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Far from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd

For-Women-in-Science Fellow Judith Rietjens reflects on her NIAS stay

On the 4th of September, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) opened its doors to the new NIAS fellows at the official opening of the academic year. The term ‘diversity’ probably best described this group of researchers and writers, from all corners of  the world, at various  stages in their careers. All working on an extraordinary wide range of topics: Madagascar, language, childhood development, musicology, the glass ceiling and road movies, to name just a few. 

Last year, I was awarded the Dutch L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship. It gives me the opportunity to work as a fellow at NIAS for the next 3 months and to organise a workshop, which will take place in June 2014. I will investigate end-of-life decision-making and focus particularly on the issues of palliative sedation and advance-care planning. These topics are interdisciplinary and very much culturally determined. NIAS, with its diverse disciplines and international orientation, is a perfect environment to explore these issues, to develop new research ideas and to write a paper. It is a privilege to be part of a community of fellows who follow in the prestigious footsteps of many well-known researchers such as Lewis Goldberg, Kees Schuyt and Richard Goldstone. A humbling thought.

Judith Rietjens on her research on palliative sedation, and her fellowship


So what do researchers do at NIAS, far away from the ‘madding crowd’ of their universities? My expectation was that people would be writing and thinking most of the time secluded in their personal study. But although this is true for a part of the day, researchers wouldn’t be researchers if they did not need to interact, network and discuss new and explore joint ideas. NIAS encourages this by providing an ‘obligatory’ lunch where fellows can mix. At the same time there are combined academic events, talks, seminars as well as more informal afternoon teas, recitals, and even book readings – a place to flourish.

So far my stay at NIAS has been very enjoyable. I benefit from joint meetings, have been inspired by other researchers while discussions with fellows about my project have led me to formulate new ideas and viewpoints. My colleagues generously share their networks and introduce me to people that I would usually not be able to reach. Moreover, being relatively sheltered from my day-to-day academic commitments gives me a unique opportunity to think beyond those urgent tasks that need to be done by tomorrow and gives me the space to take a broader more long-term view. I can’t wait to discover what this will bring for the future.