Vision & Mission Statement 📜

Today’s global population faces issues in relation to health, wellbeing, and other societal challenges such as an increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus) and climate change, as described in the Dutch national sector plans for the social sciences and humanities (SSH Raad 2022). In addition, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has shown that new societal and health issues continue to emerge (Cucinotta and Vanelli 2020). On a more positive note, new solutions are also constantly emerging for both societal problems – e.g., mobile applications that help people reduce their carbon footprint (Wemyss et al. 2023) – and health problems – e.g., medical innovations, such as injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis for the human immunodeficiency virus (Food and Drug Administration 2021), or technical innovations, such as mobile applications that help people to exercise more. All these problems and solutions have one common denominator: they are influenced by or involve human behaviors (e.g., climate change is directly related to carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn are related to human behavior, such as air travel), which are caused by psychological constructs (e.g., attitudes towards air travel) and can be preceded by complex decisions (e.g., if a person decides to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, a person can choose from many different behaviors, but must make a trade-off between different behavioral options, which can be complex). Given this behavioral genesis, in our current society, individuals are often called upon to adjust their own behavior. Concurrently, individuals increasingly value their behavioral autonomy, especially in the Netherlands (Smit, Kirch, and Resnicow 2022). This complexity is further enhanced by the intricate interplay of behaviors, psychological constructs and decision-making processes, which are not separate from society, but rather are inherently intertwined and each influence the other.

In other words, society and its constituent citizens are confronted with many far-reaching changes that require societal transitions where behavior plays a central role. The sector plan theme “Societal Transition & Behavior Change” addresses these dynamics. At the Open University, we will augment our approach to this theme with specific accents that play to our strengths and that realize synergy with related broader developments. First, we will leverage our (psychological) expertise in Theory, Methodology, and Statistics as well as Behavior Change. Second, we will capitalize on our multidisciplinary profile, as well as our affinity with actionable and applied research with a rigorous fundamental core. Third, we will connect with existing developments, such as Heerlen-Noord (our regional focal point for the Nationaal Programma Leefbaarheid en Veiligheid), the local ELSA-lab Poverty & Debt, and EnergAIse.

Because these transitions affect how we conduct research, this theme also focuses on research methods with an eye on societal transitions. Consider, for example, organizing research in such a way that minorities or other vulnerable groups, which are partly more strongly affected by these transitions and their consequences, are also actively involved in said research (Gültzow, Neter, and Zimmermann 2023). In addition, science itself is constantly in transition and knowledge that was once considered standard should also be revised and improved when necessary.

We choose not to name any specific transitions at this time because we do not want to make choices too early that could hinder us along the way. Having said this, specific transitions could tap into initiatives that already exist within the Open University of the Netherlands (e.g., transitions related to energy poverty), but other transitions could also be targeted (e.g., the protein transition). Specific examples of transitions can be found on our definition pages, in Dutch and English.

Vision statement

Societal transitions are supported by theory- and evidence-based interventions that prioritize human wellbeing.

Mission statement

To provide insights and solutions for societal transitions and related behaviors, we use interdisciplinary team science that adheres to open science principles. Our mission is to map the causal web related to the focal societal transitions and develop interventions to support these transitions such that human wellbeing is optimized.

Strategies

  • We will identify and comprehensively define the (socio-)psychological constructs relevant to the focal societal transitions.
  • We will specify the operational requirements for empirical study of these constructs by developing guidelines and valid measurement instruments.
  • We will develop a thorough understanding of the psychological mechanisms in which these constructs ultimately relate to the behaviors relevant to the focal societal transitions.
  • We will leverage these insights to develop interventions that support citizens’ well-being, for example by supporting their decision-making processes.
  • We will use our expertise to evaluate and implement evidence-based interventions to support citizens’ well-being, for example by supporting their decision-making processes, and will explore how these interventions can be maintained.

These strategies are broadly worded on purpose. Their aim is to serve as a guideline for future projects within this sector theme.

Core values

  • We diligently apply the five principles of scientific integrity in the Dutch Code of Conduct for Scientific Integrity: Zorgvuldigheid (“diligence”), Onafhankelijkheid (“independence”), Verantwoordelijkheid (“responsibility”), Eerlijkheid (“honesty”), and Transparentie (“transparency”).
  • We will apply the Open Science principles. For example, we will use Open Infrastructure (i.e., Open Source software); make our products public (when possible), under permissive licenses (such as GPLv3 for software and analysis scripts, ODbL for data, and CC-BY-NC-SA for other products), from the beginning of each project and as FAIR as possible; and we preregister all our scientific studies and post open access preprints to all our work.
  • We take science seriously. That means we consider it our responsibility to reflect upon ontological, epistemological, theoretical, methodological, analytical, and operational perspectives and decisions as well as their implications.
  • We conduct our research as inclusively as possible and necessary. We do this not only from a social justice perspective, but also to best understand and support transitive and behavioral processes. We believe that this sector plan theme can play a role in achieving an equal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges, but only by making our research as inclusive as possible, for example by involving a diverse group of participants in our research.
  • We respect the autonomy of individuals within our research, both from an ethical perspective and from a theoretical perspective to enable long-term behavioral maintenance necessary for societal transitions.
  • We aim to make our research widely accessible, both to the public in the form of science communication and to other researchers in the form of knowledge translation.

References

Cucinotta, Domenico, and Maurizio Vanelli. 2020. WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic.” Acta Bio-Medica: Atenei Parmensis 91 (1): 157–60. https://doi.org/10.23750/abm.v91i1.9397.
Food and Drug Administration. 2021. FDA Approves First Injectable Treatment for HIV Pre-Exposure Prevention.” FDA. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-injectable-treatment-hiv-pre-exposure-prevention.
Gültzow, Thomas, Efrat Neter, and Hanne Zimmermann. 2023. “Making Research Look Like the World Looks: Introducing the ’Inclusivity &Amp; Diversity Add-On for Preregistration FormsDeveloped During an Ehps2022 Pre-Conference Workshop.” Preprint. Open Science Framework. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/r2e7a.
Smit, Eline Suzanne, Matthias Kirch, and Ken Resnicow. 2022. “The Health Communication Orientations Scale. Development and Two-Country Validation of a Questionnaire That Measures Health Communication Style Preferences.” https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/pwcaf.
SSH Raad. 2022. “Samen Vooruit: Investeren in de Wetenschappelijke Basis, Versterken van Maatschappelijke Veerkracht.”
Wemyss, D., F. Cellina, M. Grieder, and F. Schlüter. 2023. “Looking Beyond the Hype: Conditions Affecting the Promise of Behaviour Change Apps as Social Innovations for Low-Carbon Transitions.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 47 (June): 100702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2023.100702.