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Public chooses research for University’s 400th birthday

30 August 2013

In 2014 the University of Groningen will be celebrating its 400th birthday, with the theme For Infinity. This will be linked to a major academic research project, to be chosen by the public: a Gift for Infinity. On Monday 2 September 2013, Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken will open the Academic Year. He will present the three possible research proposals. Everyone can then vote via the internet to determine which proposal will eventually be selected: from 2 to 30 September, at

The three research proposals have been compiled using questions submitted within the framework of the ‘400 days – 400 questions’ project. A specially formed jury selected six questions from the nearly 300 submitted. These were in turn distilled into three research proposals, in the fields of care, law and energy (see Appendices).

Promotional films

The three research proposals will be introduced by the question posers and the relevant researchers at the University by means of a promotional film. What is the importance of the research? What makes it unique? Those involved will try to interest the public in their specific research proposal.

A look behind the scenes

In academic research, it’s not only the result that counts, the way you get there is also important. The public will be kept informed from start to finish of the whole process. By doing so, the University of Groningen is giving them a look behind the scenes at what is involved in large-scale research.

Birthday present and public support

The research proposal chosen – the Gift for Infinity – will be presented during a public event of the same name, as well as during other events related to the anniversary. Municipal authorities and businesses who want to give the University a birthday present can contribute to the realization of the chosen project. The public can of course also support their chosen Gift for Infinity. In the Netherlands, the University of Groningen is at the forefront of fund-raising for academic research and teaching. In 1996, the University set up the Ubbo Emmius Fund to this end.

400 days – 400 questions

On the occasion of its 400th birthday, the University will be giving everyone the chance to present a question, problem or good idea to a University expert. Any question is possible, all subjects are possible, and all questions will be answered. The ‘400 days – 400 questions’ project continues to run, incidentally. New questions are welcome and will be dealt with after 30 September too. More information can be found at

Information: Els van den Berg, RUG400 coordinator


From 2 September the three research proposals can be viewed in three short promotional films on the RUG400 website. Below are the questions from the public and the explanation by the University of Groningen researchers.

1.Restoring trust between public law and citizens

Henk Buitjes noticed that court cases against the Dutch government are usually won by the government. Is he imagining things? Is this a media hype? How independent is the judiciary?

And Ben Schenk asked the following question: ‘Students who had nothing to do with the exam thefts in Rotterdam also had to repeat their exams. Is that fair?’ How can we balance individual rights and the public interest?

2. Realizing sustainable energy transition in our living environment

Niels Bosman wants to know why it is taking so long to switch to sustainable energy, and why it can’t be done on a larger scale. As far as he can see it’s very sporadic.

Joost Halbertsma sees that the construction industry is in trouble and that traditional means of building are very wasteful. He wonders whether we shouldn’t be looking for other ways to build.

Dr Anne Beaulieu, project manager of the Groningen Energy and Sustainability Programme (GESP), and her research team see that some energy initiatives in streets, villages and towns do work, and is going to hunt for the success factors together with the inhabitants of the Northern Netherlands.

She’s looking forward to searching for the answers with her research group.

3. Active Golden Oldies

Question poser Monique van der Linden saw her mother get very lonely and thought, ‘Is that what‘s in store for me? When I get very old, I want my life to still be meaningful! That’s what you see in other cultures!’

Karin van der Schee works in the care sector and has noticed that the work is being done more and more often by volunteers. That’s because of the costs, but also because society has changed its attitude to care. She wonders what the roles of professionals and volunteers in the care sector will be in the future.

Researcher Prof. Ronald Stolk, clinical epidemiology, and his research team see that people stay healthy longer if they continue to take an active part in society. Active Golden Oldies! But how can we keep the elderly active? That’s why he will investigate how we can continue to participate in society, even in our twilight years. Their slogan is old age is silver, caring is golden! He wants to discover what determines whether someone wants to do volunteer work in the neighbourhood. What does a volunteer get out of this? How can an institution organize this? He’s looking forward to searching for answers with his research group.

Last modified:13 March 2020 02.16 a.m.
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