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'Our teaching and research make a difference, and together we're making that message heard. '

Tuesday 21 April 2020 we heard that most of the Corona measures will remain in place until at least 20 May 2020. Dean Paul Wouters emphasizes the power of education and research within the social sciences in times of intelligent lockdown.

We will be working from home for some time to come. Last Tuesday's announcement at the press conference, though perhaps not what we were hoping for, was not really unexpected. Several bodies are busy working out various scenarios to enable us eventually to work together again in person, in our university buildings, when the time does come. We all knuckled down as best we could to work and study from home. With enormous dedication, we have continued with our teaching and research to the best of our ability. I am aware that it devours a lot of energy, and I am proud of how far we have come. Our teaching and research make a difference, and together we're making that message heard.  

Now our society has gone into intelligent lockdown mode and is very gradually beginning to re-emerge, insights from the social and behavioural sciences are essential when it comes to working out scenarios. Our colleagues from Political Science, for example, are involved in advising the Central Crisis Team on how best to organise their team in this protracted crisis so as to remain flexible and consistent. In addition, researchers from all disciplines - humanities, social sciences, and the exact sciences - are needed to rethink the future of the Netherlands creatively and come up with out-of-the-box solutions. And let's involve artists in this process too, as was so eloquently advocated by Ramsey Nasr on Sunday (in Dutch), because sometimes we really have to start thinking in ways that may seem more like science fiction.

No matter how intelligently the lockdown is deployed, this situation is not easy for anyone. And indeed, news items about corona are often formulated in negative terms, which can actually exacerbate any symptoms people experience (nocebo effect (in Dutch)). It is important to involve researchers to ensure the best advice. We are happy that the Faculty is closely involved in the University’s online dossier Healthy University @Home, so our researchers can contribute insights from the latest science. The dossier was set up to help people safeguard their mental and physical health during this time of social distancing: it provides tips on working from home, stress, loneliness, and sources of support such as the Student Support Groups. I hope that this information will also be useful and applicable to you, our own staff and students. It's a dossier by and for you. Please let us know if you feel there's any advice that needs adding!

At the end of the working day I like to unwind by cycling through the northern part of the Groene Hart, a peaceful Dutch landscape. I'm always overtaken by crowds of lycra-clad cyclists of all ages, who speed past on fantastically lightweight race bikes as I rattle along on my old banger of a city bike - which then feels like it's made of cast iron. But actually I find it all the more relaxing, pottering along through a landscape resounding with birdsong. Slow science ;)

Warm remote greetings, from your dean - I miss you all!

Paul Wouters
Dean Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

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