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4. Radboud University in the media 

Media impact in facts and figures

Radboud University’s presence in the media is measured in terms of reach and number of posts. These figures continued to increase in 2021, although there are differences in the increases. The reach, for example, increased much faster than the number of posts. This suggests that Radboud University researchers were far more often covered and sought out by media with a larger reach.





Number of posts










The Corporate Communications department sent out about 75 press releases in 2021, supplemented by a monthly research newsletter. In addition, 100 posts about research were published on and more than 600 articles about Radboud research were published on Radboud Recharge. Research was also regularly featured on social media channels: from Q&As and quizzes on Instagram to inspiring posts on LinkedIn.

While COVID-19 was still the dominant topic for which journalists called to ask for information from researchers in 2020, there was more room for other topics in 2021. The parliamentary elections and the exceptionally long Cabinet formation meant that Radboud political scientists and historians such as Carolien van Ham, Kristof Jacobs and Koen Vossen regularly appeared in the media. Researchers from the Centre for Parliamentary History were also in demand.

An academic article by eight migration lawyers from Radboud University and a booklet published simultaneously, compiled by immigration lawyers, caused a wave of media attention in April. Journalists also contacted Radboud researchers to discuss privacy issues. Expert Bart Jacobs appeared in the media nearly 100 times. In addition, Marlies van Eck, Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius, Jaap-Henk Hoepman and Tamar Sharon explained issues related to algorithms, privacy and ethics.

Impact via social media

Not on campus but still connected: in 2021, Radboud University’s social media channels once again played a key role in informing the academic community and strengthening our mutual commitment to one another.

At the corporate level, Radboud University is active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat and – starting this year – TikTok. In addition, international and Dutch students and prospective students know how to access the WhatsApp channels for study information.

  • WhatsApp Information in Dutch: 8,563 messages and answers (2020: 7,525)

  • WhatsApp Information international: 10,563 messages and answers (2020: 8,402)

  • Number of followers:

    • Facebook: 44,265 (+3.66%)

    • LinkedIn: 153,375 (+9.44%)

    • Twitter: 29,192 (+5%)

    • Instagram: 23,504 (+23.24%)

    • YouTube: 5,793 (+31.77%)

    • TikTok: 2,000

Coronavirus updates were widely read on all channels in 2021. Photos of the campus in all seasons also received many ‘likes’. The 6 April protest against too-high workloads in academic higher education also attracted a lot of attention. And on YouTube, videos about the difference between universities of applied sciences and research universities, and two (virtual) tours of the campus were widely viewed. At the end of 2021, we were second among the Dutch universities active on TikTok in terms of the number of followers.

Publications with a considerable impact

The efforts of the academic editors (part of the Marketing & Communications department) also resulted in some standouts in 2021. Here is a list of studies that generated considerable media attention, one for each faculty.

Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies: Venerating images is not idolatry

Alfred Bronswijk’s PhD research challenged the deep-rooted divide between Protestants and Catholics regarding the veneration of images. Protestants’ criticism of the image-rich Roman Catholic Church – often dismissed as a form of idolatry – is groundless. Bronswijk’s analysis found that the supposed prohibition against images is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Nor is the claim made by the founders of Protestantism that earlier Christianity was fundamentally image-free correct. Bronswijk, who obtained his doctorate in September, argues for the establishment of an institute in which Protestants and Catholics can study religious art together. “Protestants are not interested enough in art history. What they can learn from the Catholic tradition is interest in and research into the image, and how to use the image as a theological source.”

Faculty of Law: Refugee policy is not in line with European law

A June article in the Nederlands Juristenblad [Dutch Law Journal] calls for better protection of refugees. The article, titled ‘Ongezien onrecht in het vreemdelingenrecht’ (Invisible injustice in immigration law), draws a parallel between immigration law and the recent Dutch child benefits scandal. If migrants do not report certain information, such as a change in income, or are late in reporting, they are immediately classified as fraudulent.

