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Archive 2012

Prof. Jan Brouwer: ‘Obliging coffee shops to refuse to serve non-residents is unlawful.’
Posted on:13 December 2012

From 1 January, Dutch coffee shops are going to have to ask their customers to prove that they actually live in the Netherlands. University of Groningen professor Jan Brouwer, legal specialist on issues of public order and safety, thinks that this ‘resident’s criterion’ should be dumped as soon as possible. ‘The criterion is as unlawful as the "grass pass", which has already been abandoned. That was the instrument that was designed to check the resident’s criterion. The policymakers are imposing something impossible to implement, and are also violating the principle of equality’, states Brouwer.

Prof.dr. Paul Elhorst: ‘Regionale politici moeten verder kijken dan de provinciegrens’
Posted on:10 December 2012

Politici in de noordelijke provincies hebben nogal eens onvoldoende oog voor de economische belangen van het Noorden als geheel. Volgens Paul Elhorst, hoogleraar Regionale Economie aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, gaan ze daarmee voorbij aan het feit dat een aanzienlijk deel van de effecten van economische programma’s in nabijgelegen provincies terecht komt.

Prof. Carel Jansen: ‘Graphic shocking images on cigarette packets must hit home hard’
Posted on:27 November 2012

If you go to Belgium as a smoker, it hits you immediately: the warnings on cigarette packets often include very unpleasant images. Eight years’ ago, David Byrne, member of the European Commission, asked all the European member states to enforce the placing of shocking warnings pointing to the potentially harmful consequences of smoking on cigarette packets. University of Groningen professor Carel Jansen, expert in the field of instructive and persuasive communication, agrees with Byrne’s call, if a number of important conditions are met when the measure is implemented. ‘In my opinion, nobody needs to put frightening messages on cigarette packets as such. But if you’re going to do it, you must do it properly and seriously.’

Prof. Frans Stokman: ‘The revolution in energy production is beginning at local level’
Posted on:19 November 2012

We are currently undergoing a revolution in energy production. In addition to central energy production by major energy companies, we are also seeing an increasing number of local citizens’ initiatives aimed at generating energy. The result, according to Professor of Sociology at the University of Groningen, Frans Stokman, is more sustainable energy and more social cohesion. Stokman is a member of the board of Grunneger Power, a cooperative that aims to supply Groningen with green energy.

Prof. Bert Otten: ‘Science and sport need each other’
Posted on:14 November 2012
Movement scientist Bert Otten from the University of Groningen compiled a superb analysis of Epke Zonderland’s gold medal Olympic routine. ‘As an analysis, it shows how sport and science are helping each other to progress’, says Otten, whose research enabled him to explain exactly what was so fantastic about Zonderland’s performance. But the scientist learned more from Zonderland than Zonderland learned from him. ‘It’s not that we scientists know everything and want to tell sportsmen and women how to do things. On the contrary. We can’t teach super-talented sportsmen anything; they perform by instinct. Scientists follow in their wake, trying to explain how they do it.’
Prof. Dries Faems: ‘Top sectors must be organized differently’
Posted on:29 October 2012

Dutch policy on ‘top sectors’, those fields where the Netherlands excels globally, must aim to further strengthen these sectors. In order to achieve this, the government encourages the business world, universities and research centres to collaborate. Dries Faems, professor of Innovation & Organization at the University of Groningen, has his reservations. Most top sectors lack a clear organizational model which is necessary for making true innovative breakthroughs. In addition, the teams that are supposed to be directing the sectors are ‘dismally non-representative’, according to Faems in his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 30 October 2012.

Prof. Bob Fennis: ‘Do your shopping before you go to work’
Posted on:24 October 2012

The seduction tactics used in advertising are so subtle that it’s just as well that national and European governments impose strict rules as to what is permitted. But the controls could be made even tighter in the view of Bob Fennis, Professor of Consumer Behaviour at the University of Groningen. At the same time he urgently advises us to arm ourselves more effectively against stimuli that arouse our urge to buy. ‘You should go shopping at times when you’re aware of the dangers of temptation. For example, do your shopping before you go to work.’

