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These were Leiden University’s interdisciplinary milestones of 2023

Connecting worlds, enhancing research and teaching, and providing innovative solutions to complex social issues: that is the idea behind interdisciplinary research. In that respect, a huge amount happened at Leiden University in 2023.

Research with a social impact

By ‘mixing’ their fields, researchers can come up with all kinds of great new projects. Look no further than the Leiden interdisciplinary research projects that were launched or carried out in 2023. For example:

All over Europe are ethnographic museums with large collections of indigenous objects from Latin America. An ERC Starting Grant is allowing Dr Martin Berger to look at the bigger picture and contextualise individual collections in the larger pan-European sphere of collecting.

Migration, globalisation, technological developments, climate change: the greatest challenges of our time all affect the labour market. But how exactly? And can we influence this? Professor of Economics Olaf van Vliet regards it as his job to reveal how things really are.

Anne-Laura van Harmelen – Professor of Professor Brain, Safety and Resilience and one of the coordinators of the Social Resilience and Security interdisciplinary programme – is going to research the social and neurobiological mechanisms of resilience in young people with childhood trauma.

And there was much more, of course, including research on powers for international organisations, how AI fits in the Islamic world, nature’s ‘services’ in the city and boosting fundamental AI research.

Innovative education

Interdisciplinary education brings together students and teachers from a wide range of fields. This has resulted in exciting new combinations, such as:

Why are health problems such as loneliness and obesity so persistent? Why are they more prevalent in some neighbourhoods than others? This is what students learn about in the new ‘Dynamics of a Healthy Society’ minor.

Physics - Faculty of Science - Leiden University

Quantum technologies are in demand worldwide, but until now Leiden students could not specialise in them. The new QIST (Quantum Information Science and Technology) master’s programme is going to change this. 

The interdisciplinary, English-taught ‘Violence Studies’ minor looks at violence from diverse scientific perspectives. What are the benefits of this approach? Students and lecturers explain: ‘This minor’s a goldmine’.

Transdisciplinary collaboration

Besides interdisciplinary collaboration, there is also transdisciplinary collaboration, which brings together academics and other non-academic stakeholders and/or citizens. The year 2023 was fruitful here too.

Is polder rice a feasible circular alternative to cows on peat soil? A trial began in May, with researchers from Leiden University and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) planting around 3,000 rice plants at Polderlab near Leiden.


Buurtlab 070 is a brand-new Leiden University project in which residents, researchers and students from The Hague work together to find climate, sustainability and biodiversity solutions.


Researchers from seven universities will spend the next decade looking at how young people can grow up to be engaged and resilient adults. Leiden psychologists explain how they will do so.


And there was much more too, such as a new initiative within the university’s collaboration with 113 Suicide Prevention, a conference on governance and tackling global problems, collaboration with the Municipality of The Hague on sustainability and a conference on collecting and preserving.

Sharing knowledge with society

Our interdisciplinary research programmes shared their knowledge in various ways with citizens, government and industry. For example:

What practical steps can we take to resolve cross-border claims to looted art and prevent illicit trafficking in cultural goods? That’s what the European Parliament asked Leiden legal scholar Evelien Campfens.


The SAILS conference The Future of AI is Here (and Guess What … it’s Human) brought researchers and policymakers together to discuss important AI issues.


Eighty academic papers, 270 participants and four roundtables on dealing with global challenges. The Global Transformations and Governance Challenges interdisciplinary research programme’s second conference was bold and ambitious. What did participants think?

We also shared our knowledge in articles targeting specific sectors, such as the public or HR sectors.

Supporting interdisciplinary collaboration

Strong interdisciplinary cooperation takes time because you need to get to know each other and figure out how to build on that cooperation. Leiden University put a lot of energy into strengthening connections in 2023. For example:

Leiden University opened a new state-of-the-art research facility in 2023 and launched a unique collaboration between the Faculties of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Humanities.


Leiden University’s Executive Board awarded 33 projects a ‘Kiem’ grant to stimulate interdisciplinary initiatives within the university.


Bring over 100 driven researchers together in one room and the good ideas will start to flow: that was the thinking behind a central internal networking meeting at Leiden University.

And meetings were held to discuss the conditions for interdisciplinary research.

Would you like to stay up to date with interdisciplinary developments at Leiden University? Please visit our interdisciplinary research webpage.

Interdisciplinary events in 2024 for Leiden researchers

Are you a researcher at Leiden University? Then you might like to know the first interdisciplinary events for 2024 are already in the works.

17 January – Symposium: Social Citizenship and Migration interdisciplinary research programme

1 February – Symposium: ‘How do we make interdisciplinary collaboration work?' 

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