"Put it into practice"

Anne Reitsma

Professor Eveline Crone has no start-ups and holds no patents. She does have impact. She is a much lauded, driven neuroscientist and psychologist whose research into adolescent brain processes - from MRI scans to youth panels - leads to insights that can be used to improve the way education and society are tailored to the capabilities of young people. She publishes just as readily in Nature as in the Dutch NRC newspaper and disseminates the knowledge she and her colleagues develop to the general public through films and books. In Crone's work, the boundaries are blurred between STEM and the Humanities, science and society, research and applications. She talks about it to Innovation Origins

From innovation to actual use

"It doesn't just happen in universities," Eveline Crone contends.  At one time she thought it did. Science had the knowledge and was supposed to bring it to society. Now she thinks her own vision is outdated.  "We have to go and get knowledge," she maintains, because knowledge is being created everywhere.  Science's most important contribution is that it is value-free and provides space for free thinkers to engage in independent contemplation of major challenges for society - but they should do so, and even more than today, in interaction with society. "As a first-year psychology major, you learn about the empirical cycle," Crone goes on to explain. She herself is very inspired by the design cycle, by companies with a product development process that involves constant testing in the marketplace.  Why shouldn't science work in the same way?

Living Labs

That is exactly what she has been doing for the past few years. In 'living labs' that bring citizens, policymakers and scientists together to identify problems and develop, test and improve solutions. By doing this, they become joint owners of the problem ánd the solution.  This immediately creates support and a solution that is not only better but also works in practice. This type of approach is bound to become even more important, Crone points out.  After all, to tackle the big challenges of our time - the 'wicked problems' - you need technological innovations, but to solve them, you must use these innovations - and that means understanding the social context that surrounds them.

Take the vaccination policy. Virologists have worked diligently and moved mountains, yet somehow, along the way, we have lost 15-20% of society. Because they need to be approached differently, in Crone’s view.  Young people, she explains, are being constrained by the pandemic in three of their fundamental needs: risk-taking and exploration, establishing and maintaining loving, warm friendships, and being heard and seen - being given respect.  The following idea came out of the panels in which she and her colleagues worked with young people. They understood perfectly well that we started with vaccinating people over 80, and then step by step worked our way down to younger age categories.  ‘But,’ they asked, ‘once we reach 40, could we not reverse that order and vaccinate people from 18 upwards?’  That suggestion was never taken seriously.  "And we are talking about our future teachers, dentists, entrepreneurs, and so on.  Imagine if we had started working with young people back in December, where would we be now?

Read the full article on Innovation Origins.

Professor

Prof.dr. Eveline Crone

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