Universiteit Leiden

nl en

SSH labs: a place to be inspired by your colleagues

The new SSH labs will offer great opportunities for FSW and FGW staff engaged in experimental research. The labs will be a place of inspiration, not only because of the state-of-the-art equipment, but also as a result of the increased interaction with colleagues in other disciplines.

The many different SSH labs do not only provide more room for research and access to modern research equipment, but also promote collaboration. ‘The SSH labs will encourage collaboration between faculties, starting with the collaboration between FSW and FGW,’ Henk van Steenbergen says, previously chair of the focus group responsible for developing the plans for the SSH labs. Angus Mol, who in an earlier stage represented FGW in the SSH lab project, says that mutual contact between researcher is an important aspect. ‘The design of the SSH labs in the Sylvius Building in particular facilitates meeting colleagues from other faculties. In the corridors, the coffee room and at other locations.’

SSH Labs in a nutshell

The unique collaboration between the Social and behavioural Sciences and Humanities faculties creates a wide range of research opportunities in many different locations. All existing and new Sylvius SSH labs will be available to researchers from both faculties. The new labs, that will open their doors in September, are especially noteworthy because of their spacious layout and innovative equipment. Apart from the Sylvius labs, the other participating SSH labs are those in the Pieter de la Court Building and in the current Lipsius Building, including the labs for psycho- and neurolinguistic research and for phonetics research.

Sheer necessity

Creating opportunities for collaboration is an important reason to build new SSH labs and to renovate existing labs. At the same time, taking this step was sheer necessity. Van Steenbergen: ‘The number of academic staff at the Institute of Psychology has significantly increased during the last decade. We have been struggling to fit all research in the existing space for years now. At the same time, most of the labs in the Pieter de la Court Building are seriously outdated. There was an urgent need to act.’ Marga Sikkema-de Jong, who is involved in the focus group on behalf of the Institute of Education and Child Studies, agrees: ‘The FSW labs in Pieter de la Court were built at a time when quantitative experimental research was still relatively rare.’

Spacious class room

A large part of the existing labs will be renovated in the near feature. The labs on the Pieter de la Court Building, for instance, will be fully renewed. The FGW labs in the Lipsius Building in the longer term will be re-established after moving to the North Cluster, which is located in the current Matthias de Vrieshof. Knowing that these kinds of improvement are within reach, many researchers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new SSH labs. Sikkema-de Jong: ‘Personally, I am looking forward to using the large Sylvius lab that is set up as a classroom. I can envisage many opportunities for research, for instance on interaction between pupils, or between pupils and their teacher, or on new teachers’ class management.’

VR and eye tracking

Many researchers are particularly eager to have access to the extensive VR facilities that will become available in the Sylvius Building. Lisa Cheng, LUCL’s scientific director: ‘At this moment we have no opportunities to use VR in our labs. The visual world paradigm that can be created by using virtual reality in combination with eye tracking equipment, is very interesting for us. We will be able to conduct linguistic research in which the subjects react to their surroundings.’

Mol shares this enthusiasm about the chances that VR offers: ‘The VR equipment is great for colleagues in Art History who are interested in eye tracking. Researchers at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts who want to study aspects of dance already see many ways in which to use VR. This also is true for colleagues who are engaged in media research. My own research on how we experience the past in our digital present while playing computer games, will likely also benefit from the new VR equipment.’ Van Steenbergen: ‘The new facilities can help to make the SSH labs into a VR hub for the entire university.’

Outside of the box

In its multiannual strategy Leiden University marked increased interdisciplinary research as one of its strategic ambitions. Cheng: ‘Collaboration between disciplines has a lot to offer. As linguists we have previous experience in this field through our participation in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition. In the institute, scientists of various backgrounds are working together on many issues, which so far has led to several interesting joint research projects.’

Sikkema-de Jong stresses that collaboration inspires researchers to think outside of the box. ‘We need other disciplines to look beyond the limitations of our own research approach. Disciplines working on one and the same subject may each have a slightly different perspective. And each discipline also poses different questions. Interdisciplinary collaboration, therefore, results in a fresh look and may help to prevent blind spots.’

New ideas

Inspiration is an important advantage of collaboration, Van Steenbergen says. ‘My own research focuses on the impact of positive emotions on stress buffering, and Angus Mol, for instance, in his research on games is working on the same theme from a different perspective. I find it inspiring to learn which methods are being used by other researchers from other disciplines. This certainly can generate new ideas.’

Broad perspective

In addition, our time with its complex issues requires solutions based on a broad perspective. Mol: ‘The challenges within our society are growing, which means that the challenges for academia are increasing as well. If we all, from our own specific domain, would develop solutions, that would be insufficient. Fragmentation is lethal. There is much more to gain from investigating and analysing problems with the help of an overarching, broad collaboration that brings the expertise from various disciplines together. The SSH labs have the potential to become a fine example of interdisciplinary research.’

Other disciplines

This collaboration will by no means be restricted to the social sciences and humanities, joining perspectives and expertise will be encouraged in other fields as well. Van Steenbergen: ‘We are starting with the faculties in the SSH domain, but some LIACS-affiliated researchers have already shown their interest as well. In this way, the new SSH labs will be a beautiful spot for cross-fertilisation among many research areas.’

This website uses cookies.  More information.