Laura Spierdijk en Matthijs Bierman: ‘It’s time for common sense banking’
Posted on:17 October 2012

The financial and economic crisis demands that fundamental reforms be made. In the financial sector to start with. To be able to overcome the crisis there is a real need for more diversity in the banking landscape, based on institutions which provide common sense banking. That is the view of Matthijs Bierman, director of Triodos Bank and Alumnus of the Year of the University of Groningen, and Professor of Econometrics at the University of Groningen, Laura Spierdijk.

Dr Sjaak Swart: ‘Genetic modification should be back on the agenda’
Posted on:03 October 2012

The debate about genetic modification seems to have run out of steam. That’s a shame, thinks Dr Sjaak Swart, who researches the interaction between science and society at the University of Groningen, including the introduction of genetically modified crops. ‘We can’t close our eyes to the risks of genetic modification (GM). On the other hand, we also can’t afford not to investigate or consider the possibilities.’

Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon: ‘In the wake of the Arab Spring, we need to put the uproar over the anti-Islam film into perspective’
Posted on:26 September 2012

The uproar surrounding the controversial film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is receiving too much attention in the international media. This is unnecessarily turning back the clock to the period of polarization between Islam and the West, immediately after 9/11, which is precisely the goal the film-makers had in mind, according to Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon, University Lecturer with the department of International Relations and International Organization of the University of Groningen and researcher with the new Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain.

Prof. Marian Verkerk: ‘Increase the excess for healthcare insurance? Think ahead!’
Posted on:12 September 2012

The population is ageing and healthcare costs are rocketing. So how can we keep a lid on the costs of healthcare in the future? According to Marian Verkerk, Professor of Care Ethics at the University Medical Center Groningen, the question we should be asking ourselves is whether we want to be treated at all. ‘Is it really care to give a fragile 80-year-old chemotherapy to prolong his life by a few months?’

Prof.dr. Gert de Roo: ‘Politiek weet zich geen raad met ruimtelijke ontwikkeling’
Posted on:03 September 2012

De politieke aandacht voor ruimtelijke ontwikkeling neemt rap af. Keuzes die het komende kabinet moet nemen, hebben echter grote gevolgen voor de leefomgeving van toekomstige generaties. Denk aan energie, woningmarkt, wateroverlast, krimp en nog veel meer zaken. ‘De Nederlandse politiek ‘quote’ gemakkelijk een probleem, maar loopt weg voor de ruimtelijke consequenties,’ vindt Gert de Roo, hoogleraar planologie aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. ‘Wat Nederland nodig heeft, is een duidelijke visie op ruimtelijke ontwikkeling en de kansen die ruimtelijke ontwikkeling biedt.’

Dr Kees de Vey Mestdagh: ‘MPs, wake up to the importance of the internet!’
Posted on:29 August 2012

Although we are becoming increasingly dependent on the internet and earn an increasing share of our income that way, online developments are playing no part at all in the campaigns for the upcoming parliamentary elections. IT lawyer Kees de Vey Mestdagh of the University of Groningen finds this extremely surprising. ‘Our politicians are claiming that they can protect our freedom and safety and regulate our economy. In the physical world they are doing just fine, but online they are lagging far behind. It’s high time our MPs woke up and realised how important the internet is.’

Professor Ruud Teunter: ‘Higher profits with less stock’
Posted on:03 July 2012

Smarter stock management could save companies twenty to thirty percent of what they spend on maintaining stocks. Companies do not know enough about the possibilities of deploying a different strategy, claims Ruud Teunter, Professor of Operations Research at the University of Groningen. According to Teunter, considerable savings could be made, particularly in the area of what is known as technological deterioration.

Dr Hinke Haisma: ‘Context important when monitoring children’s growth’
Posted on:27 June 2012

Children’s growth is determined using height and weight. Growth curves are then used to determine whether a child is growing properly. But what is healthy growth? And is it the same all over the world? Are height and weight on their own sufficient to determine this? Dr Hinke Haisma, demographer and nutritionist at the University of Groningen, thinks that the way that children’s growth is determined can be improved. ‘We should not only look at their height and weight, but also at where and how children grow up.’

Dr Karel Jan Alsem: ‘It’s high time there was more love and nerve in health care’
Posted on:19 June 2012

Although the government is stimulating market forces in healthcare and a new care landscape is emerging, care institutions still pay hardly any attention to marketing. It’s high time that that changed, is the opinion of Dr Karel Jan Alsem, brand specialist at the University of Groningen. ‘Care institutions should spread a bit more nerve and love around. That would make healthcare better and more efficient and the satisfaction of patients and staff would grow.’

