Sandpits for researchers

19 researchers from different disciplines, countries and universities met at the University of Louvain on 12 and 13 September. The occasion was the first Circle U. Sandpit.

This is the recipe for a Circle U. Sandpit: bring researchers together for two days in a relaxing setting surrounded by nature; give them complete freedom to choose the themes that speak to them; wrap the whole thing together with an external facilitator with expertise on interdisciplinary research.

Typically, in the field of interdisciplinary research, the “Sandpit” approach is used to encourage free-thinking. In practice, there is no specific theme at the start of a workshop and interactions among participants are stimulated by a professional facilitator. The goal is to bring out initiatives and research topics, and identify potential threats and barriers.

Two phases

There are two phases to the Circle U. Sandpits: the first one, which just took place in Louvain, aims to foster new interdisciplinary collaborations and projects related to the Circle U. Knowledge Hubs (Democracy, Climate and/or Global Health), whereas the second one aims to develop and support the most promising ideas that stemmed from the first workshop. The Sandpits were facilitated by Samantha Aspinall, Head of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Leeds.

Participants from three continents

Although open only to the Circle U. universities taking part in the ERIA project, some of the participants were nationals of other different countries and continents including Spain, Brazil, Indonesia, France, Iran, China, Peru.

Ten countries and three continents were represented. This goes to show how what is developed within the Circle U. alliance goes well beyond its perimeter thus embracing different parts of the world. After all, research is borderless.

The participants will meet again at the University of Louvain on 23-24 November, just ahead of the University’s conference Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research for Sustainable Development.

This initiative has been possible thanks to the ERIA project, which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Published on October 10, 2022