Universiteit Leiden

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Dialogue session

In cap and gown on the A12, titles on X? Academics in the public debate

Wednesday 14 February 2024
Langegracht 70

On 14 February, the university’s Academic Freedom Core Team is holding a dialogue session on the role of academics in the public debate and how this relates to academic freedom. There are different perspectives on this topical issue.

How should academics join the public debate? Is active participation in societal discussions part of their job description and if so, is this participation protected under academic freedom? Or do the rights and duties of citizens become intermingled with those of academics if academics demonstrate in cap and gown on the A12 motorway or are active with title and all on X (Twitter)?

These questions are central to the second university dialogue session on academic freedom: a conversation to which the whole Leiden academic community, students and staff, is invited.

Why this dialogue? 

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the Academic Freedom Core Team held confidential discussions with students, staff and administrators from Leiden University. A recurring theme in these was the relationship between academia and society.

There are different ways in which academics can join the public debate, depending on not only their goals and motivations but also their perception of science and society. What does this mean for us as students and staff, and what are the experiences of academics who have entered the public domain? We will reflect on this during the dialogue session with the aid of a theoretical framework. This will involve exploring the merits and drivers of various ideal-typical roles, from the ‘pure scientist’ to the ‘issue advocate’, and discussing (in the plenary session and subgroups) the relationship between public engagement and academic freedom.


The dialogue is only open to Leiden University students and staff and will use the Chatham House Rule. This means that participants may use the information received during the session but may not reveal the identity of the other participants. The meeting will therefore not be recorded nor will participants be permitted to make their own audio or video recordings.

The working language of the session will be Dutch but participants will be able to ask questions and make comments in English. These will be translated by the moderator. The working language of at least one of the subgroups will be English (you can state a preference when you register).



Opening by rector Hester Bijl| Introduction by the moderator: science communication researcher Julia Cramer (Young Academy Leiden)


Introduction to ideal-typical roles in academics | Julia Cramer and the Academic Freedom Core Team

14.45 Responses from two academics | Jan van Ruitenbeek (Professor of Experimental Physics at LION) and Judith Naeff (Assistant Professor of International Studies at the Institute for Area Studies)
15.30 Group discussions 
16.15 Closing plenary
16.30 Drinks

Location and registration 

The dialogue session will be held at PLNT, Langegracht 70, Leiden. Please note: registration for the dialogue session is required. The dialogue is full, you can no longer register.

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