Categorie: universiteit


Dit jaar mocht ik een diesoratie geven bij de 448ste verjaardag van de Universiteit Leiden. Dit is hoe de universiteit mijn oratie beschreef:

Hoe zorgen we dat wetenschap van waarde is voor de samenleving? Volgens hoogleraar Ionica Smeets is wetenschapscommunicatie daarvoor cruciaal, zo zei ze in haar diesoratie. Aan de manier waarop wetenschappers hun kennis naar buiten uitdragen, kan nog volgens haar nog veel verbeterd worden.

Mijn volledige diesrede kunt u hier in het Nederlands lezen.

Op de website van Universiteit Leiden kunt u de gehele 448ste Dies Natalis terugkijken.

Leidse wiskundewandeling vernieuwd

Een opgefriste routebeschrijving en vernieuwde teksten en vragen. De Leidse wiskundewandeling is na zes jaar weer in een nieuw jasje gestoken. Van middelbare scholieren tot wiskundigen: iedereen kan de route weer naar hartenlust doorlopen.

De tocht is voor iedere wiskundeliefhebber te bewandelen. ‘Het is gebaseerd op het lesprogramma van middelbare scholieren, maar voor een bredere doelgroep toegankelijk. Zo lopen we langs historische hoogtepunten van Leiden, en onderweg maken we puzzels en denken na over wiskunde vraagstukken,’ vertelt Francien Bossema, oud-student Science Communication & Society. Ze ontwikkelde de route samen met mede-alumni Charlotte Zwetsloot en onderzoeker Ionica Smeets.

Ionica Smeets (links) en Francien Bossema (rechts) tijdens een testwandeling.

Maak je eigen wiskundewandeling
Naast een wiskundige gids door Leiden, schreef het drietal ook een hoofdstuk in het boek Handbook of Mathematical Science Communication, wat onlangs gepubliceerd is. Daarin beschrijven ze hoe de wiskundewandeling tot stand kwam. ‘We laten bijvoorbeeld zien hoe we hebben geprobeerd de wandeling voor een breder publiek aantrekkelijk te maken. En hoe we de feedback van scholieren en docenten hebben verwerkt’, aldus Bossema. Daarnaast biedt het handboek richtlijnen voor het ontwikkelen van een wiskundewandeling. ‘Met deze tips kan iedereen zelf aan de slag!’

Zelf wandelen of ontwikkelen
Wandel de route, of bestel het boek om meer over de achtergrond van de wandeling te weten te komen.

Ionica in Heidelberg: haardvuurgesprek over wetenschapsjournalistiek en -communicatie

Als begin van haar gasthoogleraarschap in Heidelberg was Ionica te gast bij een haardvuurgesprek. Hierin praat Ionica samen met Prof. Dr. Michael Boutros en Annika Elstermann over de onderwerpen wetenschapsjournalistiek en wetenschapscommunicatie. Het gesprek werd geleid door Prof. Dr. Matthias Weidemüller, vice-rector aan de Universiteit van Heidelberg.

The Gala of Science & Society – a NeFCA Report

Hieronder leest u het NeFCA verslag geschreven door Julie Schoorl over het Gala van de Wetenschap & Samenleving, wat plaatsvond op pi-dag (14 maart) 2022. Ionica was samen met Jim Jansen host van het Gala.

On pi-day, the 14th of March, the very first edition of the Gala of Science and Society took place in a sold-out Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden, the City of Science of 2022. Hosted by University of Leiden’s science communication professor Ionica Smeets and chief editor of New Scientist Jim Jansen, this event was all about the conversation between -you might have guessed- science and society. Over 800 people were present and the audience consisted of a mix of scientists, journalists, policy makers and citizens. The invited speakers came from various (scientific) backgrounds and entertained the audience with various engaging talks. Virologist Marion Koopmans thanked everyone for being part of the largest epidemiological experiment in history, chemist and Nobel-prize winner Ben Feringa emphasized the importance of curiosity and physicist Ivo van Vulpen acknowledged complicated contradictions in theory coming from Einstein and Hawking and how this led us to connect the small with the large.

New Scientist chief editor Jim Jansen and professor Ionica Smeets hosted the evening with entertaining intermezzos and interviews. Picture by Bob Bronshoff

Apart from professors offering new scientific insights, there were various scientists invited to the stage who have been working in the field of (science) communication for a long time – representing NeFCA at this large event. Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Society Claes de Vreese from the University of Amsterdam discussed the worrisome yet simultaneously fascinating developments of AI and what (dangerous) implications this might have for society. As an example, he mentioned the deepfake videos that are now produced ever more rapidly and spread on the Internet. Such a development introduces risk, as it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what (or who) is real and what (or who) is not. This could possibly impact important societal phenomena like democratic voting polls, which is why De Vreese is very motivated to continue his research.

