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Ionica Smeets and Alex Verkade coordinators of national centre for science communication

Minister Dijkgraaf (Education, Culture and Science) has appointed Ionica Smeets and Alex Verkade as coordinators of a new national centre for science communication. The centre will foster a dialogue between researches and society and will gather and share expertise to make science communication more effective. Ionica Smeets and Alex Verkade have been championing a national centre for science communication for years.

Ionica Smeets is Professor of Science Communication at Leiden University and head of the Science Communication & Society department that offers the master’s specialisation of the same name. She is also a science communicator herself in her columns, books and discussions in the traditional media and on social media. Alex Verkade is on the management team of Taskforce for Applied Research SIA, which aims to improve the quality and impact of practice-based research. He has devoted his entire career to connecting research and society and has worked for in science communication over 20 years, in both practice and policy.

Firm foundation

Minister Dijkgraaf announced the new science communication centre in May this year. There must be a dialogue between society and science and this is where science has a role to play. But Minister Dijkgraaf also wants us as a country to stand more firmly for science and those who practise it. Our science communication therefore requires a firm foundation. Dialogue is essential to good links between science and society, and science communication can ensure this dialogue is equal and based on trust and understanding. Research and sharing knowledge on effective ways to hold that dialogue are also important and the minister sees another role here for the new science communication centre.

Ionica Smeets and Alex Verkade have been appointed to set up the new national centre as of 1 October. The minister has given them the free assignment to bring together all the energy in the field of science communication. The goal: not more, but better science communication. The centre will not determine what good science is and will itself not communicate about science but will instead foster the dialogue between researchers and people in society. Smeets and Verkade will present a blueprint for the new centre to the minister next spring.

Alex Verkade and Ionica Smeets with Minister Dijkgraaf

Share expertise

Ionica Smeets: ‘Science communication happens in so many places and in so many forms – and so many people have to reinvent the wheel every time. A lot is to be gained by sharing expertise.’

Alex Verkade: ‘Science communication is an important part of a larger movement towards more open science, where researchers are also valued for their efforts to engage with society. This is how we will go about our work as coordinators too: in an open conversation with the field, in the broadest sense of the word.’ 

Minister Dijkgraaf: ‘With their different backgrounds, broad experience and large network, Ionica and Alex are the ideal coordinators. I appreciate that Leiden University and SIA have made them available to start setting up a knowledge centre together with the field. Ionica and Alex represent a wealth of knowledge and connections and they are well positioned to bring together the broad field of science communication. The need for this is clear from the many positive reactions to the initiative for a national centre. Such broad engagement reflects the need for collaboration and knowledge sharing.’

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