Next-Level Research By Generation Next
Newton (1675) was able to get new scientific insights by “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Science builds on previous findings. But what if the next generation is interested in very different topics? What if the knowledge we leave behind is not what the next generation is looking for? Each generation can build science on the shoulders of giants, but in the direction of their own interest. To see what interests the next generation and how they would research the problems of today and the future, we (Ekaterina Rashkova-Gerbrands, Salvatore Nicolosi, and Joras Ferwerda) organize a so-called ‘Undergraduate Research Symposium’ at Utrecht University. Every year we are surprised by the quality of the research, but also by the topics they choose to research.
As philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss put it: "The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he is one who asks the right questions. "So what are the relevant questions of today and tomorrow? This volume of Public Note asks some of these questions on very different topics. These are the questions that interest the next generation and should therefore interest us all.
For example, we are all familiar now with digital platforms like Uber, AirBnB, and Deliveroo giving us access to casual employment by individuals instead of traditional employees; the so-called Gig Economy. Yes, this gives people the ability to make some extra money on the side with a lot of flexibility. But it also poses new risks around unclear employment status, irregular working hours, overwork, and constant digital surveillance. How should a welfare state, rooted in regular employment, deal with the gig economy and the associated risks? (see Graff, 2021)
Salary increases are necessary to give people the incentive to work harder, to get ahead. But what if such a principle leads to exorbitant pay for CEOs? To what extent is such pay still fair? When is it too high and when is it unfair? (see Magin, 2021)
Our society is increasingly facing issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation. This brings about next-level issues that need consideration: is being transgender a private matter? Should one reveal to be transgender before sleeping with someone? Would not revealing such information be sexual fraud and therefore criminal? (see Kolen, 2021)
Democracy is generally praised in the west, but with majority rule voting, minorities can end up as a group of passive agents with little or no influence. The EU inclusion policy has made some progress and led to a higher representation of minority views in recent years. But how can we take this to the next level and make the representation of minorities truly proportional? (see Kakol, 2021)
United Nations’ peace keeping operations are common in international relations to preserve security and stability among Nations. But what if States’ conflicting views on sovereignty, security, protection, and intervention lead to confusion about whether the UN should deploy peacekeeping operations? (See Mayr, 2021)
We know more and more about the earth and its position in the universe. Space exploration is exciting and all countries have the freedom to explore. But what if this space exploration leads to so much waste in space that it can threaten space exploration in the future? Then the question becomes: where do the freedom of exploration and use end, and where does the need to protect the environment begin?(see Malgie, 2021)
Yes, that is a lot of questions in this short preface. I am proud to present to you this volume of Public Note that deals with these questions to get you up to date about the next-level research of our generation next at Utrecht University.