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“A labour of love”

“A labour of love”

Photographer:Fotograaf: archive WTMC

UM hands over secretaryship of research school WTMC after thirteen years

MAASTRICHT. A wonderful example of consensus decision-making in science. That is how professor Sally Wyatt describes the success of national research school WTMC (Wetenschap, Techniek & Moderne Cultuur (Science, Technology and Modern Culture)) of which, until recently, Maastricht ran the secretaryship. “The willingness of the ten Dutch universities involved to work together, is great. There is nothing like it in the United Kingdom or the United States, where competition is too fierce.”

For thirteen years, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (together with an FHML department) was secretary to national research school WTMC, which was founded in 1987. For the past seven years (before that professor Karin Bijsterveld was at the helm), professor Sally Wyatt was its director. She said farewell with a resounding evaluation from an international panel: “One of the most influential research schools in the world in the field of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies,” “World-leading quality with regard to its doctoral training activities,” socially relevant, scientifically sound and led by an “evolving group of dedicated individuals: WTMC is, in short, a labour of love.”

The collaboration of the various universities is extraordinary, but at the same time a must, Wyatt explains. At most universities, “Science, Technology and Society Studies - the UM is an exception - is only a small discipline. And when departments only have a few PhD candidates, such a national school is important. Besides, our field has a very interdisciplinary nature. You can't do it alone.” The school organises two workshops and a summer school every year. On average, there are about 65 to 70 PhD students connected to the school who do the whole programme. PhD students who are interested in a workshop, but who are not a member of WTMC, are welcome too. “Almost a third of the FASoS PhD students come to WTMC for a course. We also welcome PhD students from abroad.” The themes at the school vary over the years. “Ten years ago, we had a lot of nanotechnology and genetics. Now it is all about art, the brain or mobility. The bicycle is an object of research again. This brings us back to the first big theme that Wiebe Bijker - the founder of STSS in Maastricht - tackled.”

The research school is a way for young researchers to build up a network within their domain, the secretaryship was “good for the faculty's visibility,” says Wyatt, who emphasised that people abroad are jealous of the collaboration between the different disciplines. Since the end of 2017, the University of Twente, in de person of professor Stefan Kuhlmann, has taken over. “That is a good thing, you don't want WTMC to be seen as something uniquely associated with Maastricht.”

 

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