Hans Schouwenburg wins UM valorisation prize

Two researchers who earned their PhD from Maastricht University in 2017 were awarded a prize for the quality of their valorisation chapter in their dissertation. Since a few years, PhD candidates at the UM are required to write a chapter about the way their research can be translated into societal or economic value. Last year, Dr. Hans Schouwenburg and Dr. David Barata wrote this chapter so well that they were awarded the Valorisation Prize 2017.

In total the faculty deans nominated ten candidates. In 2017, 343 candidates earned their PhD at the UM. The jury established that the quality of the nominations increases each year. The jury unanimously decided to award two valorisation prizes this year.

Hans Schouwenburg wrote the dissertation ‘Strategies to Save the Earth: Nature Conservation Experts and Sustainable Development, 1980-2000’ at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  

Politicians, businesses and citizens, everyone finds sustainability important. But what is it exactly? This dissertation studies the history of the concept of sustainability, the experts who shaped the idea, and the interests that played a role behind the scenes. It shows that sustainability has been redefined over and over again throughout the years. Because of all those differences and often contradictory opinions the concept is vague, sometimes attracts hypocrisy, and in practice often leads to disagreements. At the same time, sustainability, because it is so vague, enables the formation of broad coalitions in the international debate about environmental problems and development cooperation. Exactly there lies the power of the notion.

Currently, Hans Schouwenburg is preparing a popular publication on sustainability derived from his PhD thesis. He now aims to garner the attention generated by his work through a continued study of the relationship between sustainability and agriculture, in particular the changing dynamics between conservationists and farmers over time. The jury hails Hans Schouwenburg as a shining example of the social significance inherent in the humanities.

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