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1. Our Image in Pandemic Year 2020

In the Interest of Society

Countless students volunteered their time to assist those in need during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Student association Ovum Novum mobilised dozens of students to help the elderly. Business Administration student Mathilde Verbeek attracted attention with ‘letterbox cakes’ which, during the first lockdown, accounted for a thousand shipments a day from her parents’ bakery in Gorinchem. The initiative attracted attention from media such as the Hart van Nederland TV programme and the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. The Facebook page on which Nijmegen citizens responded to each other’s requests for help also flourished. Medical student Floris Boone was one of the mainstays of that effort. “It’s fantastic that people are so helpful. The most important thing is that I am doing my bit to contribute” he said to Voxweb.

‘It’s fantastic that people are so helpful. The most important thing is that I am doing my bit to contribute’

- Floris Boone

Launched in 2019, the ‘You have a part to play!’ platform proved its worth in 2020 with several notable projects. It was used to promote the university’s and Radboud university medical center’s campaign for more COVID-19 research, and in the autumn it drew attention to the teacher shortage and sustainability. ‘You have a part to play!’ aims to reinforce the university’s image as a meaningful institution that wants to contribute to social issues. The platform also serves to recruit staff.

Another example of the university’s impact was the recognition of two projects by the science communication programme of the National Research Agenda (NWA): Sterrenhemel Live! (starry skies live) and Kletskoppen op Maat (chatterboxes - customised). The projects will use new forms of communication and use existing methods differently. Kletskoppen op Maat presents language research in a playful way to primary school pupils from districts with a low socio-economic status. Sterrenhemel Live! allows schoolchildren and other visitors to take a live look at the universe, a world of supernovas and colliding stars.

Four professors were made Officers in the Order of Orange-Nassau for their exceptional services to society:  Paul Bovend'Eert (Constitutional Law), Ad Hermus (Internal Medicine), John van Opstal (Biophysics) and Paul Smits (Pharmacology; also former dean of Radboud university medical center). Three professors were made Knights of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands for their achievements in the fields of science and the arts: Judith Prins (Medical Psychology), Ans van Kemenade (English Linguistics) and Floris Rutjes (Organic Chemistry).

Radboud Young Academy

During the 97th Founder's Day of Radboud University, Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken announced the creation of the Radboud Young Academy. This platform brings together postdoc staff members in the early stages of their careers to contribute to the university’s academic culture.

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) already has a Young Academy, and now there are more universities that have established one as well. The Radboud Young Academy will eventually consist of 32 staff members who will be appointed for four years. It will be a diverse group in terms of gender, personal characteristics and competences, and its members will come from a range of faculties and institutes. Unlike those at other universities, the Radboud Young Academy will not only include staff members with an outstanding scientific profile, but also staff members who focus on educational innovation and staff in support roles.​

The Radboud Young Academy will function as a think tank and enhance the academic culture. The platform will contribute to promoting and participating in the university-wide debate on education policy, research, social impact, and media relations, with specific attention to the role and voice of early postdoc staff members. Other objectives: the development of interdisciplinary contacts in teaching and research, activities aimed at the careers of postdocs, and the preparation of young PhD candidates for future supervisory roles.

Radboud Erfgoed

Within the framework of Radboud Erfgoed (Radboud Heritage), important steps were taken in 2020 to further unlock the rich history of the university. A series of short films were uploaded to YouTube, including those about the statues of Thomas Aquino and Titus Brandsma, and about buildings such as Huize Heyendael and Oud-Heyendael. A digital presentation was also contributed to Open Monuments Day.

In addition, a major project was started to make books and manuscripts from the University Library’s special collection more accessible. This material is being digitised and offered as browsable content on the website.

Radboud University in the Media

In 2020, Radboud University and Radboud university medical center were found throughout the media in the broadest sense of the word. From national talk shows like Op1 to regional broadcasters like Omrop Fryslân, in magazines ranging from Vrij Nederland to Vogue, and on the international stage from CNN to the Wall Street Journal. Compared to last year, media performance increased, both in the number of news items and in their reach.

Another difference: whilst 2019 was a year with a few major outliers, we had a large, steady impact in the media in 2020. Two sustainability studies received remarkable media attention: the study on the environmental impact of delivery services (CNN, Scientific American and numerous other international platforms) and the study on global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions thanks to electric cars (picked up by no fewer than 248 sources worldwide, including the BBC, Forbes and New Scientist).

The Corporate Communication department sent out around 100 press releases in 2020, in addition to 12 monthly research newsletters. Furthermore, 105 reports about research appeared on RU.nl and more than 500 articles appeared on Radboud Recharge. There is an increasing need for scientists who can explain findings to the media; in 2020, researchers from Radboud university medical center played a significant role in this, specifically in relation to infectious diseases. Considerable media attention was generated by research on the effectiveness of the tuberculosis vaccine (BCG) against COVID-19 and the ineffectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. Mihai Netea, Frank van de Veerdonk and Andreas Voss regularly appeared on talk shows and in newspapers to offer advice about how to prevent the spread of the virus.

There is an increasing need for scientists who can explain findings to the media.

The media particularly needed a broad interpretation, not only of medical research, but also of topics like research into the gender-related effects of working from home. According to Lida Derks, head of Corporate Communication, this illustrates the power of the broad-based university. “Contributions were made from many areas of science to provide interpretations. The breadth of Radboud University was reflected in the media.”

Researchers also gave context to social themes in areas other than COVID-19. Examples were studies on spiritual narcissism and on the impact of smartphones. A national highlight was a study on social behaviour among young people who play video games together. A study on the importance of hedonism for a happy life raised eyebrows internationally, for example, in the Wall Street Journal. Also noteworthy are the numerous media contributions from Professor Ira Helsloot (Nijmegen School of Management) who, from the very first coronavirus measures, called attention to the non-medical aspects of crisis policy.

Since October, regional broadcaster RN7 has been presenting ‘Nijmeegse kennis’ (Nijmegen knowledge) every Saturday. In that series, they interview a PhD candidate from the university or Radboud university medical center about their research.

In addition, Harriëtte Koop, science information officer in the Corporate Communication department, was awarded the NuanceRing in January 2021. That is a journalism prize that honours nuanced and concrete presentation of medical news. She received the prize for a report from June 2020 about silicones that can lead to cell death.

Impact via Social Media

The university’s social media channels more than proved their worth in 2020. We use the channels to provide information on the one hand and to increase the involvement of students and staff on the other.

The We Are Radboud format flourished on Facebook and Instagram, with weekly interviews of students, staff members or alumni. Standouts in 2020 were refugee student Masa Hadros, Ovum Novum chair Rens Katenbelt (about coronavirus relief actions) and an international student who had to choose between staying in Nijmegen and returning to her home country. More than five million people were reached via Instagram in 2020, 145% more than in 2019.

Social media standouts included a photo campaign about favourite places on campus (Facebook, April), an update on the Maria Montessori building (Facebook and Instagram, September) and various Instagram stories.

LinkedIn also had its standouts, such as the post (also widely viewed on Radboud Recharge) about why doctors should prescribe dancing. Other popular items were about lectures in the concert hall, collaboration with refugees, and the university’s flight policy.

Popular YouTube videos included snippets from Radboud Sport TV, which were designed to keep students and staff fit during the pandemic. There are now 36 workouts online, which have collectively generated more than 200,000 views. The reactions to them are unanimously positive.

The most viewed tweet on Twitter was about the coronavirus measures (32,813 views), followed by a tweet about lectures in De Vereeniging and De Stadsschouwburg.