Open Universities on Dutch Railways..

A weekend of Science in Utrecht

Since 2014 Dutch Railways (NS) has been supporting the universities of the Netherlands in what is known locally as the Weekend van de Wetenschap and is traditionally held during the first weekend of October. The official website is here

Various universities around the country team up with over 300 research institutions, companies and museums to open their doors to the Dutch public every year with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

In October 2018 I was honoured to be invited to work with a really lovely group of people from Dutch Railways, the University of Amsterdam, under the direction of Dr. A.B. (Tonny) Mulder, neuroscientist and senior lecturer Psychobiology, and, a stellar events and hosting company called Kumpany that I can highly commend for a job well done.

The event was held at the Utrecht railway station and based in one of the so-called pop-up shops. NS Stations keep one of the retail units on-hand for all kinds of uses. For example, a short-term sales promotion of a day, week or month may be required or, as in our case, we used it to base the event at.

On this occasion, the Pop-Up shop was branded in NS StationsLab colours and it was Kumpany who invented the concept of the NS StationsLab some years ago. You can read more about and view the PR that went into the Utrecht Weekend of Science event here.

The doors of the ‘laboratory’ were open for railway customers to come in and participate in the science experiments being conducted by the students from the University of Amsterdam. They themselves put the experiments together, conducted the research, and will have analysed the results. They, and the public participants, all had a great deal of fun over the course of the event.

The event at Utrecht this year, was all about wayfinding. Finding the way in a busy station – people going in different directions, trying to achieve different objectives, with different abilities and on different timescales. For example, to change trains, to find the exit, perhaps to use so-called last mile connection such as buses or trams, or even just to meet friends or go shopping. Many many different tasks.

Included in the event was a live podcast with a number of wayfinding experts which was also filmed. There were two sections; the first one entirely in Dutch, and for those of you who can speak Dutch, here is a link to that part. The second 10 minute slot was in English which allowed me to participate with my very good friend and colleague Dr. Mark van Hagen conducting the interview. I have posted that below.

Mark van Hagen and Robin Woods discuss transport map research and design in a podcast during the Weekend of Science at Utrecht, October 2018
Here are all the students who brought the exciting Weekend of Science to life with their head tutor Dr. A.B. (Tonny) Mulder.