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Nine Leiden projects awarded first NWO Science Diplomacy Fund

The projects of nine researchers at Leiden University have received funding through the new NWO Science Diplomacy Fund. The Fund is for scientific activities that will improve relations between the Netherlands and other countries.

The Dutch Research Council’s (NWO) new Science Diplomacy Fund is for scientific activities that will improve diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and partner countries and potentially improve their bilateral collaboration. Activities such as workshops, seminars and exchanges will also enhance the visibility and international position of Dutch science and the scientific collaboration between the Netherlands and partner countries. In the Science Diplomacy Fund, NWO works closely with embassies, consulates, the Innovation Attaché Network, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The nine projects that have been awarded funding are:

Egbert Fortuin – Towards a Russian grammar

The Russian language is an essential and central feature of Russian society and culture and a source of pride and prestige. In addition to Russian linguists, non-Russian linguists contribute to the knowledge of the Russian grammar. This collaboration is of great scientific value, precisely because the theoretical frameworks of Russian and Western scholars sometimes differ. This project will contribute to this international cooperation by bringing together Russian and Dutch linguists. The aim is that this cooperation will inspire scientific cross-pollination and will promote contact between Dutch and Russian researchers.

Fokke Gerritsen – Cultural heritage technologies for sustainable cities

Emerging computer science and information and communication technologies, including artificial intelligence and augmented reality, are increasingly employed for research into and knowledge dissemination about our urban heritage together with its preservation and governance. This project will establish a Dutch-Turkish network of heritage scholars, computer scientists and governance experts. They will critically assess existing systems and create a roadmap for the collaborative development of technologies and their implementation in heritage policy and practice. They will also explore technologies that will make cities more sustainable and liveable. The project will be carried out in Istanbul, where world-class world cultural heritage intersects with rapid urban transformation.

Mark Dechesne – Differences between the urban and rural mindset

What differentiates the experiences and perceptions of those living in the countryside from those living in the city? What are the implications when the urban and the rural interact? How should we take these differences into account in sustainable agriculture? The symposium ‘Differences between the urban and rural mindset: origins, expressions and implications for policy’ will bring together academics from Russia, the Netherlands and Japan to share the latest academic insights into these issues and to promote awareness of differences between the urban and rural mindsets. This will be a critical ingredient for policymaking and international collaboration in sustainable agriculture.

Annemieke Geluk – Dutch diagnostic tests for tuberculosis in Indonesia

Tuberculosis (TB) is the most lethal infectious disease in the world, with over 3,800 deaths every day. Globally, Indonesia ranks third for TB cases. Early diagnosis is essential to effective TB control, but a third of patients are misdiagnosed or receive no diagnosis at all. A research team from the LUMC recently developed a point-of-care (POC) TB test that can be used in low-complexity healthcare and could transform the TB diagnostic landscape in Indonesia. Building on an existing TB research partnership, this project will establish new lines of scientific and diplomatic collaboration between scientists and clinicians from both countries, to prepare for the introduction of the Dutch POC TB test in Indonesia.

George Miley – ‘Astronomy for development’ events at the UN General Assembly

The Netherlands has a prominent position in international astronomy, and Dutch astronomers have been exploiting their discipline to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for many years already – as have astronomers from Leiden. They will organise an ‘Astronomy for Development’ programme at a prestigious conference surrounding the 75th UN General Assembly. The activities will focus on innovative contributions of astronomy to advancing SDG4 (education), SDG9 (infrastructure), SDG13 (climate action), SDG16 (peace), SDG5 (gender equality) and SDG10 (inequalities). South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, who was recently awarded an Honorary Professorship in ‘Astronomy for Development’ by Leiden University, will play a major role in the programme.

Jan Aarts – Pilot exchange project between members of the Leiden-Delft Casimir Research School and the Physics PhD Research School of HSE Moscow

The Physics Department at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) Moscow recently started a Physics PhD Research School inspired by the experience of the Leiden-Delft Casimir Research School. In this pilot project, members of the two institutes will visit each other’s institute. Two lecturers and five PhD candidates from the Casimir Research School will travel to Russia for a workshop for PhD candidates, and later in the year, members of the PhD Council of the HSE PhD Research School will visit Leiden and Delft along with a number of lecturers.

Jos Schaeken – On news and fake news: What did the Dutch really think about Russia in the early seventeenth century?

Four hundred years ago, for the first time in history, the Dutch public was extensively informed by a fellow countryman about the state of affairs in Russia: the customs and history of the Russians. So-called first-hand information. At a first glance, this does not appear to be entirely true. What is fact and what is fiction? In this project, Dutch and Russian researchers will seek to answer this key question: news or fake news? Has much really changed with regard to the exchange of reliable information between the two countries in the intervening centuries?

Niels Schiller – Multilingualism: an impetus for education and the economy

A large amount of research has been conducted into multilingualism and its many advantages: languages unite people and strengthen intercultural understanding. They also play a vital role in enhancing employability and mobility, thus offering economic, political and development benefits. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve a multilingual reality and bridge the gap between theory and practice. In this project, a three-day conference will bring together scholars and practitioners from the Netherlands, India and elsewhere to discuss the latest insights from research and their implementation in language and education policies as well as how to give shape to future collaboration.

Pancras Hoogendoorn – The Boerhaave-Ruysch-Pirogov exhibition

In the field of medicine, there is an interesting connection between the Netherlands and Russia. The Leiden University Medical Center together with the Military Medical Museum and the Anatoly Sobchak Foundation in Saint Petersburg are going to explore the shared Dutch-Russian medical history in the Boerhaave-Ruysch-Pirogov exhibition, which will be on show in October/November 2020. They will also exchange scientific knowledge and give masterclasses in which Naturalis Biodiversity will also participate. The programme shows how respect for differences of opinion and political differences can collaboration based on trust can be achieved.

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