Millions for research projects into urgent issues

A total of 21 consortia will work as teams on interdisciplinary research that will bring scientific and societal breakthroughs within reach. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is official secretary of three projects and participates in four.

11/25/2020 | 11:37 AM

In the projects, the entire knowledge chain and societal organisations, both public and private, will work closely together. The projects receive funding in the second round of the Dutch Research Agenda Programme: Research along Routes by Consortia (NWA-ORC).

Broad collaboration on urgent issues
Productive interaction and active interdisciplinary collaboration within the knowledge chain and with societal parties are vitally important for achieving scientific and societal breakthroughs. Consortia of researchers and societal partners from the public, semi-public and private sectors are therefore working together intensively to shape, realise and apply research. The projects awarded funding focus on questions from society, which form the substantive agenda of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA). 

The consortia constitute a broad representation of knowledge and also societal partners. These range from public parties like museums, hospitals, universities and knowledge institutions from the Netherlands and abroad, to foundations, patient associations and other citizens initiatives, municipalities, provinces and government ministries. The private sector is well represented too.

Grants for VU Amsterdam as secretary:

Towards a new balance in empowerment and protection of the elderly: A legal empirical perspective 
A multidisciplinary research team, headed by Masha Antokolskaia, VU professor of Private and Family Law, has been awarded 2 million euros. The team consists of the VU researchers Catrien Bijleveld (VU/NSCR), professor of methods and techniques of criminological research, Kees Blankman, VU professor legal protection of Elderly People and Adults with Disabilities, VUmc researcher Eefje Sizoo, as well as Wendy Schrama, professor of family and comparative law at Utrecht University, and Leon Verstappen professor of notarial law at the University Groningen. The aim of the research is to present, in close cooperation with the consortium partners, within six years a proposal for an up-to-date, evidence-based system of legal protection for the elderly. A system that will give the elderly a more dignified old age with more control over their own life, better quality of legal decision-making, better awareness of their rights, and, at the same time, more protection against abuse.

Pressing Matter: Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums
There is collaboration with, among others, the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Leiden University, NIOD. Pressing Matter investigates the potentialities of “colonial objects” to support societal reconciliation with the colonial past and its afterlives, and reconcile conflicting claims by different stakeholders for these objects within museums. The project will develop and tests new models of ownership, value and return that may enable futures that are more equitable.

Don’t be late! Postponing cognitive decline and preventing early unemployment in patients with multiple sclerosis 
A multidisciplinary research team led by brain scientist Hanneke Hulst from Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc, will receive 1.6 million euros. When patients with multiple sclerosis report cognitive and work-related problems, these problems are often too advanced for treatment. Intervening sooner rather than later is crucial, requiring a paradigm shift from symptom management towards prevention of symptoms. By focussing on prevention, quality of life and participation in society will be enhanced. There is collaboration with, among others, Leiden University and MS association Netherlands.

Projects in which VU Amsterdam participates:

Opening the Black Box of Deep Learning for Language, Speech and Music 
Secretariat Jelle Zuidema of the University of Amsterdam will receive 1.9 million euros for the project in which VU Amsterdam is also participating. Deep learning is producing AI models so accurate that they are significantly affecting individuals, businesses and society. New responsibilities and questions are arising, and the poor interpretability of deep learning is a serious limitation. The consortium studies how to make deep learning transparent and ‘explainable’ for speech, language, and music applications. Computational linguist Antske Fokkens participates from VU Amsterdam.

Save the tiger! Save the grasslands! Save the water! 
Secretariat Jasper Griffioen of Utrecht University will receive: 2.7 million euros for the research project in which VU Amsterdam is also participating. Less than 4000 wild tigers are alive. At the foot of the Himalayas, grasslands where the tigers hunt for deer are disappearing. The ecohydrological dynamics of these grasslands becomes characterised. From this, we will establish guidelines for sustainable management of the landscape and the water systems using co-creation. Ecologists Hans Cornelissen and  Rien Aerts participates from VU Amsterdam.

eHealth Junior
Secretariat Manon Hillegers of Erasmus MC will receive 4.9 million euros for the research project in which VU Amsterdam also participates. Within eHealth junior, care professionals, patients, business partners, and government collaborate to develop high quality eHealth tools for one million chronically ill children. These tools allow personalized and trans-diagnostic prevention of psychological problems and optimal participation. eHealth tools will be made widely available through accessible, user-friendly, safe, and sustainable platforms.

Looking for the limes: the Romans in the Netherlands 
Secretariat Saskia Stevens of Utrecht University will receive 4.1 million euros for the research project in which the VU also participates. This project investigates how borders work and how they can become visible as cultural and political constructs. It looks particularly at the limes, the border of the Roman Empire in the Netherlands, how it was constructed and what its societal impact has been from the Roman period until today.

A team of archaeologists led by VU researcher Stijn Heeren, affiliated with the Faculty of Humanities, investigates the borderland in ancient times: the Roman garrisons of the border itself and the settlements of the local population within and outside the border are studied, whereby The central question is whether the border was open or closed: to what extent could passenger and goods transport take place, and how did military and civil border traffic change the economy and cultural habits of border communities? Citizen participation (citizen science) plays an important role: old collections of finds and documentation of excavations are made public with the help of volunteers. The successful PAN project, a collaborative network of universities, government institutions, museums and De Nederlandsche Bank that aims to inventory private archaeological finds and which is already underway at VU Amsterdam, will be given a new role in this research.

Dutch Research Agenda
Commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), NWO has been funding research in the context of the Dutch National Research Agenda since 2018. The aim of the research in the Agenda is to make a permanent positive contribution to the future knowledge society by building bridges in the present and joining forces to address scientific and social challenges. Steps are being taken to achieve this aim through an annual funding round by the NWA-ORC. This science-wide funding round focuses on enabling interdisciplinary research and innovation that can be used to bring social and scientific breakthroughs within reach.

More information about all research projects on the website of NWO.