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Archive 2013

Prof. Koert van Ittersum: ‘If you want to stay slim, use a smaller plate’
Published on:23 December 2013

Anyone afraid of packing on the pounds during the forthcoming festive season can take a few simple precautions. Small plates and tall, narrow glasses will help you to eat and drink smaller portions, says Koert van Ittersum, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Well-Being at the University of Groningen. ‘This may seem logical because it means that you can fit less food onto your plate, but it’s not as simple as that. An optical illusion is actually the reason that people serve themselves larger portions on a larger plate and pour more drink into a wider glass. Even trained bartenders sometimes fall into this trap.’

‘Te veel of te weinig kunstproductie, wie zal het zeggen?’
Published on:19 December 2013

Een gedegen analyse van de functies van de kunsten, en een zorgvuldige weging van argumenten: dat moet het uitgangspunt voor het kunstbeleid zijn, niet of het te duur is om een voorstelling te maken. Dat stellen prof.dr. Barend van Heusden, prof.dr. Liesbeth Korthals Altes en dr. Quirijn van den Hoogen van de afdeling Kunsten, Cultuur en Media aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Dr Kees de Vey Mestdagh: ‘We are responsible for safeguarding our own privacy in cyberspace’
Published on:18 December 2013

The biggest threat to our privacy on the internet is not the government, the secret services or the internet providers, but ourselves. We are careless with our personal data and make little effort to encode information or use other options for keeping our private information out of the hands of cybercriminals, internet providers or even our own government. In addition, everyone now has access to personal information relating to other people via social media. The Dutch government has neither the means nor the inclination to protect our privacy in this respect, so it is up to us. This is the opinion of IT lawyer Kees de Vey Mestdagh of the University of Groningen.

Dr Maarten Loonen: ‘Geese deserve better’
Published on:11 December 2013

Goose researcher Maarten Loonen of the University of Groningen thinks it is unfair and a shame that the public discussion about geese always concentrates on the damage that the birds cause agriculture. The high numbers of geese are actually a result of the type of agriculture practised in the Netherlands. What seems to be happening is that complaining about geese generates cash whereas positive signals do not suit the complainers. Geese deserve a better image.

Prof. Iris Vis: ‘Switch to large-scale use of LNG golden opportunity for the Netherlands’
Published on:27 November 2013

A new distribution network is needed to enable the broad acceptance of environmentally friendly fuels such as LNG (and bio-LNG). Supply and demand must go hand in hand. The facilities thus developed will boost the Netherlands’ position as a transport country and distributor of LNG. Furthermore, the logistical knowledge acquired will itself be an excellent export product. These are the words of Iris Vis, Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Groningen.

Prof. Douwe Jan Elzinga: ‘Political problems facing current cabinet should not influence debate about Dutch Senate’
Published on:20 November 2013

Calls to reduce the powers of the Dutch Senate are not based on arguments relating to constitutional law but are politically motivated and reflect the tactical problems facing the current minority government. ‘A constitutional debate about the Senate is certainly possible, but it should not reflect the political difficulties facing this current cabinet,’ argues Douwe Jan Elzinga, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Groningen. He has identified two specific areas that could be used to re-examine the role of the Senate.

Prof. Jan Brouwer: ‘UN conventions do not impede regulated cannabis production’
Published on:06 November 2013

Now that the use and sale of cannabis have been regulated, it is time to regulate its production. Traditional arguments claiming that this would put the Netherlands in violation of international agreements are unsound. This is the opinion of Jan Brouwer, Professor of General Law Studies at the University of Groningen.

Dr Tialda Haartsen: ‘Primary school closure process is much too slow’
Published on:30 October 2013

Primary school governing bodies and local authorities in the Netherlands should be much faster to close schools in response to the rapid drop in numbers of young children in shrinking regions. Keeping a relatively large number of schools open is ultimately unfair for the population in a time of crisis. This is the conclusion of lecturer in cultural geography Tialda Haartsen of the University of Groningen. ‘Particularly in municipalities with a shrinking population, keeping schools open for a long time can mean that other amenities such as the library or swimming pool must close instead or that property tax must increase significantly.’

