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Social and Behavioural Sciences

Year in review FSW 2023

At FSW, we do wonderful projects in research and education. Interdisciplinary, driven by our values, in collaboration with the world around us. We would like to highlight some of the finest projects. This is our annual overview of 2023.

Article overview

Rethinking the role of infrastructure in African development

Sabine Luning and Carola Hein started a valuable research on infrastructure projects in Ghana and Morocco. Their work focuses on the interconnected aspects of ports, highways, and railways, exploring the complex interplay of geopolitics, economic systems, political interests, and cultural values affecting citizens. In collaboration with colleagues from the African Studies Centre and NIMAR, Sabine Luning and Carola Hein contribute to our understanding of the role of infrastructure in African development. They received a LUF grant to make this research project possible. 

Research on the evolving landscape of free and open-source software

John Boy will explore the evolving landscape of free and open-source software. In collaboration with members of the d12n research cluster, John delves into the nuanced ways critical technologists seek to align their efforts with digital technology to uphold the political goal of defending the public interest. This inquiry is pivotal in understanding how future digital systems benefiting the public can be thoughtfully developed, sustained, and safeguarded. John Boy is the recipient of the Digital Infrastructure Insights Fund (D//F) grant

Moji Aghajani applies AI and big data in research on depression in young people

Depression and anxiety disorders in young people cause major problems worldwide. The factors involved are unclear. There is therefore an urgent need for a new approach that focuses on the individual patient, with personalised analyses using artificial intelligence (AI) and large data sets (big data).

Moji Aghajani - associate professor at the Institute of Education and Child Studies - explores this paradigm shift by applying AI and big data in an existing clinical consortium with around 10,000 participants. In doing so, he aims to confirm or refute the relevance and feasibility of this approach. 

This research project is funded by a Named Fund through the Leiden University Fund. 

Read 'Youth mental health meets big data analytics: Hype or Hope?' ››

From left to right: Barthe Stokhuyzen (donor), Moji Aghajani (researcher) and Lilian Visscher (LeidenFrom left to right: Barthe Stokhuyzen (donor), Moji Aghajani (researcher) and Lilian Visscher (Leiden University Fund)
From left to right: Barthe Stokhuyzen (donor), Moji Aghajani (researcher) and Lilian Visscher (LeidenFrom left to right: Barthe Stokhuyzen (donor), Moji Aghajani (researcher) and Lilian Visscher (Leiden University Fund)

New Knowledge Agenda 2023-2028

On 01 January 2023, CWTS launched its new Knowledge Agenda, our strategic plan for the next four years. Instead of just being a research programme, we wanted to include the variety of activities going on at our institute – research, development of tools, policy interventions, educational courses, to name a few. The final Knowledge Agenda was the outcome of a long process, involving all colleagues at CWTS. In 2022, we went on two research retreats to think together about what matters to us in our work and to develop new ideas and even dream projects. Since 2023, we are organized into three focal areas that each with their own emphasis work towards the goals of our Knowledge Agenda 2023-2028 and our mission: “to improve how science is practiced and governed and how it serves society”. The teamwork continues! 

STI 2023

In 2023, CWTS organised the 27th International Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators. The conference took place on 27-29 September in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden, but the organization had already started months before that. In total, more than 26 colleagues were involved in multiple task forces, organizing all aspects from the review process to communication, the social programme and the organization of sessions. We are particularly proud of the open review process for the conference submissions, as well as the fact that the conference was organised as a hybrid event, allowing both physical and online attendance. In the end, the conference turned out as a big success, with 287 participants joining in-person and 68 online.  

Visit www.sti2023.org ››

Impressive dissertation on policitical youth organisations

As an external PhD candidate at Leiden University, Charlotte de Roon wrote a dissertation on political youth organisations in the Netherlands. Her dissertation, entitled The Functioning of Dutch Party Youth Wings: A Comparison of the 1980s and 2010s, deals with the youth organisations of Dutch political parties. Roon's central question is: to what extent has the ability of these organisations to mobilise, represent and socialise young people in the political system changed over time?

