Vidi awarded to professor Neelke Doorn

News - 24 May 2019 - Webredactie

The Netherlands climate-proof thanks to resilient civic participation

Professor Neelke Doorn will receive a Vidi grant worth € 800,000 this year from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She will use the grant to spend the next five years to develop an ethical theory and study the extent to which civic responsibility can be shared fairly and effectively in climate adaptation policy. Doorn hopes that this project will pave the way for climate policy that is not only effective, but also fair in the sense that everyone will benefit, not just highly educated people.


The government expects citizens to play a larger role in tackling climate change. For example, people are expected to make their own communities or gardens ‘climate-proof’ to protect them from extreme weather conditions, such as flooding or drought. This requires resilience, the ability to cope with the unexpected. “This shift of responsibility from government to citizens raises a number of questions: are all citizens capable of taking this responsibility? If not, this ‘resilience policy’ could lead to greater inequality within society,” says Doorn.


The grant will enable Doorn to appoint two doctoral candidates. One will focus on conceptual questions, such as: what do we actually mean when we describe a community as ‘resilient’? The second doctoral candidate will try to identify the most effective way of apportioning responsibilities between the government and the people. To do this, we will use agent-based modelling, a technique borrowed from the social sciences, which simulates human behaviour. The project is based on the ‘empirical ethics’ tradition, a form of ethics based on information and insights from the social sciences. Thanks to agent-based modelling, this project could give empirical ethics an innovative stimulus.

Doorn: “This project will not only boost the resilience research line in our Faculty, but it could make a methodological contribution to the overarching TPM ‘comprehensive engineering’ strategy, which pools knowledge from technology, humanities and social sciences.”

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