IDC Impact Series - Science & Policy: Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and their impact on policy during the Covid-19-crisis - 22 Oktober 2020


In times of crisis, the relationship between science and policymaking attracts a lot of public attention. The current COVID-19 crisis shows the need for evidence-based policymaking, perhaps more than any other crisis before. While some scientific disciplines quickly rose to prominence in advising and even steering policy, others remained less in the spotlights despite signals from within the disciplines themselves or from society at large. Related to the current COVID-19 response in Belgium for example, one could refer to the absence of mental health specialists in the GEES (Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy), in stark contrast to a strong representation of the life sciences.

In fact, with the exception of (macro-)economics (and European commercial law), the Social Sciences and Humanities are nowhere to be found, even though concern is growing about the full human impact of the epidemic and government responses to it, stretching far beyond strictly medical or economic issues. Rather, all levels of both the individual and social fabric are affected and pre-existing societal challenges were reinforced by the COVID-19 epidemic and the containment measures: increasing unemployment and poverty, the breakdown of social safety nets, heightened gender and racial inequalities, problems of loneliness, anxiety, stress, domestic violence and suicide, (substance) addiction, an ageing population, urban living conditions and limited (natural) public space, intergenerational dynamics, dwindling trust in government and law enforcement, unequal access to (mental) health support, education, housing, security and privacy, culture, information; disruption of global production chains and deepened North-South divides, etc. These are just a few examples. Clearly, the input of SSH specialists is of tremendous value, for a holistic approach to the problems we face, and for the solution(s) that policy is supposed to provide to be as comprehensive and efficient as possible. The idea that a crisis often holds unique opportunities as well should inspire us to co-create solutions for the future across disciplines such as restoring work-life balance, strengthened quality of life for all citizens, secure and inclusive societies that enable democratic participation, and sustainable consumerism in the digital age.

The current interactive panel debate will take the COVID-19 crisis as a starting point for a much-needed discussion on the role of science in society and specifically on the relevance and impact of social sciences and humanities (SSH) on policymaking. SSH researchers from different disciplines, experienced in working with policymakers, will take stock of today's situation and reflect on the future of the Social Sciences and Humanities' role.

The debate will be moderated by Annelies Beck, news-anchor and VRT journalist.

Annelies BeckAnnelies Beck, VRT

When it comes to news and current affairs programmes on the VRT, Annelies is almost part of the furniture. She has presented just about all major news shows on the public broadcaster and also worked as national and international reporter for Terzake. She has also presented Terzake on the Canvas channel for many years now. In 2017, she won the Grote Prijs Jan Wauters for excellence in the Dutch language. Annelies is a determined moderator, interviewer and presenter, also in English. She also presents lectures about migration in times of war, based on her first novel about Belgian refugees during WW1. Her latest novel is set in Brazil and incorporates a Belgian attempt at colonisation in the 19th century with a contemporary storyline. She has lived in Brazil, earned an MA in Brazilian Studies in London and also follows the country for the VRT news.

Maarten Vansteenkiste, UGentMaarten Vansteenkiste

Maarten Vansteenkiste is Professor at the Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology at Ghent University, Belgium. His main research interests include the study of the motivational dynamics and the motivational role of key socialization figures in different areas of life including healthcare, education, education and sports.

Naima Charkaoui, 11.11.11Naima Charkaoui

Naima Charkaoui is the head of policy of 11.11.11., the umbrella organisation of the Flemish movement for international solidarity, and a member of the advisory board of the Ghent Centre for Global Studies. She studied political and social sciences at Ghent University and was coordinator of the (Flemish) Minorities Forum from 2001 to 2014. Between 2014 and 2019 she worked for the Children's Rights Commission. She is the author of Racisme. Over wonden en veerkracht (EPO, 2019).

Gert Vermeulen, UGentGert Vermeulen

Gert Vermeulen is senior full professor of (European and international) criminal law, sexual offending and data protection law at Ghent University. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the University, chair of the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law of the Faculty of Law and Criminology, director of the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP) and Director of the Knowledge and Research Platform on Privacy, Information Exchange, Law Enforcement and Surveillance (PIXLES). Gert Vermeulen is also a former privacy commissioner at the Belgian Data Protection Authority and a former member of the European Data Protection Board's BTLE subgroup (Borders, Travel and Law Enforcement), the Europol Cooperation Board and the Supervision Coordination Groups for respectively the Schengen Information System, Eurodac, VIS and Customs.

Olga Van Oost, FAROOlga Van Oost

On January 1, 2020, Olga Van Oost became General Director of FARO, the support center for the Flemish heritage sector (movable and intangible cultural heritage). Before that, she was sector coordinator for museums and adviser on museology at FARO. In her position she advised and supported museums in their policy and practice. For FARO, she is still part of the Flemish Museum Consultation, the network of directors of Nationally Recognized Museums and umbrella organizations. Olga Van Oost studied Art Sciences and Archeology and Communication Sciences at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). He obtained her doctorate in 2009 with "The Museum Question", a dissertation in which she analyzed the origins and possible future of the art museum concept, against the light of policy in Flanders and the Netherlands. Olga is part-time affiliated with the Department of Communication Sciences where she teaches art and cultural sociology. She also supervises master students at the University of Antwerp with a thesis on heritage in the Culture Management and Multilingual Professional Communication programs.



A summary video can be watched on the YouTube channel of Ghent University's interdisciplinary research consortia with a focus on societal impact (IDC).

English with subtitles

English with Dutch subtitles

Twitter #IDC_UGent

This event is organised by the UGent interdisciplinary consortia IDC Crime, Criminology & Criminal Policy; PSYNC – Together for mental health; Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies; Ghent Center for Global Studies in cooperation with the Research Department (DOZA) and the UGent Doctoral Schools.


 IDC Crime, Criminology & Criminal Policy


PSYNC Together for mental health


Logo Pirenne Instituut

Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies

Logo Ghent Centre for Global Studies

Ghent Center for Global Studies

Logo Doctoral Schools Logo Flanders