Prof. Arno van der Vlist: ‘Population decline requires drastic changes in how public works are tendered’
Posted on:11 June 2012

All over Europe there is a movement towards the major cities. Vast expanses of the countryside are emptying. This spatial transition has radical consequences for the way that public works such as bridges, roads, sports halls and schools should be tendered. The current system, whereby government bodies buy at the lowest price without regional consultation, is completely inadequate. This is the opinion of Arno van der Vlist, professor of real estate development at the University of Groningen.

Prof. Paula van Veen-Dirks: ‘Positive effects of performance pay are overrated’
Posted on:06 June 2012

People who work harder and perform better are paid more. This seems logical and fair, but according to Paula van Veen-Dirks, professor of Management Accounting at the University of Groningen, the disadvantages of performance pay are usually greater than the advantages. ‘It may even poison organizations.’

Prof. Peter Barthel: ‘Watch the transit of Venus and understand the big picture!’
Posted on:29 May 2012

On Wednesday, 6 June, observant viewers will see a small black speck slowly pass in front of the sun. That small black dot is the planet Venus. This is a phenomenon you must not miss, according to astronomy professor Peter Barthel. Although you will need to get up pretty early to see it: the transit of Venus will only be visible for one hour after sunrise.

Prof. Conny van Ravenswaaij-Arts: ‘Incidental findings in genetic testing call for strict national guidelines’
Posted on:23 May 2012

The developments in genetics are rapid. It has recently become possible, for example, to study all the hereditary information of a patient in a single test. But what should you do with the incidental findings from genetic testing? Clinical geneticist Conny van Ravenswaaij-Arts from the University Medical Center Groningen believes that national guidelines should be drawn up to cover this, and in consultation with all involved, which means patients too. ‘Doctors have a strong tendency to determine what is right for the patient, but we know little about what the patients themselves actually want.’

Prof Lubbert Dijkhuizen: ‘North must exploit sustainable economy opportunities now’
Posted on:09 May 2012

After the industrial and information revolutions, the transition to a sustainable economy will be the third revolution to significantly change the face of the world, says Prof. Lubbert Dijkhuizen, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Groningen. According to Dijkhuizen, the Northern Netherlands is the ideal base for the Dutch biobased economy. ‘Greenhouse complexes along the A7 motorway, biorefineries in Delfzijl and mass agricultural production in the Drenthe peat region: the North offers fantastic opportunities for the economy of the future. We need to exploit these opportunities now.’

Dr Laura Batstra: ‘ADHD is not an illness’
Posted on:02 May 2012

ADHD is the number-one disorder among children. Drug prescription for ADHD has also reached epidemic proportions. But children who are ‘always on the go’ usually do not have a medical problem, says Laura Batstra, researcher and lecturer at the University of Groningen. According to Batstra, ADHD can often be prevented by not making the diagnosis: ‘It is a fallacy to regard ADHD as an illness.’

Dr Kees de Vey Mestdagh, LLM:‘Censorship will disappear from the internet, like battery hens from supermarkets’
Posted on:02 May 2012

While Western consumers blithely send each other messages via Facebook and Twitter, the same applications are abused by authoritarian regimes to suppress and spy on their citizens. Sceptics claim that one day the internet will change the world into one huge police state. Balderdash, says Kees de Vey Mestdagh, IT lawyer with the University of Groningen. ‘The spread of knowledge and technical standards will lead to the internet increasing freedom across the globe. Censorship will disappear from the internet, like battery hens are from supermarkets.’

Professor Marian Verkerk: ‘Healthcare ethics focuses too strongly on the individual’
Posted on:24 April 2012

Medical care is not only of great importance to individual patients. The impact of medical decisions can also have a devastating effect on a patient’s family and relations. Having said this, care providers have very little opportunity to involve the family in the care given to a patient, claims Marian Verkerk, Professor of Ethics of Care at University Medical Center Groningen. ‘Legislation and guidelines relating to healthcare revolve around the individual, despite the fact that patients make many of their decisions in consultation with the family. This area needs more attention. It’s time for family ethics in healthcare.’

