The Executive Board of the University of Groningen has appointed dr. Anne Beaulieu to the Aletta Jacobs Chair of Knowledge Infrastructures at Campus Fryslân.
Across teaching, research and engagement activities, the work of this chair will combine attention to the way infrastructures shape knowledge with the analysis of how knowledge can contribute to sustainable futures. Using tools from science and technology studies and the combination of ethnographic and data-centered methods, the goal is to contribute to a richer understanding of knowledge infrastructures and to the design of better infrastructures for sustainability. Collaboration is already established on themes like soil resilience, meadow birds and Sustainable Development Goals with regional partners like Wetterskip, Provinsje Fryslân and Bond Friese Vogelwacht.
Knowledge infrastructures are complex systems that connect different social, technical and natural aspects of the world. They make it possible for data to be used as evidence. For example, without the complex knowledge infrastructure that connects the various hospitals, GGD, and family physicians to the RIVM, and many other international data sources, we wouldn’t know how the Netherlands is faring in terms of the pandemic.
Besides helping us understand complex and distributed phenomena like a pandemic, knowledge infrastructures shape both our approach to global challenges and our solutions to them. The way we know about climate change, loss of biodiversity, or migration crises, and the interventions we deploy to alleviate these problems are all affected by knowledge infrastructures. They play a central role in knowledge production, especially in the current context of the informational turn, datafication and growing scale of scientific research.
Beaulieu’s appointment has been made in the context of the Aletta Jacobs Incentive Fund, which has created over a dozen new chairs across the University of Groningen to promote female academic talent to professorships. The Northern Netherlands has a long track record of ground-breaking pioneers. The University of Groningen is celebrating the Aletta Jacobs year, from 20 April 2021 to 20 April 2022, to mark 150 years since Jacob’s landmark registration as a student at the University of Groningen in 1871. Preceding this milestone, in 1708, two women, Anna Maria Gürtler en Maria Magdalena Gürtler, were registered at the University of Franeker, Friesland.
Anne Beaulieu originates from Moncton, New Brunswick and holds both Canadian and Dutch citizenship. She graduated in 1992 (McGill, BA distinction), then obtained an MA from the same institution, and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam in 2000. She pursued her career at the University of Bath, UK, before joining the KNAW and ASCoR in Amsterdam. Since 2011 Beaulieu has contributed to various interdisciplinary initiatives at the University of Groningen, including the Groningen Energy Summer School for PhDs and Energysense. She has been associate professor of Science and Technology Studies and director of the Data Research Centre, University of Groningen since 2018. Together with Gert Stulp, she recently developed the minor Data Wise: Data Science in Society, and developed numerous innovative courses in the major Responsible Planet at University College Fryslân.
Beaulieu is co-author of Data and Society: A Critical Introduction (Sage, 2021), of Smart Grids from a Global Perspective: Bridging Old and New Energy Systems (Springer, 2016) and of Virtual Knowledge: Experimenting in the Humanities and Social Sciences (MIT, 2012). She has published widely on the significance of ethnographic methods for the study of data practices. Beaulieu is co-coordinator of the PhD training network of the Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC) and member of several boards for organisations that support the circulation of knowledge.
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