Prof. Hans Engels: ‘Mayor’s position too dependent on caprices of municipal council’
Published on:23 October 2013

The position of the mayor in local government is weak because he is to all intents and purposes selected by the municipal council. This explains why in recent years so many mayors have vanished from the scene, or not got a new term, after conflicts with the council. In addition, the increasing powers the mayor is being granted are not in balance with his limited mandate. This is why an elected mayor would be far preferable. This would satisfy both drawbacks, claims Hans Engels of the University of Groningen, incidentally also a member of the Senate for D66.

Prof. Dirk Strijker: ‘Abolishing the milk quota will not lead to a mega-barn boom’
Published on:09 October 2013

Dairy livestock and milk production will not see explosive growth due to the milk quota being abolished in 2015; the strict manure legislation means this is impossible, according to agricultural economist Dirk Strijker of the University of Groningen. Environmentalists fear there will be a boom in mega-barn construction and a drastic increase in intensive animal farming, but Strijker points out the heavy costs farmers incur in getting rid of excess manure. ‘As a result, milk production will increase by no more than twenty percent. The new barns that have been constructed in recent years thus are not an indication of a coming dairy livestock explosion but rather the final preparations of farmers in light of the new situation.’

Prof. Tibor Hortobágyi: ‘Inactivity is creeping into every walk of life’
Published on:30 September 2013

We spend many long hours in a position that produces an equally high number of undesirable effects on our body: sitting. An office worker will spend 80,000 hours sitting at work during a lifetime. After retirement from work, many old adults’ daily sitting time further increases to 10 hours or more. To counter the negative effects of being sedentary, UMCG professor Tibor Hortobágyi advocates an active office environment combined with minor adjustments in our daily routines.

Prof. Karel Brookhuis: ‘Using Google Glass in traffic can endanger lives’
Published on:25 September 2013

Google claims that it’s the gadget of the future: Google Glass. As far as the makers are concerned, everyone will be walking around wearing their invention in just a couple of years. And of course it’s perfectly possible that the sight of people walking around with this glass will soon be as common as seeing people walking down the street with a mobile phone pressed firmly to their ear. Although certainly a great new invention, says traffic psychologist Karel Brookhuis from the University of Groningen, it would be sensible to start thinking about its impact behind the wheel. ‘Google Glass can be particularly dangerous if used by young people when driving.’

Aline Klingenberg: ‘Change in law not a solution for combatting abuse of the Dutch Government Information (Public Access) Act’
Published on:11 September 2013

Many municipalities are complaining about individual citizens abusing the Government Information (Public Access) Act (abbreviated in Dutch as ‘Wob’). Minister of the Interior Plasterk wants the House of Representatives to take up a legislative bill this year designed to stop such abuse. Yet local and regional governments should not expect too much from this initiative, according to Aline Klingenberg, lecturer in Administrative Law at the University of Groningen, and Karlijn Spanninga, a recent graduate of the University, whose thesis examined abuse of the Wob. ‘Amending the Wob won't eliminate abuse of the Act. It's far more important that municipalities become more knowledgeable about the Wob.’

Dr Dirk Bezemer : ‘Conditions now ideal for government investment’
Published on:04 September 2013

The current public debate about new government austerity measures amounting to billions is greatly overshadowed by pessimism surrounding debt and borrowing. Dirk Bezemer, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Groningen, says that it is too often forgotten that public borrowing is a tried and tested instrument for dealing with debt situations. ‘The present conditions in the Netherlands are ideal for government investment, rather than austerity measures. The state can now borrow at extremely low interest rates and attract large volumes of savings for public investment.’

Dr Margriet Drent: ‘International power shifts make active foreign policy imperative’
Published on:26 August 2013

International political relations seem to be developing into a multipolar system dominated by a small group of large countries and facing increasingly tough international cooperation. Government power is crumbling and new players are entering the field. Margriet Drent, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Groningen, thinks that is cause for concern from the Dutch and European perspective. She and two fellow-researchers from the University of Groningen worked on the Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2013, which was presented to the Minister of Defence, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, at the end of May.

