Taking a plunge

Students of the department of Science, Communication and Society fromEen sprong in het diepe 1
Leiden University started this Monday with the workshop-week ‘An Emerging Technological and Societal Transition: preparing for the post-industrial world’. During the week these students are responsible for the outreach regarding this event. They have to take a plunge to accomplish this goal, as they only have four weeks of classes as their baggage.

Cutting edge

This is a unique project and the first time in the ten years this master track exists. Jos van den Broek, head of the department Science, Communication and Society, explains: “When I first heard about the symposium, I immediately jumped in. I would like to give our students the opportunity to speak with well-known scientists from many different fields and allow them to bring their gained knowledge into practice.

Van Den Broek emphasizes that science communication is more than just journalism. “Our students have to cope with important subjects. They have to know what is going on in society and they have to think along with scientists on solving future problems.” When Van Den Broek found out that the organisers were looking for a way to bring the conference to the public, he realised he had just found the perfect match. “Our students are the future, so this cutting edge topic fits well.

Which way does the wind blow?

The expectations for the students were not clear at first. They waited to see which way the wind was blowing. After day one most students were surprised in a positive way. Paul van Vliet is one of them. “The first day was more fun than I expected. The topic which is discussed here is very important, but the goals at the end of the week are rather ambitious. I wonder if it is doable to write a white-paper in just one week.

Some students experience their first conference here. Annette Mense was surprised by the amount and intensity of the discussions. She never experienced this kind of interaction in a setting like this before. Hanneke Reinders agrees “The societal aspect of this week is of actual added value. We leave the discussions with something to think about.” Other students like Jolien Morren have very practical expectations. “I hope to meet many scientists and perhaps even to end up with an internship.


However, the students cannot sit back and relax. They have to write articles for their course in science journalism and film an interview for the visual communication course. Anne Land, lecturer at the Science, Communication and Society department and coordinator of the student projects, is confident about the outcome. “Before the week started, the first ideas were already formed. One group has visited schools to collect questions from children about the future. This week they will propose these questions to the scientists to bundle the answers in a video.

According to Land, the symposium already succeeded expectations on its first day. “The students grasp every chance to talk to the scientists. I saw them addressing scientist in line for the toilet or when looking for the right button on the coffee machines. That is a great outcome for a first day.

By Hilde de Laat

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