2018: Rethinking Science

One thing we really like about our new motto is that it playfully hints at the anagramic relationship between WUR|RUW, thereby reflecting the university’s profile as a life sciences institute, and showing the powerful feedback loop between the two life science organizations. To actually start working our newly imagined motto and to really start putting life science into perspective this year, we chose theRethinking Science’ year theme for the 2018/2019 cycle. We think this year theme is timed right because globally amounting urgency for answers to environmental changes is ever increasing. Our hypothesis is, that due to increasing resource constraints – who still has time, space and energy to think and act critically? – , quality of academic output in Wageningen is decreasing, and that gaps between robust scientific inquiry, critical answers, and actual policy arrangements are increasing.

To test our hypothesis, we are opening a communal dialogue about the scientific process in Wageningen, starting from the open and critical questions:

  1. What makes good science?
  2.  Is the University in Wageningen enabling us to do our work as good as we want/should?
  3. What do we want/need to transform?

Next to these questions, we are dividing the year theme on different tracks, namely: the ‘State-of-Science’ track, ‘The Future Table’ track, and a new, but recurring ‘Natural Practice‘ track. In all these tracks we will take a developmental approach, which means that we are shaping and planning our activities grounded in insight and data derived from previous events in our programming.

We discuss all tracks in more detail below:

State-of-Science track

The state-of-science track was first conceptualized by David about 1,5 years ago. Due to a growing feeling that he didn’t know what made the scientific process in Wageningen ‘Scientific’, he reached out to Wiebe Aans, from Studium Generale, to start a conversation. Soon after the other critical groups and the Education and Learning studies group got involved in the discussion, and consent grew about the necessity of a more thorough inquiry into the scientific process here. As of now, the state-of-science track has already resulted in two events, a one-time ‘living room for Dialogue’ on the grass before Forum and a well-designed event about ‘Creativity in Science’ with WUR”s own Marten Scheffer and Paul Roncken (two highly creative and integrated explorers). See pictures.

We continue the state-of-science track the 28th of November – 19:30-22:30, @H41 -, when we organize our first informal State-of-Science dialogue in Wageningen. The goal of this evening will be to casually broaden our perception about what it means to work in science via personal stories in a World Café type of setting. The experience we gather from this evening will be used for the organization of a bigger and more direct science dialogue event on campus in January. After which, we hope to have facilitated such a spur that new spin-off events and programs are instigated immediately.

As an integral part of our state-of-science track, we also started a new round of the critical ‘RUW book club‘. This time we are reading ‘Hamburgers in Paradise’; the book in which President Prof. Louise Fresco discusses her views on the past, present, and future of our food systems. Prof. Fresco is a super productive, very influential, and multi-dimensional writer and communicator, whose thoughts, and the resulting vision for our future, are often leading for the positioning of Wageningen UR in the world. Therefore, we think Hamburgers in Paradise will not only introduce very interesting themes to study as an actor in Wageningen, but also believe that studying her work will help us deepen the scientific character of the university by facilitating informed and constructive critique on one of its most influential contributors

The Future Table track

The Future Table is a documentary about the future of food, considering 4 challenges: health, innovation, climate, and circularity. This project was initiated by RUW Foundation, who selected and facilitated a group of highly motivated and creative students to show Wageningen’s different visions on how we should design our food system. This is a very special project mainly because the team created a neutral space for interviewees to show their visions (eating organic, GMOs, insects, vegan, local, fair trade, etc).

The documentary is a great tool to facilitate discussions about sustainable food. So, for this upcoming year, we will focus on spreading it to the world by three main strategies: 1) online intervention; 2) participating in festivals; and, 3) organizing workshops.

In the online intervention, we are using a series of social media to promote de documentary: RUW’s website, RUW’s blog, Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube. This is been done organically by the help of many people, and that is our plan for future actions as well. So far, we added subtitles in 5 different languages (Dutch, English, French, Mandarin, and Portuguese). For the workshops and festivals, we participated in September in the WUR100FEST in September and in the Serious Sustainable Week in October, together with the 100 years organization, The Green Office and Foodsharing. 

The Natural Practice track (long-term project)

This track is our freshest idea, and therefore still a concept. However, sparks are ignited and people are talking and therefore we feel that it does deserve a place in the year plan. This project will be centered around the forest on the Wageningse berg, where now the eco-village Ppauw is located. Most likely the inhabitants of the eco-village will leave in three years to make room for the construction of a residential area. We think that this would be a sad story for the beautiful forest, but a great opportunity for students to use their scientific knowledge to fantasize about other future possibilities in this area. In cooperation with the people from Future for Nature Academy Wageningen, we have therefore started to develop ideas on how to give students the opportunity to design an alternative destination plan. We feel this challenge will facilitate ample opportunity for critical reflection on such topics as natural values, financial return, business cases or the value of alternative ways of living, and getting to see how these ideas work in practice. This way students will be able to project and play with their knowledge in a real-life fashion, and we might help the forest to function optimally towards the 4 P’s: People, Planet, Peace, and Prosperity.

Recurring

In addition to the new tracks, we are going to reinvent and reinstall some activities that have always worked for RUW. These include the ‘Grass Roots Science’ series, the ‘Regreening Introduction Days’, and our  ‘Tour the Wageningen’ at the beginning of the school year. Especially our tour the Wageningen will undergo a dramatic transformation, as we aim to start offering it commercially on the mid-long term for all groups interested Wageningen and its landscapes. 

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