Studium Generale Groningen: Expanding your horizon on science

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Studium Generale Groningen (SGG), part of the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Hanzehogeschool), organizes innovative and multidisciplinary activities in the field of science, culture and society. We interviewed Jennifer O’Connell, head programme maker at SGG.

SGG facilitates a connection between researchers and the audience by linking research to societal and cultural topics. O’Connell believes that SGG is a place to meet for everyone who has an interest in research: students, researchers, people who work at the University of Groningen or Hanze University of Applied Sciences, but also people who are not involved in academia, like the general public. She explains why she thinks SGG is important: “I think that very few people have an idea of what kind of research is being done in Groningen. What we really want to do is making research results visible and accessible, bringing them out of the ivory tower. We want to show people what research is, how nuanced it is. And that research is a conversation, not a fixed result. We want to invite people to participate in this conversation in an age where everybody seems to be very tired of experts. I think it is our task to expand these target groups and these horizons. [. . .] We really want to show why research is relevant for people and create a climate in which people can soak up knowledge, but also participate.”  

Organising activities 

The SGG programme consists of a variety of activities from lectures to science cafes, with which they reach a diverse audience. O’Connell elaborates, “We organise activities weekly, so we have a lot of output. For instance, we are organising the monthly Science Café [Kenniscafé] in the Groninger Forum and the Science Dinner [Kennisdiner] once every semester, both returning programmes that draw the attention of a broad audience. We are also organising the Groninger Wetenschaps Quiz [31 May 2021] in the Groninger Forum. In this quiz three teams compete against each other and people can participate from home. The topics vary from physics to logical reasoning, from history to language. Nobel Laureate Ben Feringa will be the judge in this science quiz.”

Dutch and English activities

SGG has both Dutch- and English-spoken activities: “We try to target a general audience, so we are focusing on people from the Northern Netherlands living in Groningen, Drenthe, and Friesland. Therefore, we have multiple Dutch-spoken activities. We also organise programmes in English, so we try to be as diverse as we can. The English programmes draw the attention of a big student crowd, which is very nice. International students are really interested in these activities.”

Multidisciplinar approach

Together with her team, O’Connell coordinates the SGG programme, by connecting people and organisations. She wants the programme to be multidisciplinary. “We would never tackle a subject from only one point of view, but we always look at it from different perspectives to have a more nuanced view,” she adds.

Collaborations

SGG collaborates with several partners such as faculties, lectorates and different organisations such as Groninger Forum, Kapteyn Institute and City Central. “We come up with subjects ourselves, and sometimes researchers come to us. Not only researchers, but also organisations from within the University of Groningen or Hanze or outside, such as from the cultural field.”

O’Connell emphasises that her team is always open for new collaborations or initiatives. She elaborates, “Researchers can always contact me or the other programme makers and we would definitely look at their proposals. We are very interested in people reaching out to us. Even when a proposal does not make it into our programme, we help in the process of outreach. We are able to connect people to other organisations, because we have an expansive network.”

Interested in the SGG programme: visit their website