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The KlimaatHelpdesk was founded in 2020 and has since then seen a great uptake: 200+ questions received, #36 of sustainable Top100 by Trouw, and recently awarded with a NWO Communication Initiative Award. In short: a wonderful example of Open Science. High time for an interview! We’ve asked some questions to Daan Stroeken, Myrthe Leijnse and Sanli Faez.
What is the idea behind the KlimaatHelpdesk?
“We want to make climate science more approachable. Most scientists focus on writing articles that are interesting to themselves and their community, and the broader public plays no part in this process. But at the same time, there is a large lack of knowledge about climate change throughout society, and there are groups that explicitly distrust scientifical institutes. We think that there is a huge potential when scientists would spend a small part of their working time on answering questions from the broader public in an understandable format. And we want to be the platform that enables this.”
What is the impact of the KlimaatHelpdesk?
“At the KlimaatHelpdesk, everyone has a platform to go to when having a question about climate change or climate science. With the growing amount of answers on our website, chances are that the question is already answered. Our platform it thus transforming to a place where the public can find reliable information on climate change. At the same time, it is a signal to the outer world that scientists want to share their knowledge, and offer their services to society.”
How many questions do you get per week?
“We have a steady inflow of between 4 to 10 questions per week on our website. We also have a post-box in which we often gather questions at various events.”
Do you answer all questions that are submitted? If not, how do you decide which questions to answer?
“When a question comes in, we check whether it hasn’t already been answered, if the question is relevant, and whether it is possible to give a good answer. If not, we mostly propose a rephrasing of the question. This way, we try to answer almost every question that comes in.”
How do you answer the questions as objectively as possible?
“Besides looking for the best expert to answer each question, every question also gets reviewed by another expert. We prefer a reviewer that works for another institute or research group compared to the expert, to avoid one-sided answers. We also try to do most of our reviews double-blind to avoid any conflicts. This way we hope to ensure the objectivity of our answers.”
What is your greatest wish for the future of the KlimaatHelpdesk?
“It would be great to become the go-to place for knowledge on climate change for everyone in our society. We also hope to inspire similar initiatives for other scientific subjects; two are already in progress!”
How can the KlimaatHelpdesk help in transitioning to a sustainable future?
“We hope we can stimulate scientists to raise their voice more often and share their knowledge as much as possible in an understandable manner. Moreover, we hope that our answers will provide a reliable source of information to the public that is interested in climate change and perhaps lead to some lifestyle changes for those willing to live a more sustainable life.”
Is there or will there also be an English version available?
“There is not! As some of the questions are about the situation in The Netherlands, the urgency of translating our questions has not been so high to us yet. But hopefully it will come someday!”