Academy Institutes Research Fund awards funding for fourth time

7 July 2020

Six new research projects by Academy institutes have been awarded a grant from the Institutes Research Fund. This time, the Fund is making it possible for institutes to carry out projects with the aim of reinforcing one or more of the three roles that make a research institute nationally important.

The six projects involve a national website for medieval manuscripts, measuring fertility intentions, repairing damaged nerves, the anatomy of nerve networks and brain analysis methods, preventing root rot in asparagus plants, and the impact of climate change on socio-ecological systems. Together, the projects are receiving EUR 1.5m in funding.

eCodicesNL: A virtual portal for Dutch manuscripts (Huygens-ING)

The Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens-ING) is designing a blueprint for a national website for studying and accessing medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections. With its high-quality search interface, the portal makes it possible to access numerous manuscripts in fully digitised form. Each manuscript will be provided with an extensive description. The institute is making this possible in collaboration with Huis van het boek in The Hague, Tresoar in Leeuwarden, and the Athenaeum Library in Deventer. The manuscript holdings of these partners will form the initial content for the website. After that, all Dutch collections holding medieval manuscripts will be able to use the same model. The target group for the portal is both (international) academia and a wide audience of non-specialists.

Climate Change and Governance in Indonesia and the Caribbean: A Pilot Program on Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) and Coastal Nature Reserves

Why do governance institutions and practices in MPAs generally fail to keep pace with ecological transitions due to climate change?
KITLV, NIOO, NIAS and WUR join forces in an interdisciplinary study of the impact of climate change on social-ecological systems (SES). A consortium including Indonesian and Caribbean partners in academia and NGOs will co-create and implement pilot research in four coastal zones in these two tropical archipelagoes. Concretely, it seeks to write a joint ecological and sociopolitical history of selected protected areas in both regions and its effects in the present. If the ecological system in an MPA passes a tipping point into an undesired state, what social impact would this have and what is needed to prevent it? Who has power in the governance structure and who is allowed to represent the state of climate change knowledge?
Funded by the Academy Institutes Fund, we will build an interdisciplinary consortium to engage with these questions and, on this basis, develop concrete advice for effective climate governance and policies.

Using machine learning to improve the measurement of the European fertility intentions

People’s preferences for children and their intention to have (or not to have) children are notoriously difficult to measure in demographic surveys. Not only do they tend to vary according to people’s own circumstances but they are also inherently uncertain and volatile. A new collaboration between the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and the Meertens Institute will aim at improving the measurement and understanding of fertility intentions. The innovation will consist in the use of natural language processing and machine learning techniques to analyze the data from open-ended and close-ended questions from a unique large population-based survey. The project is expected to contribute to the emerging field of computational demography.

Establishing a national collaborative network on non-invasive adeno-associated vector technology (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)
The aim of the project is to develop non-invasive viral vectors with cell-selective properties for gene therapy applications in a series of biomedical projects. Viral vectors (AAVs) are powerful tools for gene delivery to the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. They can be inserted to repair nerve damage, for example, and in the future it may become possible for damaged nerves to grow and function again. Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience will work with research groups at university medical centres and/or Dutch universities, Sanquin, and two other Academy institutes (the Hubrecht Institute and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology) to develop non-invasive AAV vectors for specific applications.
Studying the human neurocircuitry by expanding the Dutch neuroscientist network (Spinoza Centre and Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)
The Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience will collaborate with University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) to reinforce the Dutch knowledge infrastructure and knowledge sharing regarding 7 Tesla MRI research. Cooperation will focus on two research projects: exploring the anatomy of nerve networks in the cerebral cortex and introducing advanced brain analysis methods. This will further expand the Netherlands’ expertise network regarding ultra-high-field MRI scans and will reinforce the pioneering role of Dutch neuroscientists in research on the structure and function of the human brain, whether it is healthy or diseased.

The complexity of Asparagus root rot disease harbours the solution to beat it (Westerdijk Institute and Netherlands Institute of Ecology)

Asparagus is very familiar in the Netherlands, where farmers grow 3000 hectares of this vegetable. Unfortunately, asparagus is prone to attack by a number of fungi of the genus Fusarium, which cause the plant’s roots to rot. No effective pesticides are available to combat this problem. The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) now intend seeking a sustainable solution. The key lies in the complex community of micro-organisms in the soil around the roots of the asparagus. What species of fungus are found with wild and cultivated asparagus? And do their miniscule neighbours such as bacteria and viruses determine how pathogenic they are? This is an interdisciplinary research programme at the interface between mycology, ecology, genomics, and microbiology – an area that has not so far been explored. The research is highly relevant for the national research agenda and the agro-industry.