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Researcher to keep an eye on: Alex Geurds awarded NWO Vici grant

  • #anthropology
  • #culturalstudies
  • #environmentalscience
  • #history
  • #sociology

Alex Geurds receives NWO Vici grant for investigating human-environmental engagement across Central America & Colombia

During pre-Columbian times, the Central American isthmus was marked by dynamic exchange and human mobility. Despite this, indigenous communities were archaeologically stable between AD 300 and the 16th-century Spanish colonisation, contrasting with the cycles of florescence and decline of neighbouring culture areas, including the Maya. Dr Alex Geurds was awarded an NWO Vici grant to investigate this stability and what this may mean for societal resilience today.

‘Ways of being in the world’

The project studies long-term ontological forms of human engagement with the surrounding world for the context of the southern Central American area and parts of Colombia and focuses on the period from AD 300 onwards. ‘The interest in these ‘ways of being in the world’ concerns various social science and humanities disciplines, and archaeology has also increasingly worked towards a methodology to identify relevant ontology proxies,’ Alex Geurds notes. ‘The project includes a comprehensive mapping of data that may help us to find patterns in how indigenous communities awarded significance to the surrounding world.’

The project will be anchored around three research avenues. ‘First of all, durable landscape modifications, such as earthworks and stonework; secondly, how the surrounding world is translated into an aesthetic experience on media such as polychrome pottery; and thirdly, how ethnographic and historical data can be collated to identify human-environmental engagement across the research area.’

Long-term understanding

Current society is deeply concerned about human impact on ecologies worldwide. ‘Archaeology holds the key to a long-term understanding of this human-environmental engagement, using a globally comparative perspective,’ Geurds explains. ‘However, at the same time, archaeology all too often takes a back seat in public discussions and policymaking. Partly, this is because long-term views of the past (equal to longer-term perspectives of the future) are seldom favoured by decision-makers.’

Geurds’ project aims to push up against this current sidelining of archaeology. ‘We plan to organise multiple local roundtables in the research area; and connect across the various nation-state boundaries to forge a new interregional perspective on long-term human-environmental histories.’

Risky proposal

It was a risky proposal. ‘I wanted to work with a group of people that focused on a conceptual subject that was very close to my own interest, involving, for example, carved stone, notions of monumentality, and a long-term diachronic perspective. This tended to result in a relatively open-ended proposal, one in which review committees might easily detect ‘holes’.’

Very much aware that the project proposal might not be accepted when he received the email, Geurds ended up staring at the unopened message for a bit. ‘I knew full well the message would either be a disappointment or provide a clear direction in my research agenda for the foreseeable future. I contemplated if I should bury my phone under the carpet or just face the music and read its contents. Obviously, it wasn’t much of a choice. It ended up being a thrilling moment, as they always are.’

Opportunities for talented academics: Team assemblance

With the awarded funding, Geurds will assemble a team of postdoctoral researchers and PhD candidates. ‘This is likely somewhat down the road still, but we should be complete and underway in the course of 2024. It’s a lovely occurrence for the Faculty of Archaeology also, as its financial health is to a significant degree dependent on securing these types of grants – without them, we wouldn’t be able to run a research-focused Faculty,’ he states. ‘It takes time and energy to craft these proposals, and there are no guarantees along the way, but if it works out, then it offers –otherwise scarce– opportunities for emerging academic talents; a unique environment to develop once research; and reinforcing Leiden University’s longstanding regional focus on Middle and South America overall.’

Keep an eye on Alex's project.

Image: copyright van Faculty of Archaeology Leiden University. Crocodilian stone sculpture (Colombia). Museo del Oro, Bogota.


Research Project on the Future of the Labour Market receives 3.4 million euros

  • #economics
  • #engineering
  • #politicalsciences
  • #sociology
  • #technology

An international consortium led by Olaf van Vliet has been awarded an Horizon Europe grant of 3.4 million euros. The project investigates how global challenges such as migration, digitalisation, and the green transition have transformed the labour market and the consequences of these changes for social security and political preferences.

Our labour market is subject to change. In some sectors, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have led to fewer jobs and a decrease in the demand for labour. At the same time, the green transition has created new jobs, including in the sustainability sector. For instance, there is growing demand for heath pump technicians. ‘Work changes and this creates mobility in the labour market,’ explains Principal Investigator and Professor Olaf van Vliet, ‘but the labour market is not always there yet and that is when we see a rise in labour shortages in certain sectors.’ In this context, labour migration is often mentioned as a possible solution, though it remains a politically sensitive issue.

Focus on three main questions

Co-applicant Eduard Suari-Andreu: ‘In this multidisciplinary research project, named TransEuroWorks, we will focus on three main questions. How do migration, digitalisation, and the green transition, such as the phasing out of fossil energy sources, impact the labour market in Europe? How can the EU and its member states become more resilient and responsive to these changes? And what are the implications for European citizens’ well-being  and social protection?’

In other words: how do we create an inclusive, proactive welfare state that is prepared for the labour market of the future—a welfare state in which the negative effects are cushioned by social protection and in which the advantages are equally distributed?

Interdisciplinary research

Alongside various European universities and think tanks (see box), several societal organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) will also be collaborating in the project. The team in Leiden, an initiative resulting from the Social Citizenship and Migration programme, will mainly focus on the effects of the increasing labour mobility and its interaction with social protection policies. In addition to Olaf van Vliet and Eduard Suari Andreu, the research group includes Daniel Alves Fernandes, Zeynep Balcioglu Tasma, Anna-Lena Nadler, and Briitta van Staalduinen. The research group is also part of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre on the Governance of Migration and Diversity. The TU Delft is also participating in TransEuroWorks by conducting research on the labour market effects of the green transition. According to Van Vliet, the participation of both Leiden University and the TU Delft helps to strengthen the bonds between the two universities within the framework of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus alliance.

Find more news and events about the programma here: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/social-citizenship-and-migration

Text: Margriet van der Zee


Summer School Science Communication

  • #agriculturalsciences
  • #biologicalsciences
  • #environmentalscience
  • #mathematics
  • #physics

Would you like to learn more about communicating your research with other audiences than the scientific community? Are you available from 4-8 July, 2022? Then we have an interesting opportunity for you.

The Science Communication and Society department from Leiden University is inviting young researchers (PhD, postdoc, or other early career) to join their Summer School about science communication.

Over the span of one week, you will get theoretical perspectives about science communication, practice skills and apply it in the development of a science communication product. A variety of guest speakers will share their experiences and best practices with you, while our team of Science Communication scientists from Leiden University will guide you through this exciting week.

The program will include:

  • Introduction to science communication, inspiration on SciCom products.
  • Lectures on communication theory, target audiences, how to include outreach in funding proposals, literature and best practices.
  • Presentations by guest speakers about their experiences with different types of science communication.
  • Workshops on social media and science journalism.
  • Throughout the week, participants will develop a science communication product together which will be presented at the end of the week.

The Summer School takes place in Leiden (on-site) from 4 – 8 July, 2022. The registration fee is €400,-. Coffee/tea and lunch will be provided, as well as a closing reception on Friday. We have space for 20-25 participants.

Since there are limited spots, we ask you to include a motivation letter (max 1 page) and your CV (max 1 page) when submitting your registration. If you’re interested, please register here before April 15, 2022.

See our website for more information.