Mirjam Groen-Vullinga & Anna Geurts
Mirjam Groen-Vullinga & Anna Geurts

Start-up grants for researchers Faculty of Arts: cooperation over competition

Their areas of expertise differ. Yet Radboud University lecturers Anna Geurts and Miriam Groen-Vallinga share an start-up grant within the Faculty of Arts, jointly supervising a doctoral student. An example that ties in with Recognition & Rewards. 'Very nice that we are jointly given this opportunity'.

It is not a given. In fact, not every newly appointed university professor is awarded an start-up grant for research, simply because there are too few start-up grants. In fact, at the Faculty of Arts in 2023, there were twice as many applicants as available starter scholarships, after which the management team of the Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH) suggested awarding the starter scholarships to pairs. 'They called on us as university teachers to engage in conversation among ourselves and look for common ground in each other's areas of expertise', Groen-Vallinga recalls. 'The goal was to find new research topics based on those common ground while simultaneously feeding our own areas of expertise.'

From interface to research

Because of that call, Groen-Vallinga, associate professor of ancient history, and Geurts, associate professor of cultural history, struck up a conversation. 'In it, it turned out that we both have a research interest in people's perceptions of the world, apart from specific historical periods', Groen-Vallinga and Geurts explain. 'And then particularly of social groups about whom little is still known.' That interface triggered a common research topic: the perception of time and space of workers in Roman mines and quarries. 'We want to learn more about the culture of those workers during the imperial period. In this way we hope to gain a greater understanding of the diversity of human experiences', Geurts and Groen-Vallinga explain. 'Those insights, in turn, can help us think about working conditions in the present.'

Absolute addition 

Recently, they jointly hired a doctoral student, Demi Storm. She will conduct the research for the next five years. Both university lecturers are enthusiastic about the duo approach. Geurts: 'Normally there is competition in the allocation of start-up grants, but now the emphasis is on cooperation. Indispensable to the success of this was that the RICH management had already designed a structure for working together at short notice'. Groen-Vallinga adds: 'The experience of supervising a PhD student is an absolute addition to your resume. Very nice that we have the opportunity to do that together, it feels like recognition and rewards. I am a supporter of interdisciplinary work anyway. Through our cooperation in supervising the PhD student, we also learn more about each other's areas of expertise.'

Geurts: 'We are at the beginning of our tenure as associate professors, we will probably be working together for years to come. It's nice that the early days are not characterized by competition, but by the question of how everyone gets one step ahead.' Together: 'That makes it feel good.'

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Faculty of Arts