Science buddy for highly educated refugee

Highly educated refugees in the Netherlands can get a science buddy. Scientists and academics who fled their country, have difficulty gaining access to Dutch universities and academic networks. The Young Academy of The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) wants to change this by matching these refugees with science buddies.The initiative comes from Tilburg University professor Rianne Letschert. She is also chairman of the Young Academy. COA, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, approached her seeking help for a 37-year-old refugee from Syria. Letschert contacted people from the TU Delft and connected Malek Rabh to technical philosopher Behnam Taebi. “After that, Rianne pitched the idea of a science buddy at the Young Academy and it became a bigger project”, says Siebe Bluijs of the KNAW.

The initiative has been running for a while now. To date, five refugees have been supported this way, for example by awarded grants. The Young Academy does not support this initiative financially. “It really is about networking, about the contacts with and at universities”, says Bluijs.

“The best way to do this is connecting a Dutch scientist and a refugee. Depending on what is possible at a faculty, they can join research seminars or gain access to online databases.”

The initiative is still quite small right now, says Bluijs. That is one of the reasons that the Young Academy decided to show the science buddy plan to the world. “We want the COA and other institutions involved to know that this exists. And we also hope that other scientists want to get involved in this initiative.”

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