Saskia Stevens wins the CHARM-EU Open Science Recognition Award

Cover image with a woman reading in the background and the title: Open Science Recognition Award
Thu, 10/12/2023 - 18:02

The first CHARM-EU Open Science Recognition Award was given to Utrecht University’s Dr. Saskia Stevens for her promising Citizen Science project and her outstanding achievement in promoting Open Science attitude.

As part of CHARM-EU’s mission to promote and mainstream comprehensive Open Science practices, the Alliance has established the Open Science Recognition Award to recognize the contributions of individuals engaged in research or teaching in our partner universities who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Open Science. The jury chose archaeologist and ancient historian Dr. Saskia Stevens from Utrecht University’s Department of Ancient History and Classical Civilization as the winner of this year’s Award.

Dr. Stevens is the scientific director of the research project Constructing the Limes, an initiative tackling the issue of borders and cross-border interactions by examining the Lower German Limes, the border of the Roman Empire and UNESCO World Heritage. Her multidisciplinary project team investigates the impact of this border on migration and the exchange of goods and crops in antiquity. This helps them to leverage the role of the Limes as a visible cultural heritage today and brings the new scientific knowledge in dialogue with contemporary public debates about borders and migration. The project collaboratively generates and disseminates cutting-edge academic insights to a broad community through citizen science projects, media outreach, and partnerships with professional and grassroots heritage organizations. Dr. Stevens has also initiated the participatory excavation in Heerlen, a town in the southern Netherlands that has been struggling with unemployment and a negative urban image since the closing of its coal mines in the 1960s. Through a unique project in collaboration with the local city council, Heerlen's inhabitants could delve into their city's ancient history while reconnecting with their Roman heritage. Residents were invited to actively engage by either joining the archaeological excavations or offering their gardens for research purposes. The project witnessed the enthusiastic participation of 150 residents, collaborating with archaeologists, as they unearthed Roman remnants in their own backyards and public spaces throughout the city.

Members of the jury (Open Science experts coming from the different partner universities of CHARM-EU) have also agreed that the selection of the winner was quite difficult due to the numerous promising applications that were sometimes quite different in nature. They also recognized the proposal of Dr. Marij Swinkels (assistant professor at Utrecht University’s School of Governance), as an original outstanding Public Engagement project involving art. In addition they chose to mention the proposal of Dr. Balázs Székely (associate professor at ELTE’s Department of Geophysics and Space Science), as a career of advocacy to Open Science practices and the proposal by Dr. Annamária Zsákai (associate professor at ELTE’s Departmen of Biological Anthropology), with an integral approach to Open Science especially in the field of education. Further, they wished to highlight the applications of team members from the Department of Computational and Theoretical Biology of the University of Würzburg for their outstanding broad implementation of Open Science practices. Finally, they chose to mention the proposal of Julia Bend (PhD Scholar at Åbo Akademi University) for the Open Science practice design in her PhD work.

As the Call for Submissions to the Open Science Recognition Award was a pilot call within the CHARM-EU Alliance, the members of the jury identified key conclusions and several suggestions for the future editions of the Award. Most importantly, they highlighted the need to acknowledge that Open Science practices are incredibly diverse and can be included in a wide range of activities at different levels and in different carrier stages. Future calls or similar  initiatives within institutions for the promotion and mainstreaming  of Open Science practices are advised to be more differentiated themselves, and should consider a greater diversity of awards, e.g. in the categories of PhD – early carrier – all career prize; project or career prize, and individual or team applications.

As for the award of the present call, Dr. Saskia Stevens will have the opportunity to visit one of the partner universities of CHARM-EU for a study trip in order to consult with local Open Science experts on strategies and practices for promoting Open Science. Our warmest congratulations to Dr. Stevens for her outstanding work to collaboratively address pressing contemporary issues and democratize access to academic knowledge!