Scientists present NeuroLabNL research agenda to ministers
What effect does bullying have on the brain? This is just one of the key research questions included in the NeuroLabNL science agenda. Scientists presented the agenda to Minister Van Engelshoven (Education, Culture and Science) and Minister Dekker (Justice and Security) on 3 July at Campus The Hague.
Leiden Professors Andrea Evers and Eveline Crone were involved in developing this route for the National Research Agenda. Researchers from Dutch academic universities, universities of applied sciences and social partners work together in NeuroLabNL on societal applications for our knowledge about the brain, cognition and behaviour. The partners study the more than 400 brain-related questions that have arisen from the National Research Agenda (see box).
A better understanding of our brain
These include such questions as: how can we apply a better understanding of our brain, cognition and behaviour to arrive at new applications in such areas as education, security and healthcare? Why is it that some children develop more rapidly than others? What causes risky behaviour and when does that cross over into criminal behaviour? And what innovative treatments can we develop for psychological and physical disorders? The brain, cognition and behaviour all play a key role.
The research questions are clustered in four sub-agendas: Fundamenal research, Health, Education, Social Security. Leiden Orofessors Andrea Evers (health psychology) and Eveline Crone (neurocognitive development psychology) are the driving force behind the sub-agendas. They and the other key figures from NeuroLabNL, Katy de Kogel (Ministry of Justice and Security) and Cyriel Pennartz (UvA), compiled the research agenda, working closely with fellow scientists and civil partners.
The Health sub-agenda includes such themes as a healthy lifestyle for everyone and innovative technological applications in healthcare, such as E-health. Leiden has a broad expertise in this area. Evers' research group heads a national consortium that aims to make healthy living attractive, and they are working on applications with which users can monitor their own lifestyle and receive digital coaching.
Crone is the coordinator of the Education sub-agenda. She conducts research on such questions as what constitutes the ideal learning conditions and how adolescents can develop optimally. A Leiden research group, together with colleagues from Groningen and Rotterdam, is examining the effects of bullying on brain development.
Last year the Education and Security projects received a Starting Incentive award of 2.5 million euros from the Dutch National Research Agenda for a period of three years.
Researchers throughout the Netherlands can submit projects for the National Research Agenda in the autumn. Interdisciplinary research, societal relevance and collaboration with civil partners are important criteria. Evers: ‘It is fantastic that research is being coordinated better and that scientists from different universities are being encouraged to work together more. That will lead to a better research network in the Netherlands, which will in turn contribute to a better approach to social issues.'
The National Research Agenda (NWA) is an ambitious programme in which science and society together seek solutions for current societal issues. The NWA is based on more than 12,000 questions put forward by the public. These questions have been organised in 25 different themes, referred to as ‘routes’. The NeuroLabNL research agenda is in line with developments in other areas of science; the NWA promotes close cooperation between researchers who are active in other NWA routes.