Doughnut science: rethinking academia in a time of climate crisis

How to be an academic in a world on fire?

As scientists concerned about the climate crisis, we set out to rethink the role and goals of the university in tackling the 21st century’s challenges. Inspired by Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, we propose seven new ways to thinking – not only to help us think, but also to act.

Read the paper: Urai AE, Kelly C (2023) Rethinking academia in a time of climate crisis. eLife 12:e84991.
Join us for a discussion at Growing Up in Science Global on 11 April:

… and let us know your thoughts!

Update: our article has been translated into Spanish [link here].

How to make big decisions

This week, a good friend (let’s call them W.) was facing a big decision: they got a job offer but were unsure whether to accept as it would come with some major life changes. W’s hesitation, doubt and slight panic reminded me of myself just 2 years ago. This quick blog describes some techniques for decision-making that can help in cases where uncertainty is rife and stakes are high.

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Individual choice repetition biases arise from persistent dynamics in parietal cortex

Across many decision-making tasks, people and animals systematically repeat (or alternate) their choices – even when the choices they make are intrinsically uncorrelated. This phenomenon (also known as ‘sequential effect’ or ‘choice hysteresis’) has been known for at least a century, and may be a stable individual trait. How do these behavioral biases arise from the activity of the brain?

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DNM Young Talent Award

I am proud and honoured to have received the Young talent award from the DNM Dutch Neuroscience society. This was the first time I explicitly talked about my climate activism in combination with my neuroscientific pursuits, which I hope contributes to more conversations about the climate crisis within the Dutch neuroscience community.

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Flying less

I hereby commit to flying less. This means that if you invite me for a conference, talk or visit that requires flying, I will likely decline. I am happy to travel by train and to give virtual talks.

This not only reduces my carbon footprint, but also aims to question the social norm that scientists need to jetset around the world to be successful. Empirical work even suggests that academic air travel has limited influence on professional success.


Hybrid meetings and distributed local meetups: the good, the bad and the ugly

The Covid-19 pandemic has propelled the scientific community into a world devoid of in-person conferences. Traditional ‘legacy’ conferences, which have long been the mainstay of academic networking and crucial for catching the latest science, have been largely replaced with virtual events. Moving conferences online is pandemic-proof, and brings myriad other advantages: reduced cost and travel-related carbon emissions, global reach, and increased accessibility for diverse groups. For instance, virtual conferences remove barriers caused by visa restrictions, expensive travel, disabilities, and caring responsibilities. Taken together, these factors can increase the virtual meetings’ diversity, from including students and young parents to attracting scientists from low-income countries and from adjacent research fields.

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Note-taking 101: from Evernote to Obsidian

Over the years, I’ve accumulated thousands of notes and a personalized GTD system (with tags and notebooks) in Evernote. I use my own flavor of the Zen to Done method, where I capture pretty much everything (from recipes to articles to read, and from project notes to grant deadlines). I’ve come to heavily rely on this second brain, both professionally and personally.

Evernote has served me well for almost a decade. However, the latest update is so annoying (app is super slow, note export to html gone, ) I’m planning to abandon ship. For now, I’ve downgraded to the last useable version on my devices (thanks, reddit!). Getting some great advice from Twitter, I decided that this is the time to invest in a note-taking solution that’s sustainable for the future.

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