New edition of Slow Science doctoral school course “Another university is possible!”

Each year, we organise an Inter-University Doctoral Schools Course (UGent/VUB/UAntwerpen/KULeuven) regarding the question ‘What does it mean to be a researcher in 21st century academia?’ 

All information can be found on our website here.

The edition of 2021 will take place on the following days:

  • Thursday April 22nd
  • Friday April 23rd
  • Thursday May 6th
  • Friday May 7th

Registration is now open! You can register by following this link:
Note that there is a maximum capacity of 30 subscriptions.

You can also check the website of Ghent University for all information:

Hope to see you there and then!


General description

Over the past few years, numerous scholars and university personnel have raised their concerns about research deontology, increasing publication pressure and the changing professional environment in which academics have to work. Cases of scientific fraud such as that of Diederik Stapel in the Netherlands, suspended in 2011 by Tilburg University, caused quite a stir within the academic community. Stapel was exposed for fabricating and manipulating data for research publications, a malpractice that was apparently going on for years. The scope of Stapel’s case may have been an exception. However, in March 2013, the Belgian scientific magazine EOS revealed in a study that 1 out of 12 researchers admitted to manipulating data sometimes in order to cope with the increasing pressure to publish. Even where publication pressures don’t necessarily lead to malpractice, they play a decisive role in determining what topics are addressed and what kinds of questions are asked. This situation obviously raises serious questions about ethics, deontology, norms, the conduct of research itself, and the relationship between science and society/democracy in general. In response, Belgian universities have expressed an interest in raising awareness among the academic population and pointed to the Doctoral Schools as a way of accomplishing this.

Yet, while pertinent, raising awareness among young scholars cannot be reduced to a condemnation of individual practices alone. It is important to situate and contextualize these cases of individual malpractice within a broader context of academic internationalization and the position of local research institutions and universities in an increasingly global and competitive environment. The seminars and debate organized in this course – titled “What does it mean to be a researcher in the 21st century?” – address these broader questions. The course sets out to raise awareness among researchers not only of their individual obligations and role within academic institutions, but also of the broader context of the research environment in which they try to build a career. This course answers the structural need for thorough deontological, ethical and socio-political self-reflection about the changing role of academic knowledge and academics in our current society.

Slow Science DS – 2019 edition

Last week, we concluded the 2019 edition of our doctoral course.

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.

Change Cultures Tennant
Jon Tennant

Jon Tennant, Reine Meylaerts, and Freek Van Deynze

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.

Nellie Konijnendijk

Exercise on gender and diversity

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 [1] 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.

Anneleen Kenis, Chloé Verlinden, Mohamed Al Marchohi, Tom Cox

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.

Action Day
Ready for action

In the afternoon, we were given action training by Vredesactie/Tractie.

Theories of change discussed during the session with Vredesactie/Tractie


For us as organizers, this year’s course was a success again.

We will be back next year.

See you then!

Slow Science Network

PS [1] An open letter by academics has just been published on vrtnws. It calls for universities to do more to address climate change.

What does it mean to be a researcher… 2019 Doctoral Course – Day 1

Last week, we held the first session of this year’s Inter-University Doctoral Schools Course (UGent/VUB/UAntwerpen/KULeuven) regarding the question ‘What does it mean to be a researcher in 21st century academia?’

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!