22 November 2018

UM researcher Stephan Smeekes to join Young Academy

Dr Stephan Smeekes of the UM School of Business and Economics has been appointed to the prestigious Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), a platform of outstanding young scientists from various disciplines who work together in the fields of research and science policy.

Interdisciplinary research

The econometrician also involves other disciplines in his research, such as statistics and data science, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. Smeekes' appointment to The Young Academy has a lot to do with the interdisciplinary nature of his research, according to today’s press release from KNAW:

"Although his work is essentially theoretical, Smeekes pursues the interaction with other disciplines and with society as a whole. His work has added value for other disciplines. A case in point is the research that he performed in collaboration with climate researchers. They discovered that econometric techniques for trend breaks and gradual changes are very suitable for modelling the evolution of atmospheric particles. Smeekes also wants to promote interdisciplinary research at The Young Academy. "

Advice on science policy

The latter is precisely the reason why KNAW set up the platform in 2005: to give an impulse to research that transcends the traditional boundaries of university disciplines. In addition, Young Academy members are meant to share their fascination with science with the general public and give advice on science policy. Here too, Smeekes sees a role for himself:

“First and foremost, I want to promote the interests of young and talented researchers, to enable them to engage freely in research. How can we prevent these young researchers from being burdened by excessive educational costs or by the pressure to win a scholarship, so that they can do what they want to do? And above all, how can we ensure that people continue to nourish their curiosity and continue to grow as researchers?"

From grant to grant

Personally, Smeekes has faced few obstacles as he progressed in his research career. Financing his research through scholarships proved to be no problem. The fact that he had the Christiaan Huygens Prize under his belt for his thesis 'Bootstrapping Nonstationary Time Series' certainly helped. First, Smeekes won a Veni grant and last year he was awarded a Vidi grant, both part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

"The Veni grant allowed me to spend less time on teaching, giving me the freedom to do the research I wanted to do for a period of three years. However, it’s not easy to win a Veni grant; the chances are very slim. As a result, this particular grant won’t work for many talented researchers. So the key question is: how can you make funding available for more people and give them the resources they need? What kind of approach do we need to make this happen? This is what I would like to focus on at the Young Academy.

In good company

Smeekes is not the first UM scientist to be admitted to this research platform. He will meet up with Dr Raf de Bont, assistant professor in History of Science at FASoS, who has been there for four years. Last year, UM Rector Rianne Letschert received the 2017 Young Academy of Europe Prize for her achievements in scientific research, for her contribution to the Young Academy and for promoting diversity.

"I am looking forward to meeting people from other disciplines," says Smeekes. "This will give me fresh ideas, which will perhaps make my research even more interdisciplinary and lead to new collaborations. And, of course, it’s always nice to be with like-minded people."

More about The Young Academy

By: Theo Tamis