Dr Christopher Lamont: ‘Tunisia in search of a political exit from political violence’
Published on:12 August 2013

In addition to the transitional process falling into paralysis, there is also a palpable sense of insecurity. The political assassinations, once relatively unknown in Tunisia, are now picking up their own deadly momentum.

Prof. René Veenstra: ‘Movie Spijt! should be required viewing for all teachers’
Published on:26 June 2013

The movie Spijt! (Regret!) should be required viewing for all teachers, according to René Veenstra, professor of Sociology at the University of Groningen. Spijt! is about Jochem, who day after day falls victim to school bullies. ‘The movie is a realistic portrayal of the group process involved in bullying and is excellent classroom teaching material’, says Veenstra.

Prof. Alex Friedrich: ‘Antibiotics policy is only effective if entire healthcare region is involved’
Published on:19 June 2013

Healthcare bodies need to work harder to convince the healthcare sector and the public that administering antibiotics too easily encourages the spread of resistant bacteria. Hospitals and other healthcare professionals operating in the same healthcare region also need to address this problem in an identical manner, since the weakest link in the healthcare chain determines the effectiveness of prevention, according to Alex Friedrich, professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), in his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 18 June.

Dr Laura Batstra: ‘Cautious approach needed to counterbalance DSM-5’
Published on:12 June 2013

The latest ‘bible’ for psychiatrists, the DSM-5, may well be the last. Defining psychiatric disorders – though useful in itself – has gone a step too far, according to Laura Batstra, researcher at the Department of Special Needs Education and Child Care at the University of Groningen.

Prof. Tom van Yperen: ‘Youth care system at serious risk of becoming disjointed’
Published on:05 June 2013

Problem families are likely to suffer the most from the forthcoming organizational changes to the youth care system. From 2015 onwards, local authorities will have greater responsibility for this type of care, but there is no guarantee that they will give it the priority it deserves. On the whole, local authorities are not sufficiently familiar with the expertise available in youth care, so it is not unthinkable that the best knowledge and experience will go to waste. This is the message contained in an inaugural lecture given by Tom van Yperen to mark his appointment as professor by special appointment of Monitoring and innovation of youth care at the University of Groningen.

Prof. Louwrens Hacquebord: ‘Cuddly status of North Pole region makes protection more urgently needed than ever’
Published on:29 May 2013

The once so inaccessible and barren Arctic North has recently acquired a sort of cuddly status. People are crossing the Arctic Circle from more and more countries to make use of the shorter sailing routes and tourist attractions. Alongside the exploitation of mineral resources under and near the polar ice, the gradual growth in tourism has pushed the strain on the polar region caused by human visits up to unheard-of levels. According to polar researcher Louwrens Hacquebord, who retired from the University of Groningen on Tuesday 28 May, clear agreements about protecting the polar regions are more urgently needed than ever. And as many countries and parties as possible should sign them.

Michel Vols: ‘Housing corporations could deal with antisocial behaviour much more effectively’
Published on:22 May 2013

A neighbour who finds inspiration from playing his drums late at night, or a woman who seems determined to use your garden as a public convenience for her pets. We can all imagine just how annoying this can be, and yet dealing with nuisance from neighbours can be a tricky business. Michel Vols, specialist in the area of public order and antisocial behaviour at the University of Groningen, thinks that housing corporations could do a lot more to help. ‘There are all kinds of instruments housing corporations could use to deal with antisocial behaviour before resorting to eviction.’

Dr Albertjan Tollenaar: ‘Providing healthcare in kind is the only way to solve fraud with personal healthcare budgets’
Published on:08 May 2013

News reports of fraud with social welfare benefits are becoming increasingly common. Rent and healthcare allowances are being wrongfully granted to what are known as ‘phantom citizens’ and mediators are fiddling personal healthcare budgets (pgbs). The State Secretary for Health, Martin Van Rijn, recently announced more stringent checks in an effort to counter benefit abuse. But according to Albertjan Tollenaar, lecturer in administrative law at the University of Groningen, this is not the solution. He thinks that the answer lies in providing healthcare in kind.