That has far-reaching consequences, explains Tineke Strik (Centre for Migration Law), one author of the article. One major difficulty is the strictness of the requirements that asylum seekers have to meet when submitting documents. “Often, people can no longer receive cooperation from the authorities in their home country”, Strik explained in a Radboud Recharge article . “Such an asylum request is then immediately classified as ‘not credible’ and the asylum application is rejected. These people then get into serious trouble.” Migrants are treated just as harshly as benefit-seeking parents, Strik believes. “There is no eye for the human dimension.” The article was also discussed in the Lower House.

Faculty of Science: Decline in insect populations

Alongside a sharp decline in the total biomass of flying insects, the diversity of species has also declined in German nature reserves. This is certainly true for hoverflies, as shown by a team of ecologists led by Professor Hans de Kroon. De Kroon and others reported on this dramatic decline in 2017, and it has now been confirmed: the number of insects has declined across the board, particularly among non-rare species. This result was published in January in a special edition of the scientific journal PNAS, which was devoted to insect decline. “It gives a good overview of the present situation with insects”, De Kroon said in the press release. “More and more data are becoming available that confirm our suspicion that the world’s insects are in a sorry state.”

Faculty of Social Sciences: Muslim tolerance for homosexuality

Research  by sociologists Saskia Glas and Niels Spierings shows that the perception of gay intolerance in the Muslim world needs to be more nuanced. Research among 9,000 Muslims in nine Arab countries paints a multifaceted picture of their views. The researchers published their findings in Social Science Research in January. The research distinguished between attitudes towards homosexuality and homosexuals. The research found that Muslims who visit mosques regularly prefer not to have homosexual neighbours but do not have a problem with homosexuality in general. However, devout Muslims often condemn the very notion of homosexuality. There is also a considerable group that exhibits the opposite: acceptance of homosexuals as neighbours, but not of homosexuality as a concept.

Saskia Glas: “It's unfair to say that Islam breeds antipathy towards homosexuals, as some social debates suggest. The way you experience and live your faith affects your views on homosexuality. By assuming that Islam and acceptance of homosexuality are fundamentally opposed, we are suppressing alternative interpretations of Islam and making it even harder for homosexual Muslims.”

Faculty of Arts: Algorithm opens sealed 17th century letter

An international research team has succeeded in reading a sealed 17th century letter for the first time, helped by advanced scanning technology and a computer-controlled algorithm. After four years of research  involving collaboration between scientists from very different fields, the team was able to publish the first results in Nature Communications in March.

David van der Linden from Radboud University emphasises the value of this breakthrough: “Historians mainly see letters as a source to gain access to people from the past, but they are also physical objects. By collaborating with curators and computer scientists, we are able to pay more attention to the material characteristics of letters.” Another researcher involved in the project emphasised the special insight the newly opened letter offers into the worries of ordinary people in the past: “Usually, only the correspondence of elites is preserved and studied.”

Nijmegen School of Management: Peak in twin births

More twins are being born than ever before, according to a study  by researchers from Radboud University, Oxford University and INED (the French institute for demographic studies). One in every 42 children born is a twin, an increase of one-third compared to the 1980s. About 1.6 million twins are now born every year. The study, published in Human Reproduction in March, cites the sharp increase in fertility treatments such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation), ovarian stimulation and artificial insemination as a major cause of the increase. Another cause is the increased average age at which women have children in many countries, since the likelihood of having twins increases with the mother’s age. The researchers suspect that the peak in twin pregnancies has been reached, particularly in highly developed countries, where fertility doctors are increasingly emphasising the importance of having only one child. It is less certain how this will unfold in poorer countries, such as parts of Africa.

Faculty of Medical Sciences: New insights into male infertility

The cause of infertility in half of infertile couples is related to the man, but current diagnostic tests usually cannot discover the cause. During her PhD, Manon Oud investigated the role of genetics in male infertility. This represents a step towards unravelling the causes of male infertility. In her research, Oud showed that current diagnostic methods, which have remained unchanged for 20 years, could be greatly improved by new techniques. For example, the majority of men who cannot produce sperm undergo a testicular biopsy, a painful procedure that only yields sperm cells in 55% of cases. This new study will help to predict which of these men would benefit from such a biopsy, and will contribute generally to improving care within the framework of the Centre of Expertise for Male Infertility.