This is currently not easily done. At the very least, the university would be subjected to an audit, which would register all the risks and calculate ways to overcome these.

 It’s not yet clear when the extra security step will be implemented. There were previous plans for two-step verification, but the project was postponed. That is no longer an option. Biemans: ‘This decision is supported.’

Scholarship PhD manifesto presented to Lower House

Lucille Mattijssen with PNN (far left) wants PhDs to be appreciated more. On the right, Fieke Visser, spokesperson for the Groningen PhD students.

Scholarship PhD manifesto presented to Lower House

Groningen PhDs and the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN) have presented their manifesto to the Lower House on Tuesday. They demand an end to the scholarship PhD experiment.
4 February om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 February 2020
om 16:48 uur.
February 4 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on February 4, 2020
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Christien Boomsma

Door Christien Boomsma

4 February om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 February 2020
om 16:48 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 4 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on February 4, 2020
at 16:48 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
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Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Full bio

The manifesto, which has been signed by 239 scholarship PhDs, almost all PhD councils, and a large number of interest groups, was received by the members of the standing parliamentary committee on education, culture, and science.

‘We unfortunately didn’t feel heard by our university’s board’, spokesperson Fieke Visser, scholarship PhD at spatial sciences, said in a statement. ‘We’ve had talks with them, but it’s become clear that they don’t take the issues we raise in the manifesto seriously.’

They acknowledge that the experiment’s goal, to improve the knowledge society, is a noble one, they feel the implementation isn’t up to snuff. ‘No one, not you, not minister Van Engelshoven, not the RUG board, can distinguish between scholarship PhDs and employed PhDs when they walk into our offices. That’s not because there’s anything wrong with your eyes, but because scholarship and employed PhDs do the exact same work’, says Visser. 

They once again demand an end to the experiment, compensation, and the option to have their scholarship contract changed to a regular employee contract. 

Wrong decision

Visser and her partners hope that the Lower House, who previously enforced a continuation of the experiment, can realise that the experiment has failed. ‘And that it’s important that we put an end to it as quickly as possible.’

The five Groningen scholarship PhDs were accompanied by PNN chairperson Lucille Mattijssen. ‘We hope to make them realise that we’re serious and that the experiment should not be continued’, says Mattijssen. ‘PhDs are a valuable contribution to universities’ output and should be appreciated. If you want to create more positions and decide to chip away at the terms of employment, you’ve made the wrong decision. You can’t have something for nothing.’ 

Groningen scholarship PhDs published a manifesto in December, in which they demand an immediate end to the experiment that allows people to get a PhD degree on a scholarship. They pointed out that there are barely any differences to regular PhD candidates. However, scholarship PhDs receive a 1,700 euro scholarship, and get no pension, nor other secondary terms of employment.

Philosophy also ends scholarship PhD positions

Another faculty changes its mind

Philosophy also ends scholarship PhD positions

After the law faculty, the Faculty of Philosophy has also decided to no longer employ scholarship PhDs. The faculty says that having two types of PhD candidates is ‘not desirable’.
3 February om 15:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 February 2020
om 15:05 uur.
February 3 at 15:05 PM.
Last modified on February 3, 2020
at 15:05 PM.


Christien Boomsma

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3 February om 15:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 February 2020
om 15:05 uur.
Christien Boomsma

By Christien Boomsma

February 3 at 15:05 PM.
Last modified on February 3, 2020
at 15:05 PM.
Christien Boomsma

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Volledig bio
Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Full bio

For 2020, philosophy only has to PhD positions available instead of the four they had previously. Both positions are for employees, not scholarship PhDs.

‘It’s a deliberate decision’, says director of the Graduate School of Philosophy Han Thomas Adriaenssen. ‘We felt it was no longer acceptable for there to be a difference between our PhD candidates.’

NWO norm

Since research financier NWO only provides employee positions for PhDs, the faculty has decided to follow their norm, since ‘we’ll always have employed PhDs’. Unfortunately, this meant that the faculty had fewer positions available; employed PhDs are more expensive.

Philosophy will not be exploring how to compensate the current scholarship PhDs. ‘That is currently not something we’re talking about.’

The national experiment that pays PhDs a scholarship rather than salary has been met with much criticism. The scholarship PhDs earn several hundred euros less a month than employed PhDs. They also don’t earn a pension, get no vacation pay or year-end bonus.

Manifesto

Last December, Groningen PhD candidates published a manifesto in which they demanded an immediate end to the experiment. This manifesto has since been translated nine hundred times. 236 of the signatures are from scholarship PhDs.

In spite of the criticism, the RUG has decided to recruit 650 scholarship PhDs over the next few years.