Hans ter Haar: ‘Subdistrict court should do more to safeguard inheritance rights of minors’
Published on:24 April 2013

The legal protection of children whose inheritance is insufficiently safeguarded after the death of one of their parents is inadequate. As a result they are at risk of suffering loss. Dutch law is deficient in this respect and should be improved by the inclusion of additional instructions for subdistrict courts. This is the opinion of legal expert Hans ter Haar, who received his PhD on Thursday 25 April at the University of Groningen. He conducted research on minors and the protection of their assets.

Prof. Christiaan Both: ‘Cold spring disturbs adaptation of birds’
Published on:17 April 2013

The cold lasted a very long time this year, which meant that nature only got going very late. In recent years, spring had actually been getting earlier and earlier. Christiaan Both, professor of animal ecology at the University of Groningen, about the consequences for nature: ‘Spring is now starting at the same time as thirty years ago. This will set the early adaptations of birds like the pied flycatcher back years.’

Prof. Johan Groothoff: ‘Working longer also makes greater demands on employers’
Published on:08 April 2013

Working longer is more than just a question of postponing the retirement age. Employers could gain a lot by investing in the continued productivity of their staff, is the opinion of Johan Groothoff, professor of Labour and Health at the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen.

Dr Justin Kroesen: ‘Historical church interiors need more vigorous protection’
Published on:27 March 2013

A pop concert or a New Year’s reception in a church? Nowadays, you’d hardly think twice about that. Church congregations are shrinking fast, and have serious financial shortages. Side activities make the maintenance and management of churches possible, but often the church interior is the victim. And in Justin Kroesen’s opinion, that’s something we should take extremely good care of. Kroesen is the University of Groningen expert in the field of historical church interiors. ‘Many old churches are cultural time machines. Step into the building and history unfolds before your eyes in a kind of three-dimensional archive.’

Prof. Herman Bröring: ‘Kingdom must intervene in Willemstad refinery’
Published on:21 March 2013

The outdated oil refinery in Willemstad, Curaçao, has been seriously damaging the health of inhabitants of several neighbouring districts for many decades. According to Herman Bröring, social debate on the island is now at a point that gives the government of the Kingdom legal grounds for intervening. Bröring, professor of law (integrative law studies) at the University of Groningen, thinks that this is the way forward. ‘It’s definitely possible in legal terms, but are politicians willing to step in?’

Dr Mathilde van Dijk: ‘The charisma and simplicity of Pope Francis will help the Church’
Published on:18 March 2013

Pope Francis I is presenting himself to the world as a church leader who values austerity and actions above words. Cultural historian Mathilde van Dijk of the University of Groningen expects the Argentinian pope to concentrate on social justice and sort out once and for all the child abuse scandals recently afflicting the Catholic Church. His hardest challenge will be reforming the Church administration, the Roman Curia.

Prof. Arie Dijkstra: ‘Legalizing online gambling will lead to more addiction problems’
Published on:13 March 2013

Holland Casino wants to introduce online gambling games in 2014. Online gambling is currently banned in the Netherlands, but the state-owned company is expecting the legislation to be amended sometime this year. ‘There will be an inevitable rise in the number of gambling addicts’, claims Arie Dijkstra, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Groningen. ‘So it’s very important to start considering how to monitor and therefore reduce the undesirable effects.’

Prof. Greetje Timmerman: ‘Research into group dynamics can lead to rapid improvement in youth care’
Published on:06 March 2013

Things have been quiet since the presentation of the report on abuse in the youth care sector. ‘Deafeningly quiet’ in fact, thinks Rieke Samson, chair of the committee that presented the report in October 2012. ‘This is only partly true’, counters Greetje Timmerman, Professor of Youth Sociology at the University of Groningen, ‘there is also an opportunity to improve youth care in the short term on the basis of thorough research.’

