Room for creative and innovative MVI research
By mid-July, the ECCM MVI Top-Up call will open: a new call that invites humanities and social sciences researchers to enter into a collaboration with six recently appointed tenure track researchers in the field of Electrochemical Conversion and Materials (ECCM). Member of the programme committee Eefje Cuppen, Professor of Governance of Sustainability at Leiden University, talks about the design of the programme.
‘Right from the start of the programme Electrochemical Conversion and Materials the intention was to include MVI research’, says Cuppen. ECCM makes it possible to store energy from electricity in chemical compounds, such as hydrogen. The new Top-Up call integrates the MVI approach in this ECCM tenure track programme.
In concrete terms, this means that a funding round was first held within the ECCM programme in which six postdocotral researchers from the Netherlands and abroad acquired tenure track positions at a Dutch host institution. These six tenure track researchers will now enter into a collaboration with humanities and social sciences researchers in the ECCM MVI Top-Up call that will soon open in order to realise the societal aspects of their research.
Jointly coming up with ideas
In the proposal, the six tenure track researchers will describe what the MVI component of the research could be, says Cuppen. By means of digital matchmaking on the programme page they will present their plans, and interested humanities and social sciences researchers can then come into contact with them to jointly discover the possibilities for innovative, interdisciplinary research.
Product and process
Cuppen sees plenty of opportunities. ‘You can draw a distinction between the product the project is working towards and the process that the tenure track researcher is using. What is their “practice of doing research”, and what does that mean for the way in which they steer their research towards future technologies? Each approach contains implicit assumptions about which problem you are actually trying to solve. For MVI researchers it can be interesting to investigate those implicit assumptions, describe the diversity of ideas that exists about such a problem, and to which choices different visions lead in the development trajectory.’
The importance of MVI research for this type of technical developments is clear, says Cuppen. ‘If as a natural sciences researcher you claim to do something that is relevant for society, then you must also include the societal aspects right from the start of the research. It is still too often the case that after the end of a development trajectory, negative effects on people, the living environment or values, such as democracy and justice, become visible. By including various visions right from the start, you acquire better innovations that will more easily take hold in society.’
Based on her own experience with MVI research, Cuppen also has some advice for humanities and social sciences researchers who are interested in this collaboration: ‘Make sure you have an open mind and outlook when you talk with people who have a completely different background. In the grant application, these six tenure track researchers have already written a section about the possibilities they see for MVI research. This means that they find it important and have already thought about it. Go and see what you can learn from each other, allow yourself to be inspired, and through doing this jointly, come up with new things that nobody has ever previously thought of. It would be terrific if this programme resulted in new, genuinely interdisciplinary approaches. Taking that step from multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary collaboration is not easy and requires time. But I’m convinced that genuine innovations can be realised at the interface of humanities, natural sciences and social sciences research.’