Charlotte de Roon won this year's Els Witte Prize, awarded annually by the Flemish Association for Political Science (VPW) and the Dutch Political Science Association (NKPW).According to the jury, she made an 'impressive contribution to the research field, both analytically, methodologically and empirically'. Moreover, her choice of a 'wrongly underexposed topic' stood out.

Switching to open-source alternative to SPSS: R

At the Institute of Political Science, statistics instructors have switched to an open-source alternative to SPSS: R. This fits with developments in the field of Open Science, and R is now increasingly used in the field. Leila Demarest, Tom Louwerse, Tim Mickler and Josh Robison developed materials to support teachers and students, such as knowledge clips on R (in collaboration with Marijn Nagtzaam) and a Brightspace training course for teachers. This project resulted in a nomination for the Casimir Prize, a faculty appreciation of teaching teams that achieve innovation and renewal in education.

Cutting-edge research on immigration, cultural stereotypes, and many other studies

This year, diverse research projects at the Institute of Political Science have been facilitated thanks to multiple grants. Katharina Natter, for instance, investigated liberalised immigration policies in autocratic countries. Her research showed, against theoretical expectations, that authoritarian leaders do not always restrict immigration. For this, Natter received an NWO Veni grant.

In addition, Adina Akbik set up her new project 'EUROTYPES', in which she researches the impact of cultural stereotypes in European policy enforcement. What makes her research so innovative is its focus: Akbik will study stereotyping among officials implementing EU policies on the ground, as opposed to political elites involved in decision-making. For this, she received an ERC Starting Grant.

Other studies also managed to win grants with their innovative approaches. No fewer than 6 NWO XS grants were awarded to Leiden political scientists, including Adina Akbik, Gisela Hirschmann, Hilde van Meegdenburg, Jonathan Phillips, Vasiliki (Billy) Tsagkroni and Rebecca Ploof.

Good education in suicide prevention for all psychology students

As of 2021, a team of Leiden psychologist has developed, tested and rolled out a on suicide prevention for psychology education. Together with 113 Suicide Prevention and RINO Group Utrecht is digital learning materials (e-learning modules) developed in a blended manner in the Bachelor, Master and Post-Master education.

“Teamwork is involved at every step of this valuable project,” says Joanne Mouthaan. 'From development to implementation: this is possible thanks to cooperation between passionate ambassadors at different places and levels. And doing this project together makes it fun and inspiring to do!'
Read also: Psychology education on suicide prevention honoured with Casimir prize

Clinical psychologists Maartje Schoorl and Joanne Mouthaan

The rocking researcher: Marjolein Fokkema connects disciplines with algorithms and pop songs

From predicting Alzheimer’s to the growth of organisms: psychologist Marjolein Fokkema’s algorithms can be used in many disciplines. They also provide inspiration for her songs, theatre shows and life lessons. Fokkema designs machine learning algorithms: smart statistical models that, acting on a series of instructions, speedily detect patterns from data and can make predictions. ‘Psychologists should be able to use them in decisions and researchers to test their theories.’

What drives this rocking researcher?
Read also: The rocking researcher: Marjolein Fokkema connects disciplines with algorithms and pop songs

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Rachel Plak creates podcast series on youth self-reflection

In a podcast series, assistant professor at the Institute of Education and Child Studies Rachel Plak makes psychosocial issues that are going on with young people discussable to prevent the development of more serious problems.

"The aim of this podcast series is to get young people to reflect on their inner world and discuss it with others", Rachel Plak said.

The podcast series is part of the large-scale and interdisciplinary research project 'Expeditie Binnenwereld' (Expedition Inner World). 

Read more about this podcast series (in Dutch)

BrainTrain team provides teaching programme on fake news

The Brain & Fake News teaching programme teaches secondary school students (havo and vwo) how their brains process stimuli and information and why we are susceptible to fake news. Media literacy is covered and skills to independently and confidently fact-check the information they take in.

Students experience through VR and illusion and association experiments that their own reality is not always the only one and how easily certain stimuli can manipulate our brains.

Want to know more about requesting a BrainTrain lesson? Read 'Adolescents experience how susceptible they are to fake news with VR glasses and rubber hands' ››

The BrainTrain project is part of the Social Resilience & Security programme. The pilot phase of the lesson was made possible in part by the Young Academy Leiden Outreach grant.

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