Professor Claes de Vreese emphasizes the thrilling opportunities and possible dangerous risks that Artificial Intelligence imposes on us as society. Picture by Bob Bronshoff

Following his talk, behavioural scientist Reint Jan Renes, lector at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, appeared on stage. He focused on the attempts to change behaviour in relation to climate change. Renes made the audience aware of the apparent disconnect between the thoughts and intention to change behaviour and the realization of genuinely changing that behaviour. He prompted the audience to formulate one simple and small resolution that they should share with their environment, such as making the promise to eat less meat, in order to make that small step forward towards a better climate.

Behavioural scientist Reint Jan Renes encourages the audience to participate in the ‘’Green Shift’’ to combat climate change. Picture by Bob Bronshoff

Apart from talks related to societal issues like democracy and climate change, there were also engaging battles and quizzes to entertain the audience. Margriet van der Heijden, physicist, science journalist and professor of Science Communication at Technical University Eindhoven, was able to show the misconceptions and underrepresentation of women in science. She had created an interactive Kahoot! Quiz that revealed that the audience surprisingly underestimated the representation of women in science, while it also revealed a lack of factual knowledge about women in science in the past. This activity was quickly followed by a dynamic battle between quantum physicist Julia Cramer and cognitive neuroscientist Barbara Braams, who were representing the natural sciences and the social sciences respectively. They both had to essentially ‘sell’ their field of science to the audience by describing world-changing ideas and most inspiring studies within their field. The audience seemed to slightly favour the natural sciences, as was proven by measuring the noise (read: applause and cheering) made by de crowd. However, both contestants managed to convey their enthusiasm and stress the importance of the discoveries and ongoing research in their respective fields.

While the battle had shown that the audience was capable of making noise, professor Ionica Smeets managed to induce a striking silence during her monologue about the flaws that still linger in the field of science communication. She emphasized the need to listen to conversational partners, even if one does not agree with them, and the urgency to aim communication towards those people that are in need of information, not just the groups that are easiest to reach. The monologue was reinforced by the accompaniment of a soundscape by pianist Tom Dicke. This musical intermezzo managed to highlight both the importance as well as the exciting possibilities of science communication.

The first edition of the Gala of Science and Society, hosted in Leiden, City of Science 2022. NeFCA was one of the main partners. Picture by Bob Bronshoff

The variety of talks, the interactive elements and the enthusiasm of the two hosts resulted in a successful event. Many chats ensued, both formal and informal, between various audience members. Everyone left the Stadsgehoorzaal a little more informed and -hopefully- a little better equipped to communicate in informal and academic contexts.

Julie Schoorl

Paper Expert Quotes and Exaggeration in Health News: a Retrospective Quantative Content Analysis

Bossema, F.G., Burger, P., Bratton, L., Challenger, A., Adams, R.C., Sumner, P., Schat, J., Numans, M.E., Smeets, I. (2019). Expert quotes and exaggeration in health news: a retrospective quantitative content analysis. Wellcome Open Research 4, 56. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15147.1


This research is an investigation into the role of expert quotes in health news, specifically whether news articles containing a quote from an independent expert are less often exaggerated than articles without such a quote.


Retrospective quantitative content analysis of journal articles, press releases, and associated news articles was performed. The investigated sample are press releases on peer-reviewed health research and the associated research articles and news stories. Our sample consisted of 462 press releases and 668 news articles from the UK (2011) and 129 press releases and 185 news articles from The Netherlands (2015). We hand-coded all journal articles, press releases and news articles for correlational claims, using a well-tested codebook. The main outcome measures are types of sources that were quoted and exaggeration of correlational claims. We used counts, 2×2 tables and odds ratios to assess the relationship between presence of quotes and exaggeration of the causal claim.


Overall, 99.1% of the UK press releases and 84.5% of the Dutch press releases contain at least one quote. For the associated news articles these percentages are: 88.6% in the UK and 69.7% in the Netherlands. Authors of the study are most often quoted and only 7.5% of UK and 7.0% of Dutch news articles contained a new quote by an expert source, i.e. one not provided by the press release. The relative odds that an article without an external expert quote contains an exaggeration of causality is 2.6.


The number of articles containing a quote from an independent expert is low, but articles that cite an external expert do contain less exaggeration.

[link] [PDF]

Alumnus of the Year 2018

De TU Delft reikt elk jaar de award voor ‘Alumnus of the year’ uit aan een alumnus die een inspiratie is voor anderen of een speciale contributie heeft geleverd aan technologie, innovatie, de wetenschap of ondernemerschap. De winnaar krijgt ook een plekje op de ‘Alumni Walk of Fame’ in het Mekelpark op de campus van de TU Delft.

Ionica Smeets is verkozen tot alumnus van het jaar 2018. Dat is gedaan door een jury bestaande uit Tim van der Hagen (voorzitter van het College van Bestuur en tevens rector magnificus van de TU Delft) en Micheal Wisbrun (voorzitter Universiteitsfonds TU Delft). De universiteit waardeert haar voor de toegankelijke, effectieve en vaak komische manier waarop ze probeert de kloof tussen de wetenschap en de maatschappij probeert te overbruggen.