“Walloons go home!” A little appetiser for our April debate


These precognizant protesters knew how this language thing was gonna play out in the end

The expanding use of English, both in scientific communication and in the classroom,  has gone by almost unnoticed and seems to only be contested in the margins. However, this is not without consequences, both for the kind of research that is performed, as for the ease with which scientific knowledge flows back to the rest of society. Moreover, the use of English may disadvantage those students that for whatever reason are not as fluent.

Placed in a historical perspective, this is somewhat peculiar. The linguistic emancipatory goes back a hundred years, and it is not until the thirties that students were able to follow courses in the Dutch language at Belgian universities (bar a somewhat embarrassing period under German occupation during the World War I) . But even so, this was not the case at all universities, nor for all disciplines. Still, an important demand had been fulfilled.

However, up until the sixties there remained a bilingual university in Leuven, two different structures under the same heading, enforced by the Belgian bishops who governed the universities. This proved to be a thorn in the eye for Flemish nationalists, and when their demands were rejected by the clerical authorities, they found themselves supported by others who wished to do away with the old bourgeouis establishment. This culminated in massive street protests, riding on the general wave of student protests in the wake of May ’68. Science and education in the language of the people, would also bring it closer to the people, as it was assumed.

Though the University of Leuven was stricly speaking a private university, and not under governmental control, the contestation led to the fall of a government, and was eventually resolved by the expulsion of the Francophone part of the university. The cows and sheep of Ottignies lost their grazing fields as a new city and university was erected on rural Walloon soil; Louvain-la-Neuve, literally ‘New Leuven’.

For some, this had the air of ethnic cleansing. Others were put at ease by the thought that the Francophone wing of the Catholic University of Leuven would no longer serve as a beachhead for French incursions into Flemish territory, which had been officially and legally defined by the drawing of the linguistic border in 1962.

So now, almost fifty years later, Dutch is again losing footing to another language. Are the issues that lay at the base of this struggle still relevant in our globalized world today, or is this no more than a rearguard fight of some disgruntled banner waving nationalists? We can’t pretend to answer this question for you, but we can find an outlet for you to debate these and other issues; at deBuren in Brussels, on the 23rd of April.

Be there, or remain forever ignorant!


KU Leuvense rector Luc Sels belooft ontwikkeling academisch mensenrechtencharter

dscf4664.jpgNaar aanleiding van de ethische bezwaren van een academische actiegroep tegen Law-Train, een internationaal onderzoeksproject over het verbeteren van ondervragingstechnieken, waarbij de KU Leuven maar ook de Israëlische politie betrokken zijn, heeft rector van de KU Leuven, Luc Sels, een blogpost geschreven.

Daarin verdedigt hij drie punten, waarvan er twee prima zijn:

  1. de KU Leuven-onderzoeksgroep kan het lopende project, dat eindigt in april 2018, verder afwerken;

  2. de KU Leuven zal, in voorkomend geval, niet participeren in een vervolgproject met het huidige consortium;

  3. de KU Leuven engageert zich om een mensenrechtencharter te ontwikkelen dat in de toekomst een betere houvast kan bieden bij de deelname aan onderzoeksprojecten.

De volledige tekst kan je hier lezen.

“Gros malaise à Liège, dénoncé par 124 enseignants-chercheurs de l’ULg” (Opiniestuk LaLibre.be)


“L’évolution du paysage universitaire en Europe, en Belgique et en Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles inquiète et crée un profond malaise. Des enseignants-chercheurs de l’Université de Liège souhaitent s’exprimer et invitent au dialogue.”

Op de website LaLibre.be is een opiniestuk gepubliceerd waarin Luikse academici hun ongenoegen uiten over de evoluties in het universitaire landschap in België en Europa. Je leest het hier.




Universities, what are they good for? Find out on these December events!

The holiday period; time for rampant consumerism, with a sprinkling of gezelligheid* on top. Those unsatisfied with these merry times of blind happiness may be able to find more satisfaction in some hardcore reflection about the societal role of universities. There are no less than two (2!) events on this topic during the end of December.

The first event takes place on the 20th of December in Brussels, and is organized by the Flemish Interuniversity Council. Results of an impact study of Flemish universities will be presented to the public, and will be followed by a discussion and a reception. More information, such as the programme, can be found here. Signing up can be done here.

The second event is organized by the Ghent University and takes place all day on the 21st of December. The event is called ‘University for You’ and the programme and signup can be found here. Not happy with the definition of impact on the day before? This is the place to launch your own conceptualization!

