Synergy '22

Synergy ’22 Award

Synergy '21 was both super exciting and nerve-racking. It’s a great chance to take your research to the real world. Taking part in the competition has surely boosted my passion to bridge science and practice. After all, without Synergy ’21, our coaching podcast PhD Unplugged wouldn’t be reality.
- Lara Solms, Synergy '21 Award winner

About the award

The Synergy Award aims to provide an opportunity for PhD students to explore and present the potential impact of their research on society. A NWO-committee reviewed the submissions and selected four candidates. These four candidates are invited to pitch their compelling impact ideas at Synergy ’22. During the Synergy ’22 closing session the audience and an expert jury will cast their votes to select the most exciting and innovative idea for societal impact. The winner will be awarded a prize of €2,500 to kick-start the development of their idea. After Synergy ’22, NWO aims to connect the winner to academic and non-academic professionals who are interested in exploring the practical dimensions of the winner’s research. Progress made by the winning candidate will be presented at the Synergy Awards ’23. The awardees will be announced soon.


Nominees 2022

Laura Ogden, Maastricht University

From generations to trajectories: Rethinking the way we categorise migrant youth

This Synergy Award application proposes a two-part project to collect and share mobility trajectories, in order to rethink the categories we use for youth with a migrant background. Migrant-generation categories are common and outdated. First-generation refers to people who migrate themselves, while second-generation designates the children of migrants. We use migrant-generation categories to collect demographic statistics, discuss social issues, and research integration and education outcomes. But categories aren’t neutral, and their meanings and usefulness change over time. For example, the CBS recently dropped ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ categories from surveys, because they recognized that these categories are stigmatizing, arbitrary, and increasingly irrelevant. Rethinking migrant-generation categories is similarly long overdue. What are these categories hiding, and what are feasible alternatives?

This project will build impact by raising awareness of mobility trajectories as an alternative to migrant-generation categories. Policymakers will see the scale of diversity of migrant youth’s mobility trajectories and understand they offer a useful alternative to migrant-generation categories. Educators will have practical tools to engage their students in considering the role of mobility in their lives and social categories generally. And our citizen-science participants and exhibition visitors will be prompted to think about their own (migration) background in new ways.

Ulrike Hahn, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

ResearchIN’ Comics

Traditional academic publications are often not the most effective means to reach the general public. They are frequently read by a niche audience. However, it is imperative that research does not only stay within academic circles, but that it permeates society to create societal impact.

That’s where comics offer an interesting communication complement. They are powerful means for science communication for three main reasons. First, comics are accessible to a wider audience. They can communicate about a topic that might otherwise not reach a broader readership. Second, comics can powerfully engage audiences through their visual language, metaphors, and character-driven stories. Third, comics are increasingly used and accepted for science communication. However, I could not identify a platform that offers a comic approach for PhD students to disseminate their research findings. Therefore, my idea for societal impact is to create a platform for academic PhD comics illustrating the results of PhD students’ publications. With this I strive to achieve making academic findings more widely available in fun and engaging ways. “ResearchIN’ Comics” can create societal impact in visually powerful and engaging ways, by reaching people who would not otherwise know about the research and encourage action.

Anouk Mols, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Family Privacy Essentials Package

On an ordinary Wednesday evening, a family is about to have dinner. Meanwhile, the 13-year old daughter receives Snapchat messages from her friends, the mother checks the student tracking system of the 11-year old son, the son scans through TikTok videos, and the father instructs a smart speaker to play music. In this scenario it becomes clear that family life is infused with technology and consequently, digital safety and privacy are pressing topics for parents and children. However, my PhD research about families and technology use shows that efforts to control and protect media use often lead to tensions between parents and (young) adolescents. My findings also indicate that open and constructive conversations are crucial for supporting privacy awareness and resilience. Privacy is a complex topic and tangibility proves to be key to increasing awareness and resilience. Therefore, I want to create an impact on families by providing them with a Family Privacy Essentials Package which makes privacy tangible through practical tools and helps parents and children to better identify surveillance practices and to apply privacy-preserving measures.

The Family Privacy Essentials Package (which can be send by mail) is aimed at families with children between 10-14 year old. It includes two tangible tools to protect different forms of privacy which are briefly explained in an engaging flyer. Most importantly, this flyer includes conversation starters about privacy. The conversation starters deliberately focus on positive uses of technologies and private space as well as touch upon potential risks. By prompting open conversations, the package supports an understanding among family members and encourages them to learn from each other.

All in all, the Family Privacy Essentials Package will help families open up conversations about privacy while simultaneously providing them with straightforward solutions.

Dorien Smith, Pro Persona GGZ & Radboud University Nijmegen

The Power of Peers

Objective: Our goal is to provide individuals living with depression with accessible peer support, serving as a safe learning environment in coping with the illness. By applying our close network with patient organisations and social initiatives, we offer peers the opportunity to work on their pathway towards recovery in daily life. With the online community Depression Connect, and our planned scale-up for offline guidance, we facilitate the exchange of experiential knowledge and guidance towards meaningful activities.

Although other fora for depression are available in the Netherlands, the close collaboration between specialized mental health services and the patient association is one of the main strengths of the DC platform. When moderating and coordinating the DC community, the perspectives of both health professionals and experiential experts are taken into account. With an ongoing ZonMw funding, we plan to scale-up our partnership with a third perspective, the one of the public domain with a focus on a social reintegration organization, Ixta Noa. In doing so, we unite mental health care, patient associations and the public domain.

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