The first week of December, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel organizes an ‘Ethics Week‘ with a focus on research ethics. They explicitly invite people from the Slow Science Network to participate and/or share their critical questions.
The topics discussed include issues that are central to the slow science movement , such as the problem of “publish or perish” and discussions related to positionality and diversity.
For more information and to register, see the website.
On Thursday, we met in Brussels at KULeuven, campus Brussel.
We started the day with a session on the topic of ‘Publish and/or perish’. The session was opened by our very own Freek Van Deynze. Freek gave us a general overview of the current state of academia in Flanders, with a special focus on the relation between the funding of the universities and publication pressure.Jon Tennant provided a passionate plea for Open Science (and against greedy publishers such as Elsevier, and related evils such as the journal impact factor). Consistent with his plea for Open Access, Jon’s presentation at our course can be found here. Next, Reine Meylaerts, vice-rector of research policy at KULeuven, talked about the societal impact of research and the complexity related to its assessment. We concluded the session with a general discussion, in which our participants shared their experiences.
In the afternoon, we held a session on gender and diversity. Nellie Konijnendijk informed us about the ubiquity of implicit bias, and ways it could be addressed. The session included a practical exercise, in which the participants reflected on ways to make academia more inclusive.
In the evening, we organized a public debat in collaboration with Muntpunt. With Barbara Van Dyck as moderator, we shared our thoughts on the challenges posed by climate change and the role that the universities could/should play in addressing these issues. Our panel consisted of Anneleen Kenis, Chloé Verlinden, Mohamed Al Marchohi, and Tom Cox. Anneleen Kenis is an interdisciplinary geographer, with a background in political/ human ecology, sustainable development and psychology. Chloé Verlinden represented Students4Climate. She is a Master student in Urban Studies (VUB-ULB), with a background in political sciences and anthropology. Mohamed Al Marchohi is currently working for GO! as an energy and climate policy advisor. In the past he worked for the Social-Economic Council of Flanders (SERV), he also conducted research in the field of Energy- and Environmental Economics at the University of Antwerp. Tom Cox is a civil engineer, he is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp, where he is affiliated to the Ecosystem Management research group. He was affiliated with the recent scientists4climate movement and has also been involved in other forms of climate activism (e.g. GroeNoord). The panelists provided their perspective on the issues at hand. One of the main points under discussion was the role of academics. Mohamed stated that part of the problem is that a lot of people are still not convinced that climate change is a problem. It therefore remains an important taks for academics to inform the public. Tom doubted whether this was the central problem, and countered that facts do not necessarily lead to action. He also voiced his doubts about the role of academia. First, academics are not special, they are just ordinary citizens. Moreover, academics (according to him) are bad agents of change. On an institutional level, he observed that universities do not make change happen. The lack of radical actions taken by universities  is a slap in the face of climate scientists. Chloé also noted a lack of action and mobilization amongst professors, but added that this was a problem in the student population as well. According to Anneleen, the lack of action taken by the universities themselves is especially disappointing given the fact that the measures to be taken are actually quite clear. Anneleen further applauded Students4Climate for their commitment, but had reservations about the way in which Students4Climate and Youth4Climate presented climate change as a future threat, whereas the consequences of climate change are already being felt, especially in the more vulnerable regions of the world. This led to a discussion of the issue of (white) privilege in relation to climate change.
On Friday, we met in Ghent for the session hosted by Ghent University. This day focused on action. The morning session was organized by Omar Jabary Salamanca and Siggie Vertommen, who are both involved in the slow science network (and have organised the seminal edition of this doctoral course). Omar gave a short presentation on the roots and history of slow science. Siggie talked about slow science as a feminist issue. Siggie and Omar had invited Shiri Shalmy to give a presentation about antiuniversity. After that, we analyzed the landscape of the university and reflected on a better university and ways in which it could be attained.
Tomorrow and the day after we will hold the second and third session of our doctoral school. We will keep you posted about this!
The doctoral course also includes a debate, which is open to all. In the debate, we will look at the role that the universities can and should play in addressing the challenges posed by climate change. Admission to the debate is free, but you have to register, which you can do here.
Related to the topic of the debate: a group of academics have recently written an open letter, urging the universities to do more to become committed players in the ecological and social transition.
Rather than starting from a predetermined programme and set of topics, we used open space technology (under the skilful guidance of Elvira) to allow the participants to come up with topics which they felt were relevant. Among other topics, we talked in small groups about the tension between teaching and research, the “ivory tower”, decolonization, scientific method and objectivity, and mental health. Patricia Schor, who had kindly agreed to provide her own reflections based on the input provided by the participants, went from group to group to collect impressions. After the individual group sessions, we ended with a collective forum where the groups informed each other about the points that had been discussed. Patricia Schor shared her impressions and thoughts.
We were very glad to see that the course had attracted a heterogeneous group of people, coming from different disciplines (both from the humanities and natural sciences) and from different backgrounds (both Belgian and international Phd-students). Because the format was based on the active participation of the attendants and because it allowed them to share their own experiences, we were able to get to know each other and create a positive group dynamic.
We are looking forward to the next sessions on april 25 and 26. We will keep you posted!
In the context of the course, we are also organizing a public debate. Those interested are more than welcome!
The first week of December, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel organizes an ‘Ethics Week‘ with a focus on research ethics. They explicitly invite people from the Slow Science Network to participate and/or share their critical questions. The topics discussed are:
In June this year, the Slow Science Network published an op-ed on the problematic nature of the influence of the military industry and the arms lobby on European policy, especially with regard to scientific research.
On 29 November, we will take nonviolent action at the conference of the European Defense Agency in Brussels. Arms dealers and policy makers meet behind closed doors and decide what the world of tomorrow will look like. Critical voices are not welcome.
We invite ourselves and enter the conference to make our voice heard.
Our politicians are outsourcing the security and migration policy to the arms industry. The results are appalling: the conference theme speaks for itself: ‘From unmanned to autonomous systems: trends, challenges and opportunities’. In other words: how can we make killer robots and deploy them in wars?
We will not let that happen overnight. Our future is at stake. We are going to the conference to make the case for a safe and peaceful Europe on a human scale, for sustainable solutions and good governance.
** Want to join or know more? **
Send a PM or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you more info soon.