Page 40


‘In reality there is great confidence in science’

People can only change their behaviour if the solutions proposed by scientists match their needs – something Melanie Peters learned as a student in Wageningen. She is still guided by this insight, says the director of the Rathenau Institute, which facilitates dialogue and debate on innovations in science and technology. TEXT ALEXANDRA BRANDERHORST PHOTOGRAPHY BRAM BELLONI


t feels almost as though you were sitting at her kitchen table. There’s a bunch of flowers on the table in her office in The Hague, and Melanie Peters has a friendly outlook on the world. She is cordial, chatty, and has a fund of anecdotes. A graduate of Food Technology, Peters has headed the Rathenau Institute since 2015. The big issue facing this institute now is the unstoppable march of digitalization, says Peters. ‘Microchips are getting smaller and cheaper all the time, and they are being used everywhere. There are sensors now in cars, clothes and packaging, and there are better and better cameras in telephones. What is more, we can link everything up thanks to



the internet. Those developments really go very fast.’ RAISE AWARENESS The Rathenau Institute raises awareness among the general public, politicians and journalists of many more developments in the fields of technology and science, and does research on their implications for society. A brief browse through recent publications shows reports and ‘briefing notes’ to parliament on the digital threat, investments in science and innovation, the fragmentation of knowledge in the health sector, the international competition for talented scientists, and the safeguarding of

public interests in the sharing economy. The organization was named after the physicist and professor Gerhart Rathenau, who coined the term ‘information society’ in 1979 and advised the government on automation in society. Rathenau was involved in the first incentive projects to get the Dutch using personal computers in the 1980s, which led to PCs becoming part of the furniture in many households. The idea of retraining unemployed people to work in ICT was another brainchild of his. ‘Automation changed many aspects of people’s lives and work. It meant, for instance, that they no longer bought train tickets from a man at the station, but at a >

Profile for Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen World 2017 04 (in English)  

Wageningen World 2017 04 (in English)