Seven Dutch consortia with top scientists will receive a total of 142.7 million euro from the Gravitation programme. This includes the consortium 'GUTS: growing up together in society' of which Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is in the lead, and 'The algorithmic society' of which EUR is a co-applicant. In addition, the consortium 'Stress-in-action' in which professor and internist Liesbeth van Rossum from Erasmus MC is involved, also receives funding. Minister Dijkgraaf makes this funding available to scientific consortia that can compete in the world top with groundbreaking research.
The consortium 'Growing Up Together in Society (GUTS)', led by Prof. Eveline Crone of Erasmus University Rotterdam, will receive 22 million euros. The aim of this project is to discover how young people can grow up successfully and contribute to the present and future society. "Growing up successfully is a puzzle," explains Eveline Crone, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience in Society. "Research into brain development in young people is mostly individually focused. But a child does not grow up individually; it is part of systems of family, friends, school and societal norms. That is why it has great added value to connect knowledge about this."
The consortium of psychologists, sociologists, child psychiatrists and neuroscientists, which also includes the University of Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam UMC, Leiden University, University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Radboudumc and Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, has been working for five years. "People think about interdisciplinary cooperation too easily, but you really have to learn to speak each other's language and trust each other. That is what we have invested in and that is how you get breakthroughs."
'Erasmus University is the best place for this'
Crone: "We really do this for young people. The corona crisis has taken its toll. It's not enough to catch up, they have to grow up really successfully and that means more than scores; it's also about welfare, contributions and involvement in society." A unique aspect is the addition of youth panels, young people themselves thinking about what is important for their generation. The research focuses on learning together in education, social networks such as friendships and young people who have been in contact with the law at an early age. Throughout this, there is a focus on social inequality. "Erasmus University is the best place for this, this is in the DNA of the university," says Crone. "I am very fortunate to be able to do this here for the next ten years."
The algorithmic society
Prof. Moniek Buijzen is involved in the consortium 'The Algorithmic Society’ (ALGOSOC), which receives 21.3 million euros and is led by the University of Amsterdam. Rotterdam School of Management is also participating in the consortium, led by Professor of Digital Business Ting Li. The consortium also includes professors from Utrecht University, TU Delft and Tilburg University.
This project investigates how public values and human rights can be safeguarded within the development of (semi-) automated processes (such as Artificial Intelligence). "Think of systems used by banks or health insurance companies. You see that biases arise in them”, says Moniek Buijzen, Professor of Communication and Behavioural Change.
Machines are fed by people
"We can blame machines, but they are fed and controlled by us. Wrongs in society are at the basis and are often reinforced by these kinds of systems. Who play a role in this? Tech companies are becoming increasingly important." Systems often turn out to be technology and efficiency-driven, and human values such as autonomy, dignity and privacy are in danger of being forgotten. "They come into play and this needs to be rethought. The social sciences and humanities are needed precisely for this." Three years were spent working on the consortium. Buijzen: "In the meantime, you see all sorts of things happening that only reinforce the urgency of this issue. It's great that we can get started and it fits very well with the EUR." The consortium aligns seamlessly with the Erasmus Initiative ‘Societal Impact of AI’ and the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics.
In the 'Stress-in-Action' consortium, scientists develop new methods to measure and reduce stress in everyday life. In this way, the researchers hope to prevent stress-related diseases in the future. The consortium will receive 19.6 million euros, 3.6 million of which will go to researchers at Erasmus MC. Prof. Liesbeth van Rossum is involved in the project and she will further deepen her studies of stress and stress-related diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental illness.
Connection to Convergence
"It is great news that several projects of Erasmus University Rotterdam have received an award from the Gravition programme. A reward for years of hard work by all scientists involved, congratulations!" says Ed Brinksma, chairman of the Executive Board of EUR. "This underlines the importance of working together across disciplines and institutions to tackle complex issues in society. Something we as a university have been focusing on for some time with the Erasmus Initiatives, Leiden-Delft-Erasmus and the Convergence with Erasmus MC and TU Delft. The projects that have been awarded funding dovetail particularly well with these objectives.” Both programmes are rooted in the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and pay much attention to talent development of young scientists who have an eye for collaboration and societal impact.
Research of international top level
The Gravitation programme is implemented by NWO on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Seven consortiums were ultimately selected from 40 applications. Researchers can carry out top-level university research and multidisciplinary collaboration for ten years. Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf: "For top-level international research, peace and quiet are essential. With this major boost we are offering long-term prospects and adequate funding to collaborating excellent research groups. Researchers from these scientific consortia, who are among the world's best in their field, can use Gravitation to work on groundbreaking research."