Gerdien de Vries

As a climate psychologist, dr. De Vries studies climate-related issues – such as the energy transition and reducing carbon emissions – from a behavioural perspective. “We know that the climate is changing because of human behaviour, so we could also have a positive effect on climate change, through green behaviour, for example. This is not just behaviour by ordinary citizens, but also governmental bodies, politicians, businesses, science and the media. These factors also influence each other: journalists can initiate a social debate, the government can direct behaviour through policy and citizens in turn can influence the political agenda. I find the interaction between all these players fascinating, particularly as this is a topic that affects us all.” De Vries obtained her PhD at Leiden University as a social psychologist in the field of climate and energy. For her doctoral thesis, she investigated how the framing of climate policy influences support for sustainability measures and green behaviour. “I wanted to translate this knowledge into practical applications, such as in policy. The question always asked of research at TU Delft is: What can we do with it? This approach really appeals to me.” In Delft, De Vries brings her own specialisation together with other research disciplines such as technology, policy, management and communication in order to bring about the most effective possible transition to a greener world. “Besides a psychological angle, behavioural change also has technological, financial and administrative aspects. If you want to make the energy supply green, it not only has to be technically and financially feasible, you must also have the support of politicians and citizens. If citizens are not enthusiastic about carbon storage or geothermal energy, or if they want a solution that will be very expensive, the chance of success is small. TU Delft has broad expertise in areas such as civil engineering, technology, policy and management and mathematical modelling, to which I am adding psychology.”

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Why do scientists fear media interviews but do it anyway?

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The road to risky research in a safe environment

In April 2020, we founded the TPM Energy Transition Lab at Delft University of Technology. At the start, the dean of our faculty (Technology, Policy, and Management) challenged us to color outside the lines and to not be too afraid of failure. We translated this into a motto for the ET Lab: “Risky research in a safe environment”.

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