Prof. Bert Scholtens: ‘Rutte is obsessed with the economic figures’
Posted on:18 April 2012

The negotiating parties in the Catshuis want to make agreements to kick-start the Dutch economy. While doing so, however, they are only interested in reducing the national debt and in economic growth, according to Bert Scholtens, professor of economics and sustainability at the University of Groningen. ‘That is a very one-sided view. Prime Minister Rutte is obsessed with the growth and national debt figures. There’s a big chance he’s going to mess things up.’

Prof. Johan Woltjer: ‘Scarcity of fresh water major threat to Dutch economy’
Posted on:11 April 2012

Alongside the struggle against the rising level of the salty sea, the Netherlands needs to prepare for a watery fight on another front; the preservation of fresh water stocks. If we do not start investing heavily to resolve this issue, the industry will run out of fresh water. Flower and fruit growers will face difficulties, as will beer brewers, metal processors and other industries that use large amounts of water. This is the warning issued by Prof. Johan Woltjer, professor of Regional Planning and Development at the University of Groningen. ‘We have never needed to worry about fresh water before; it’s just always been there. Now it can’t be taken for granted any longer.’

Prof. Hans Wortmann: ‘More investment needed in IT systems security’
Posted on:03 April 2012

The public underestimates the severity of the catastrophe that would occur if the IT system failed in, for example, the banking, energy or logistics sector. Admittedly, the chance of such a catastrophe is small, but government and business should make it even smaller still by investing in the security of their systems. This is what Prof. Hans Wortmann, Professor of Information Management at the University of Groningen, has to say.

Prof. Jouke van Dijk: ‘Government’s Randstad focus neglects regional potential’
Posted on:21 March 2012

As the nation’s economic and employment engine the Randstad (the conurbation between Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam) is finished. Growth in jobs is mainly going to come from dynamic regions beyond the metropolises. Jouke van Dijk, Professor of Regional Labour Market Analysis at the University of Groningen, believes that the government should actually be spending more money in these regions. ‘The return on investment will be greater than in the Randstad’, says Professor van Dijk.

Prof. Boudewijn de Bruin: ‘Incompetent bankers more dangerous than money-grabbing ones’
Posted on:21 March 2012

Dutch pension funds are not just suffering from disappointing returns. In Tuesday's Financieele Dagblad anonymous sources claimed that the incompetence of the executive committees of pension funds have increased the problems for some funds. According to Boudewijn de Bruin, Professor of Financial Ethics at the University of Groningen, incompetence could even be the central theme of the financial crisis. ‘It is not the money-grabbing culture that has caused the greatest problems: we have seriously underestimated the danger of incompetence.’

Prof. Fokko Oldenhuis: ‘Roman Catholic Church is misleading abuse victims’
Posted on:14 March 2012

On behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, archbishop and cardinal Wim Eijk promised that the Catholic Church would not claim the period of limitation for sexual offences. However, this promise only turns out to hold for victims who file a claim with the Church itself. In civil law proceedings the Roman Catholic Church does indeed invoke prescription. ‘The Roman Catholic Church is misleading victims’, according to Fokko Oldenhuis, professor by special appointment of Religion and Law at the University of Groningen. ‘Eijk continues to use legalese and half-truths. It’s high time that transparency and honesty took their place.’

Prof. Gijsbert Vonk: ‘The treatment of illegal immigrants is not consistent with international human rights’
Posted on:07 March 2012

In recent years, social protection has taken second place to aliens policy. The regulations for migrants are becoming increasingly stringent, particularly if their right of residence is unclear or their residency permit not entirely in order. ‘We are in a downward spiral’, claims Gijbert Vonk, Professor of Social Security Law at the University of Groningen. ‘The aliens process is at odds with international human rights.’ Vonk advocates the development of a social agenda for excluded migrants.

Prof. Egbert Harskamp: ‘Make education more efficient by promoting digitization’
Posted on:29 February 2012

Primary and secondary education could be made more efficient by offering and testing the subject matter digitally. This is the opinion of Prof. Egbert Harskamp, professor of Effective Learning Environments at the University of Groningen. ‘On the basis of recent research, my impression is that the software in schools is currently being underutilized.’ Digital subject matter processing could make a lot of marking work unnecessary and help to provide a quick analysis of the work done.’