Prof. Steven Brakman: ‘This crisis proves the need for more European integration’
Published on:27 February 2013

The uncertainty concerning Greece and the stability of the euro are the result of a design fault in the eurozone. Surprisingly, the solution appears in every economics textbook dealing with the theory of the optimum currency area. ‘One way or another, Europe will have to accept the far-reaching coordination of monetary and economic policy as the logical consequence of a single currency. One simply cannot survive without the other’, says Steven Brakman, Professor of International and Monetary Economics at the University of Groningen. ‘Supporters of the euro must put this difficult message across much more strongly, and opponents need to be honest about the system they aspire to if the euro is withdrawn, and what the consequences could be.’

Dr Nico Kwakman: ‘Too much attention for victims in criminal cases’
Published on:20 February 2013

The role played by victims in criminal cases is threatening to become so great that it may jeopardize the essence of criminal law. According to Nico Kwakman, senior lecturer in criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of Groningen, a criminal case is and must always remain a matter between government and the suspect. To his mind, we are crossing a line by allowing victims to give their views on sentencing during a trial. ‘Although I consider victim support to be a public responsibility, I do not think that victims should be given a role in criminal proceedings if this damages the function and basic principles of criminal procedural law.’

Prof. Maarten Duijvendak: ‘There’s certainly a future for unions’
Published on:13 February 2013

Steadily declining membership and lively internal conflicts create a picture of the Dutch trade unions that belongs more to the past than the future. Is organized labour representation falling victim to too much ideology and not enough coherence within union federations? According to Maarten Duijvendak, professor of economic, social and regional history at the University of Groningen, the need for unions is as high as ever. In the long term, he definitely sees a raison d’etre for unions, particularly those that concentrate on the interests and reputation of concrete professions.

Dr Mathieu Paapst: ‘Curtailing privacy won’t help to reduce cybercrime’
Published on:06 February 2013

Research published earlier this week by internet security company McAfee has revealed that the Netherlands is a true paradise for cyber criminals. Politicians in The Hague reacted immediately with plans to curtail the privacy of computer users even more. This is an absurd reaction, thinks Mathieu Paapst, university lecturer in Law and IT at the University of Groningen. ‘This will solve very little. The government’s first concern should be to make citizens, and more importantly the business community and government bodies, more aware of the risks they are running.’

Prof. Claudi Bockting: ‘Making cuts in mental healthcare will ultimately increase costs’
Published on:30 January 2013

The Health Care Insurance Board (CZV) wants to make drastic cuts in the reimbursements for treating psychological disorders as the current economic situation has increased the pressure to make cuts in the mental healthcare service. Claudi Bockting, Associate Professor in the Clinical Psychology Department of the University of Groningen, is fiercely contesting the recommendations made by the Health Care Insurance Board. ‘In a crisis, the economy needs people with psychological problems to be treated promptly and given help to prevent relapse. This view is gaining support within the international scientific community. By implementing the proposed cuts, the Netherlands would be bucking the international trend.’

Prof. Gijsbert Vonk: ‘Transitional regulations to close AOW gap for early retirees’
Published on:23 January 2013

A solution needs to be found for the group of early retirees who have fallen financial victims to the raising of the qualification age for the state pension (AOW). This is the opinion of Gijsbert Vonk, Professor of Social Security Law at the University of Groningen. He thinks the Dutch trade union federation FNV is right to insist on transitional regulations for this group of people. According to Vonk, good transitional regulations would soften the blow significantly.

Prof. Maarten Postma: ‘The Netherlands needs to set clear boundaries for cost-effective medical treatment’
Published on:16 January 2013

Although cost-effectiveness in healthcare is becoming increasingly important, the Netherlands has not yet set a ‘cut-off point’ stating the maximum acceptable price for prolonging a life by a year. Maarten Postma, Professor of Pharmacoeconomics at the University of Groningen, is arguing the case for more transparency.

Noé van Hulst: ‘Energy transition calls for multidisciplinary Energy Academy’
Published on:09 January 2013

Energy is one of the most urgent issues of our time. The demand for energy is growing in response to increases in both the world’s population and the average standard of living. But at the same time the threat of climate change is obliging us to emit fewer greenhouse gases. This is why we need a revolutionary energy transition that will allow us to consume and produce energy more efficiently and more cleanly. This radical innovation calls for an investment in young people with knowledge of all aspects of energy, says Noé van Hulst, the director of Energy Academy Europe.

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