Core group

Brief Summary of Research over Last 5 Years

Rafael Wittek is a theoretical sociologist. As an expert on cooperation in work organizations, he considers the evolution of social networks and cooperative relations in organizations and institutions in different countries. These include (oppositional) solidarity at work, friendship, and trust; advice and knowledge sharing in firms; social support in families; employee voice; and corruption networks in developing countries. Rather than considering selfish gain seeking as the default motivation for humans, Wittek examines this as a possible outcome of salient goals of the self and others and relations between them - which may require institutional support. A PhD thesis testing Wittek’s hypothesis in an international and comparative study received the Erasmus Dissertation Award (Nieto Morales, 2016).

Brief summary of research over the last 5 years

Bas van Bavel is distinguished faculty Professor of Transitions of Economy and Society at Utrecht University (UU). He examines how societies develop in the long run. His aim is to uncover why some societal arrangements are successful and others are not. He examines this by comparing societies in different regions (in Europe and the Middle East) and time frames (from pre-industrial to modern times) from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining economic variables (such as GDP per capita or wealth) with social (equity and welfare) and ecological (sustainable use of resources) variables. This allows him to specify the resilience of different societal arrangements, for instance, in coping with external shocks and disasters. The main goal of his ERC Advanced Grant project (2013) is to use the historical record of Northwestern Europe to identify the causes of the resilience of societies when confronted with storms, floods, erosion, and plagues.

Brief summary of research over the last 5 years

Naomi Ellemers is a social/organizational psychologist who has built her research group at Leiden University (1999-2015) into an internationally renowned center for research on group processes and intergroup relations. She is an expert on cooperation in organizations, addressing how social identities lead people to transcend their individual interests and invest in collective outcomes. She has developed highly specialized simulations to model complex social structures in the lab, and in addition to her many scientific publications, she has written a monograph making insights from her scientific work accessible to a broad (Dutch language) audience (2012). She was appointed Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University, in recognition of her scientific excellence (2015).

Brief summary of research over the last 5 years

Martin van Hees is a professor of ethics at VU University in Amsterdam. He has developed a strong interdisciplinary orientation to examine issues relating to moral responsibility, rights and freedom, and quality of life. His research on these topics is informed by game theory. His academic leadership and stature led him to be appointed Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Groningen University (2012). At the VU University, where he was appointed as Department Head in 2014, he took the initiative to launch the John Stuart Mill College (2016) for an international undergraduate BSc-program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), the first ever in the Netherlands and one of the first on the European continent.

Brief summary of research over the last 5 years

Tanja van der Lippe is a professor of sociology since 2003. In 2011 she was appointed Research Director and Head of the Department of Sociology at Utrecht University. She is an expert on work-family issues in present-day societies. In her work on the competing time claims of organizations and families, she combines sociological, economic, and psychological perspectives. Following up on her initial research on interdependencies between work and family life – which was designated as one of Utrecht University’s High Potential projects – she proceeded to investigate cooperation challenges relating to efficiency problems and time pressure in particular. As Kanter Award finalist with the 2012 publication in Social Science Research, she and her colleagues broke new ground by demonstrating that family and workplace claims are not necessarily competitive, but can be complementary. Especially in high-performance organizations, the combined support from one’s partner at home and one’s manager at work helps men and women cope with the pressure of their dual tasks.

Brief summary of research over the last 5 years

Russell Spears is a social psychologist, specializing in social identity. In 2011 he was appointed Faculty Professor of Psychology (Endowed Chair) at the University of Groningen. Key themes in this research are cooperative vs. conflictual relations between groups, and the role of group emotions in regulating these relations. A central premise in this work is that group memberships and group characteristics form an important part of people’s self-views.


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