Here you will find a description of the projects that I am currently involved in. I am currently concluding ‘Professional Practices’, whereas ‘Invisible Forces’ is expected to start mid-2020. These projects, as well as the other projects I am working on, all relate to the mutual influence between science and society.

Invisible Forces

Using an innovative ecological perspective, the objective of my Marie Curie fellowship is to conceptualize and optimize the function of professional staff of universities in the ecosystem of academic knowledge production. It compares case studies in the US, the Netherlands and Spain.

Professional staff does not teach or do research, but is involved in organizing these tasks. Despite this body of staff now making up 20- 50% of university employees, this study is the first to consider its function in academic research.

The project investigates the expertise of professional staff, the way it concentrates and uses its expertise, the influence that it exercises through it and the effects of its influence on academic knowledge production. The study consists of 1) a literature review 2) network analysis 3) ethnographic studies of professional staff in six universities and 4) the construction of a conceptual model to explain the function of professional staff in academic knowledge production.

Professional Practices

Many academics consider engagement with and impact on other individuals, groups and organizations in society inherent to their profession. Nevertheless, in recent decades governments, research funders and universities have introduced policies and strategies to increase impact of academics on society. Effects of these policies and strategies on research are well documented. Surprisingly, effects on impact itself have thus far received little attention. Do policies affect the types of individuals, groups or organizations that academics engage with and have an impact on?

My two-year Rubicon project for the first time addressed this issue within the context of universities by answering the research question ‘how do impact strategies affect societal engagement of academics?’ The project is positioned in the managerialism versus professionalism debate and located at the intersection of science policy studies and public administration. I take a combined case study approach of the Netherlands and the UK and include nested case studies of four universities and three research fields. The first step of the project is to map how universities develop impact strategies and how these strategies are translated to faculty and department levels. The second step is to map how academics relate to these strategies. I am currently writing the last three papers that will result from this project. Also I am giving presentations to share the findings. Finally, I have developed a workshop for university management and professional staff that raises awareness about university impact strategies.

Developing transdisciplinary relationships and networks

Together with dr. Anke Klerkx, director of the Grant Development Team of Leiden University, I am conducting an exploratory study on how academic researchers develop relationships and networks with non-academic actors. Increasingly, collaborating with non-academic partners is required to get access to competitive and market funding. Also, such collaborations are conducive to societal impact from academic research. However, developing these collaborations do not come natural to every researcher. Often, in academic literature the starting point in analysing transdisciplinary collaborations is the phase in which research questions and research designs are discussed. But how do researchers and their partners even get to that phase? And how can universities provide the conditions for developing relationships and networks. These are the two questions we aim to answer in this study.


Together with dr. Ingeborg Meijer and Wouter van der Klippe, Msc. of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies of Leiden University I am testing a thinking tool to raise awareness of Responsible Research and Innovation among academic researchers.