Machiel Keestra: 'Last academic year, we have all seen demonstrations of the resilience of our faculty’s community and its individual members during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, there have been many of us who have suffered personally or of whom loved ones have been hit by virus and its implications. Returning step-wise to campus, we hope and expect that we can support each other in coping with these consequences, showing the importance of us indeed forming an inclusive community instead of a collection of individuals.
This focus on the faculty’s community is also visible in the Grassroots Science4all projects that were awarded by a jury consisting of our Faculty’s Dean, Diversity Officer and Student Council Representative of a faculty subsidy last year. Recognising that the lack of personal interactions during the lockdown might lead to a crumbling community, all six projects that received funding aimed to foster the diversity and inclusion of our community by connecting members with each other in unusual contexts.'
Diversity in Science: Why, What & How?
Aiming to foster diversity and inclusion in science, study association Cognito organised a series of lectures and workshops addressing topics around Diversity in Science: Why, What & How? The events received a wide range of participants, not all of whom were involved in cognitive science. If you’ve missed the events, you can still find relevant resources on their website.
Women in Data Science
Another event focused on data science, in particular on Women in Data Science. Organised by Amsterdam Data Science with Amsterdam Medical Data Science, several keynotes and breakout session discussed the challenges of using data science in clinical settings and beyond. You can still see part of the programme on Youtube and find a report on it here.
As mentioned, the pandemic did not only force us to use other means for keeping in touch with each other. It created also more serious challenges to many of us: physically, mentally, financially, practically, et cetera. Yet during the lockdown these consequences were not always easily visible. Because of this risk of unnoticed consequences, another subsidy was provided to an initiative of members of the Student Impact Centre, Women in Faculty Student Chapter and the faculty’s Diversity Sounding Board, who developed and performed together with several students a Covid Monitor. The report confirmed that the pandemic exacerbated several existing inequalities amongst students. Main conclusions can be read here in Folia’s article on the monitor.
Another project in which members of the Student Impact Centre and student foundation Diversity Talks (several of whom participate in the Diversity Sounding Board) participated was the Inspire2Aspire mentoring programme. Connecting students with underprivileged pupils in schools in Amsterdam and beyond, students have acted as mentors and role models for ‘their’ pupils, making those also more familiar with the university and its community. The subsidy helped to kick-start the initiative, which will run beyond its initial phase.
Talk That Science
Another corona-proof form of outreach has been supported with a subsidy, via a student-led podcast Talk that Science. Several colleagues have been interviewed about their insights in and contributions to research in Black Holes, Musicality in Animals, Evolutionary Robotics, et cetera. You can listen to these inspiring interviews right here.
Performance of a Photosynthesizing Human
Not all projects have been able to continue despite the pandemic. Involving students in the lab and in a live demonstration, the Arts/Science project ‘Performance of a Photosynthesizing Human’ had to be postponed. We are looking forward to this project which involves the development of biopolymeral materials which are then used for intersectional creative design, to be shown on our campus.
As the postponement of this last project testifies to the fact that we have faced extraordinary and challenging conditions which are by no means completely behind us, these Science4all projects do also emphasise how our students and colleagues have been able to find ways of creatively keeping our community alive while supporting its diversity and inclusion. For the next round of Grassroots Science4all subsidies, we are hoping to again receive inspiring and creative proposals that are crafting novel connections and highlighting what it means to be a genuinely diverse and inclusive community.