Theme 1: Communication, organization and change

When it comes to solving societal challenges in the life science domains, we are used to considering change as an organized activity of choosing a set of instruments (rules, subsidies, communication), in order to reach a defined goal. However, in practice change is normally not realized in such a linear means-end process. Instead, most changes in society are the result of the interplay between events, practices and interactions of actors involved. Meaning is constructed in interaction, which connect or disconnect people of the communication process. These numerous interactions create a certain order, which in turn influences the interactions, thereby organising and re-organising social networks in society.

What we do

We study the interplay between the construction of meaning in interaction in situated practices- including discourses, conversations, stories, dialogues and frames - and the social networks that emerge out of these interactions. We study how people, groups, and organizations come together, organize and re-organize themselves, and engage in collective processes by means of their interactions. This type of research involves the analysis of communication between different actors in networks, partnerships and multi-stakeholder processes, each from their own perspectives and interests.

What we aspire

Studying change from this perspective enriches our understanding of the way communication contributes to differentiated and collective understandings of societal issues and solutions in life science domains. It also provides insight into how communication can be improved in order to advance inclusive and constructive interaction on such issues.

We publish in journals such as: Land Use Policy, Ecology and Society, Ecological Economics, Journal of Development Studies, Sustainability, Water and Forest Economics & Policy.


Staff members on this theme


Van Herzele, A., Ceuterick, M., Buizer, M., & Leone, M. (2019). Ecosystem services as (co-) performative practice: Experiences from integrated water management in Flanders. Ecological Economics, 162, 29-38.

De Vries, J., van Bommel, S., & Peters, K. (2018). Trust at a distance—Trust in online communication in environmental and global health research projects. Sustainability, 10(11), 4005.

De Vries, J. R., Aarts, N., Lokhorst, A. M., Beunen, R., & Munnink, J. O. (2015). Trust related dynamics in contested land use: A longitudinal study towards trust and distrust in intergroup conflicts in the Baviaanskloof, South Africa. Forest Policy and Economics, 50, 302-310.