Here you will find a description of the projects that I am currently involved in. These projects 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.

In this project I collaborate with several international scholars.

Together with dr. Andreas Kjær Stage (Aarhus University) I have written a chapter for the Research Handbook on the Transformation of Higher Education. The handbook is edited by prof. dr. Liudvika Leišytė (TU Dortmund), prof. dr. Barend van der Meulen (Twente University) and prof. dr. Jay Dee (University of Massachusetts Boston) and will be published by Edward Elgar Publishing (UK). In this chapter, dr. Stage and I argue that professional not only are a result of transformations in the higher education system, but that they have the potential to spur transformations as well. The chapter is under review at the moment.

Dr. Clara del Junco (Wesleyan University) and I are writing a review about the contribution of professional staff to academic knowledge development. The review includes an overview of the state of the art as well as a research agenda for the study of professional staff.

Dr. Del Junco and I also contribute a chapter to the The Emerald Handbook of Research Management and Administration Around the World, edited by Simon Kerridge (University of Kent), dr. Susi Poli (University of Bologna) and Mariko Yang-Yoshihara (Stanford University). In this chapter, we propose a new definition of professional staff. Rooted in the literature, this new definition opens up a perspective on professional staff as actors in the organizational field of higher education rather than a more limited perspective in terms of organizational roles.

Wiebke Kantimm (research master student at Tilburg University) and I have analyzed a survey among grant advisers, knowledge exchange officers and policy officers employed by Dutch universities and university medical centres. We aim to understand whether their interactions with companies change their perspectives on universities and whether these perspectives translate into university strategies.

Finally, I am working on a paper that aims to understand what the function of professional staff is on the level of the higher education system rather than their organizational role. To this end, I have interviewed 22 members of professional staff with a variety of responsibilities in a diversity of research domains at a elite university.

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Together with drs. Leonie van Drooge (Leiden University) and dr. Jorrit Smit (Erasmus University Rotterdam) I am studying impact narratives that research units in the social sciences and humanities wrote in the context of national research evaluations in the Netherlands. We aim to unravel whether there are shared ideas about the quality of social impact within and across disciplines. To this end, we use Qualitative Comparative Analysis to analyse 66 narratives from 10 disciplines to reveal which elements of the narrative are essential to get the highest possible score from a review committee. As such, this project is innovative as it bridges quantitative impact analyses based on survey research and qualitative impact analyses based on case studies. The value of this approach is that we respect differences in research contexts, while allowing for capturing more general patterns.

De Impactalliantie

A rather special project that I am involved in is ‘De Impactalliantie’ (‘The Impact Alliance’). This project concerns a national network that focuses on the evaluation and organization of societal impact of academic research. The network includes researchers, professional staff of universities and representatives of research funders. It was established to fulfill a need to exchange and develop knowledge about impact. Due to the pandemic, its first meetings are online. Every meeting focuses on a specific topic and includes a speaker, a general discussion and one-on-one. Between April 2021 and September 2021 the network doubled in size from around 20 to over 40 members. I have co-initiated the network together with dr. Fedes van Rijn (Wageningen UR), drs. Gerald Jan Ellen (Deltares), dr. Jeroen van Houwelingen (Dutch Research Council), dr. Jorrit Smit (Leiden University), dr. Laurens Hessels (Rathenau Instituut and Leiden University), Vincent Baarslag, Msc. (Rathenau Instituut) and drs. Wendy Reijmerink (ZonMW). After every meeting I compose a news letter for the members of the network. New members are welcome! Send me a message if you are interested in joining the network.

A tribute to Paul Benneworth

Prof. dr. Paul Benneworth (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences) untimely passed in May 2020. Paul was an avid collaborator and was involved in many projects at the time of his unexpected passing. To commemorate Paul and to secure his legacy, dr. Gemma Derrick (Lancaster University) and dr. Julia Olmos-Penuela and I are guest editing a special issue of Research Evaluation. The special issue includes a number of studies that Paul unfortunately could not continue working on and that his collaborators successfully concluded in his spirit.

Formative Evaluation in the Netherlands: An opportunity for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Between 2017 and 2020 I was a member of COST Action ENRESSH. The action aimed to improve the position of the social sciences and humanities in academia and wider society by studying its evaluation and societal impact. To share the insights of the action, its members are editing several volumes at the moment. One of these volumes is ‘Accountability in Academic Life’, published by Edward Elgar Publishing (UK) and edited by dr. Zoe Bulaitis (The University of Manchester) and dr. Michael Ochsner (ETH Zürich). Dr. Jack Spaapen and I contributed the chapter ‘Formative evaluation in the Netherlands: An opportunity for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences’. In this chapter, we reflect upon the Dutch experiences with the Strategic Evaluation Protocol. The chapter is under review at the moment.

Recently concluded projects

A tribute to Puay Tang, Judit Bar-Ilan and Paul Benneworth

COST Action ENRESSH lost three of its most active and respected members during the course of the action. Tim Engels (University of Antwerp) and dr. Emmanuel Kulczycki (Adam Mickiewicz University) kindly asked me to write a tribute for dr. Puay Tang, prof. dr Judit Bar-Ilan and prof. dr. Paul Benneworth. This tribute is accepted for publication and will be included in the Handbook on Research Assessment in the Social Sciences that they edit and that Edward Elgar Publishing (UK) has published.

From Productive Interactions to Enabling Conditions

My NWO Rubicon sponsored project ‘Professional Practices’ highlighted the importance of the conditions that organizations, such as universities, provide that enable societal impact of academic research. To further discuss these ‘enabling conditions’ in February 2020, prof. dr. Maria Nedeva (The University of Manchester), dr. Corina Balaban (The University of Manchester) and I organized the international workshop ‘From productive interactions to enabling conditions.’ The workshop received a grant from the Leiden University Fund. Prof. dr. Nedeva, dr. Balaban and I have guest edited a special section of Science and Public Policy in which we included three of the papers that were presented during the workshop. One of these papers is a paper by dr. Balaban and myself. In this paper we analyze how anthropologists and philosophers respond to impact strategies of the universities they work at. We find that these strategies may change the impact activities of academics, and in some cases have already done so.

New HoRRIzon

As part of a larger international research team, I have been involved in the development and testing of the Societal Readiness Thinking Tool. This tool translates policy and scholarly concepts related to Responsible Research and Innovation into questions that researchers can answer about their own research – without requiring any background knowledge about Responsible Research and Innovation. My particular contribution to the project was conducting a user test by means of Thinking Aloud interviews with academic researchers and Focus Groups with professional staff. The resulting paper has been published in Science and Engineering Ethics. Together with dr. Michael Bernstein and dr. Ingeborg Meijer I have published a blogpost on the London School of Economics Impact Blog in which we argue that the tool can assist research funders in including Responsible Research and Innovation in their funding calls.

Impact Analysis of Topsector Horticulture and Starting Materials

Together with dr. Clemens Stolk (Innova Connect) and supported by Marthe Meulenbroek, I have conducted an impact analysis, commissioned by the Dutch Topsector Horticulture and Starting Materials. The final report can be found here.