In September 2020, Professor of Ethics and its History Pauline Kleingeld will be awarded the Spinoza Prize. At the same time, Professor of Environmental Psychology Linda Steg will receive the Stevin Prize. This was announced on 19 June by Chair of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Stan Gielen. Rector Prof. Cisca Wijmenga is very proud: ‘In typical Groningen dialect we would say ‘it could be worse’. For this moment I’d like to say it is fantastic! A well-deserved achievement on the part of both laureates, and what an honour for the UG to have these talented female professors working with us. I hope that they continue to inspire our students for a long time to come.’
In addition to the two UG professors, professors Nynke Dekker, Jan van Hest and Sjaak Neefjes will be awarded the Spinoza Prize and Professor Ton Schumacher will receive the Stevin Prize. Both prizes are the highest Dutch scientific awards. The six top-researchers were awarded € 2.5 million on the basis of their exceptional, ground-breaking and inspiring work. In the awarding of both prizes, the quality of the researcher’s work is the highest criterion. The Spinoza Prize emphasizes academic work and the acknowledgement of fundamental issues, and the Stevin Prize focuses on the researcher’s societal impact.
Kleingeld and Steg can spend the full award money on academic research and activities that entail knowledge valorization. To this end, they will be given full freedom to choose their own research topics and to involve other researchers in their projects.
Pauline Kleingeld (1962), Professor of Ethics and its History at the University of Groningen, is an astute and eminent academic. She has translated her new and fresh interpretation of Kant’s ethics and political philosophy into new perspectives on moral universalism, autonomy, free will and cosmopolitanism. With a view to developing a modern Kantian ethical theory, Kleingeld criticizes the dominant reductionist approach in science, calling out quasi-inclusive discourses that conceal racist and sexist prejudices. Her original approach and ideas have led to her becoming an internationally renowned Kantian scholar.
As Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen, Linda Steg (1965) is one of the most innovative and influential pioneers within her – relatively young – field. Her research focuses on the question of which factors stimulate environmentally-friendly behaviour. An important finding of her research is that people do not only act on the basis of ‘rational’ facts and arguments, or by analysing pros and cons, but that moral and environmental considerations play a role as well. It is mostly thanks to Steg that this behavioural factor has risen in importance in international climate policy. As a result of her pioneering research into people’s environmental behaviour, her countless policy-setting publications and her participation in influential international committees, Steg has personally contributed hugely to the rapid developments in her field.
Last year, UG Professor of Astronomy Amina Helmi was awarded the Spinoza Prize. The first Groningen researcher to be awarded the prize was George Sawatzky (Professor of Physics), in 1996. Four years later, Dirkje Postma (Professor of the Pathophysiology of Respiration) followed in his footsteps and another four years later, Ben Feringa (Professor of Organic Chemistry) received the coveted award. It then stayed quiet for a while, until the UG stepped back into the spotlight in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2014, Professor of Migratory Bird Ecology, Theunis Piersma, won the Spinoza Prize, followed by Professor of Human Genetics and current Rector, Cisca Wijmenga, in 2015. In 2016, Professor of the History of Philosophy, Lodi Nauta, and Professor of Technical Physics, Bart van Wees, celebrated winning their Spinoza Prizes together.
The Stevin Prize has only been awarded since 2018: Linda Steg is the first UG recipient.
The 26th award ceremony of the Spinoza Prize and Stevin Prize will take place on Wednesday 30 September. During the ceremony, the Spinoza and Stevin prizewinners will share insights from their research and explain what they intend to use the prize money for.
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