*We may sometimes complain about how unwelcoming Flemish universities can be for people not fluent in Dutch, but some words you just have to learn. Very ongezellig of us, we know.

Debate 20/11: What might Belgian mutant plants mean for South-American communities?


Under the banner of promoting the ‘bio-economy’, scientists of the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) and Ghent University take part in a worldwide contest to genetically engineer trees in order to ease the conversion of wood into ‘biofuels’ or other products like plastics. Developers of genetically engineered (GE) trees claim these projects to contribute to a sustainable society.
Scientists are still very far from succeeding in making it happen; but if ever developed commercially, where are these trees going to be grown, to whose benefit, and what are the social and environmental impacts?

The everyday experience over the last decades of rural communities in South-America confronted with the expansion of tree plantations is very alarming. Already now, large scale tree plantations are resulting in land grabbing and land conflicts, soil depletion, disappearing biodiversity, large water uptake, enhanced use of pesticides, and forest fires. Apart from biosafety concerns, if GE trees are grown in the same way, this would only add to the social and environmental problems currently experienced. Another concern is that (broad) patent applications on GE trees, also by VIB, contribute to the privatisation of nature.

Promoting technology development to make tree-based commodities available for ever more expanding consumer markets, create moral dilemmas for the European and Belgian society, and for researchers in particular. What does it mean to live amongst monoculture tree plantations in South-America? What are the social and environmental impacts? How should these impacts be taken into account when public funding is allocated to new technology development? Are they taken into account in the GM poplar case? How do researchers engage with the dynamics of expanded commodity production and the concomitant challenges of sustainability and societal resilience? And, how can scientists work in solidarity with people around the globe?

A discussion with:

Hanne Cottyn, researcher Commodity Frontier Initiative at Ghent University
Ruben Vanholme, researcher at VIB Flemish Institute Biotechnology

Intro & Panel:

Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory / Field Liberation Movement
Barbara Van Dyck, University of Sussex / Field Liberation Movement

Organizers: Field Liberation Movement, Commodity Frontiers Initiative, Research Group Economies, Comparisons, Connections Ghent University


(Source of this information, and more, can be found here.)

[NL]Meer weten over Wetenschappelijke Integriteit en/of Open Access?

Deze maand vinden twee evenementen plaats rond onderwerpen die in het verleden binnen onze Doctoral Schools Course aan bod kwamen.

Fraude en receptiehapjes

Het eerste evenement gaat over wetenschappelijke integriteit en vind plaats op 18 oktober in Brussel. Het geheel wordt georganiseerd door de Koninlijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten. Oftewel, de KVAB. Deze stelt hiervoor zijn plechtstatige Paleis der Academiën voor open.

Wetenschapsfraude kwam de voorbije jaren behoorlijk wat in het nieuws, en werd als thema vaak gelinked aan een toegenomen competitie en publicatiedruk. Het is een gevoelig thema dat graag binnenskamers wordt gehouden. Intussen is daar enige verandering in gekomen, met officiële structuren zowel op het niveau van de universiteit als op Vlaams niveau.

Merk op dat de klemtoon hier ligt op wetenschapsfraude; is het onderzoek wel op een wetenschappelijke correcte manier uitgevoerd? De liefhebber van een breder debat over ethiek in de wetenschap zal hier wat op z’n honger moeten blijven zitten. De liefhebber van de betere receptiehapjes echter niet.

Meer info vind je op:


Open debat over open access


Het tweede evenement heeft betrekking op Open Access. Wie wil weten waar en wanneer het plaatsvindt legt best bovenstaande prent eens onder de microscoop. Het evenement is zowel geschikt voor mensen die de Green Road niet van de Gold Road naar Open Access kunnen onderscheiden, als voor mensen voor wie Open Access de bestaansreden geworden is. Je kan er zowel terecht voor heel wat praktische informatie, als inzicht in de meer structurele politieke, economische en juridische obstakels die dit ideaal in de weg staan. Bovendien vat men OA breder op louter het publiekelijk beschikbaar maken van afgewerkte papers. Ook andere thema’s komen aan bod, zoals Open Science (transparantie tijdens het proces, niet enkel bij het afgewerkte product) en Citizen Science (waarbij die rare mensen die normaal niet in onze ivoren toren komen ook betrokken worden). Of de receptiehapjes zo goed zijn als bij de KVAB is nog niet geweten, maar het programma ziet er alvast smakelijk uit. Allen daarheen!

Meer info vind je op: