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Professors De Witte and Tachezy win the CELSA Society Award
CELSA wishes to honour those colleagues of its universities who have performed way beyond their duties in order to service their community and mankind in general. In this way, CELSA stresses the importance of service to the community as a main task of universities. To do so, CELSA awards the CELSA Service to Society Awards yearly.
This year, the CELSA Board has decided to award two society awards. Both professors have done excellent work in the handling of the pandemic and represent a whole community of researchers and university professionals who have gone beyond their academic duty.
Professor Kristof De Witte was awarded the prize for his research on covid-19 school closures.
In a series of collaborative research papers, Professor Kristof De Witte (Leuven Economics of Education Research; Faculty of Economics and Business; KU Leuven) provided evidence on the effects of school closures during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis on standardised student test scores at the end of primary school. Together with his team, he used a rich data set with standardised test scores from a large share of Flemish schools over a period of six years spanning from 2015 to 2020 combined with administrative data.
The research suggested that the school closures resulted in significant learning losses and a substantial increase in educational inequality. The 2020 cohort experienced decreases in the school averages of standardised test scores as compared to previous cohorts, amounting to 0.17 standard deviations for mathematics and 0.19 standard deviations for Dutch. This finding holds when accounting for school characteristics and standardised tests in grade 4, as well as when including school fixed effects.
In other collaborative research, De Witte analysed the individual differences in student experiences and expectations of the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting school closures. He explored whether particular personality traits, as measured through the lens of the Big Five scheme, amplified consequences of the crisis in Flemish secondary schools.
Thanks to his research on COVID-19 school closures, the societal impact of De Witte was undeniably significant. His evidence-based views had (and still have) a substantial impact on Flemish education and education policy. Moreover, the societal impact went beyond his own region: his research was the first study worldwide to examine the effects of school closures on standardized test scores, and was cited in dozens of countries and used as an important argument for keeping schools open. In addition to writing opinion articles and attention in the media, professor De Witte invested a great deal of time and energy behind the scenes to maximize the social and policy impact of the research. His research has a documented impact on policy making at national and international level.
Kristof De Witte is a professor in Education Economics and Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics and Business at KU Leuven, Belgium. At KU Leuven he is program director of the ‘Master in Economic Education’, and founding member and director of the research group ‘Leuven Economics of Education Research’.
Professor Ruth Tachezy became fully involved in the fight against the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
In particular, she used her long-term experience in the field of viral infections diagnostics and combined it with her organizational talent. She became the Chief Test Coordinator at the BIOCEV centre, a joint workplace of the 1st Faculty of Medicine of Charles University and the Faculty of Science of Charles University, the Institute of Biotechnology of the ASCR and the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the ASCR. Ruth Tachezy reorganized a part of BIOCEV laboratories to meet the highest demands for work with infectious biological samples. These laboratories were reserved, and specially equipped and adapted for testing. She also organized on the volunteer basis the BIOCEV workers, mostly PhD and postdoctoral students, and handed them her enthusiasm. The staff was properly trained and had long-term experience in the field of isolation of RNA samples and operation of the state-of-the-art PCR instrumentation. The virology laboratories and research infrastructures were unified in BIOCEV under Ruth leadership and participated in the testing. A support and administration team composed of scientists and technical staff of the BIOCEV centre was also set up. The whole infrastructure participated in the initiative of academic workplaces with the aim to accelerate the testing of the population for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the first period of pandemic. High-capacity testing, quality control and management with more than a thousand samples a day could be tested by an international scientific team from the BIOCEV centre under Ruth Tachezy leadership. In March 2020, the IOCB Tech, a subsidiary of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the ASCR (IOCB) focusing on technology transfer, has donated to Dr. Ruth Tachezy CZK 7 million award for research and development of new diagnostic tests for COVID19. The IOCB Tech highlighted that "Dr. Ruth Tachezy, is our leading virologist, who in recent weeks has been developing new methods for testing SARS-CoV-2 very selflessly“ and „will be responsible for the implementation of these methods in the joint workplace of Charles University and the Academy of Sciences in BIOCEV“.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruth commented very frequently on related events for a number of Czech media (Czech Television, Czech Radio and numerous journals) and students. At the turn of 2020 and 2021, she joined the newly formed Snow Initiative, a civic initiative supporting the protection of human health from COVID. Since March 2021, she is a member of The Interdisciplinary Group for Epidemic Situations (MeSES), which is a scientific advisory board to the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic. This interdisciplinary group issues opinions, reports and recommendations based on current scientific knowledge, integrating the perspectives of various disciplines, including economics, humanities and law.
CELSA was founded in April 2016 by 7 old and famous universities in 4 innovative European cities: Budapest, Leuven, Ljubljana and Prague.
European collaborative projects in the framework of Horizon2020 or its successor.
Research support staff and knowledge transfer officers will gather for meetings and workshops on pre-award strategies for participation to Horizon2020
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