Prof. Arno van der Vlist: ‘DNB property crisis warning far too late’
Posted on:22 February 2012

Empty office buildings are costing banks and institutional investors hundreds of millions of euros. The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) recently warned that following the credit crunch and the European debt crisis, this could lead to yet another financial crisis.Far too late, according to Arno van der Vlist, professor of real estate development at the University of Groningen. ‘Depreciations have been applied to the value of commercial property since 2008 and are likely to continue. Of course, it hurts to see so much money vanishing in front of your eyes, but instead of creating panic, the DNB could put more effort into finding a solution.’

Prof. Doeko Bosscher: ‘Obama or Romney –it doesn’t make much difference for Europe’
Posted on:15 February 2012

Mitt Romney will almost certainly win the Republican preliminaries. That means that as far as Europe is concerned, there won’t be all that much at stake in the American presidential elections in November 2012, states professor of Contemporary History Doeko Bosscher of the University of Groningen. ‘The election campaign between Romney and the current president Barack Obama is far from decided, but whoever is sworn in in early 2013 as president, the foreign policy of the United States will remain more or less the same.’

Dr Nico Kwakman: ‘Mandatory minimum sentences are not effective – the impact is mainly symbolic’
Posted on:08 February 2012

Despite strong criticism from the Council of State (Raad van State, RvS), the Cabinet is going to continue to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for serious offences. Dr Nico Kwakman, criminal justice expert at the University of Groningen, is critical of the bill, but can also understand the reasoning behind it. ‘The effectiveness of the bill is doubtful, but the symbolic impact is large. The cabinet is sending out a strong signal – and it has every right to do so.’

Dr Dirk Bezemer: ‘The West must put a stop to food speculation’
Posted on:01 February 2012

Countries presently suffering from food shortages – especially those in Africa – need to start producing more food themselves. And they have the capability to do so. Modern agricultural techniques can increase production, but only if the governments of the affected countries are prepared to lend their full support. This is the opinion of Dr Dirk Bezemer, Associate Professor of Development Economics at the University of Groningen. ‘The role of the West will diminish in the long term, but in the meantime Western countries can help by curbing food speculation. This could make a huge difference as the current high food prices are partly to blame for the growing number of starving people in the world.’

Wiene van Hattum: ‘New law raises false expectations and infringes fundamental rights’
Posted on:24 January 2012

Criminals who have been mistakenly acquitted of a homicide should be able to be tried again for their crime. A majority in the Dutch House of Representatives decided this on Tuesday 24 January. According to law lecturer Wiene van Hattum of the University of Groningen, Cabinet and House are raising false expectations. ‘This law will not protect society from serious criminals, as is being suggested. It will result in unrest, infringe privacy and encourage careless detection and prosecution.’ Van Hattum will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 26 January for research on the history of ‘Non bis in idem’ [double jeopardy], the rule that forbids a second trial.

Dr Barbara Henkes: ‘Historians can help regulate the distance between the present and the past’
Posted on:18 January 2012

A society that wants to come to terms with acts of violence in its past must do more than just punish the offenders. Historical research can help this confrontation with the past. Many historians, however, are not properly equipped to participate in a social debate about how the past is currently being dealt with. This is the opinion of University of Groningen historian Barbara Henkes in the run-up to the symposium ‘Historici en de confrontatie met een gewelddadig verleden’ [Historians and the confrontation with a violent past], which will take place in Groningen next week.

Prof. Claudi Bockting: ‘Hyping Blue Monday causes inflation of concept of depression’
Posted on:11 January 2012
In 2005 a British psychologist came up with Blue Monday, the idea behind his theory being that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. Although there is no scientific basis for this idea, the media have a field day every year. This is unfortunate, according to clinical psychologist Claudi Bockting of the University of Groningen. ‘It causes inflation of the concept of depression.’
Prof. Arie Dijkstra: ‘Government must not abandon smokers to their fate’
Posted on:03 January 2012

The liberal smoking policy of the government is as good as abandoning smokers to their fate. Once investment in smokers who want to stop decreases, the numbers will rise again. Although there is no immediate public interest, it is definitely up to the government to help this group of addicts break free from the cigarette. This is the opinion of health scientist Prof. Arie Dijkstra of the University of Groningen. He is specialized in addiction. ‘As far as I’m concerned, no-one has to quit smoking, but something extra needs to be done in order to reach smokers. After all, in most cases it’s an addiction.’


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