The Brussels Centre for Urban Studies represents more than twenty research groups from various faculties and departments.
Architectural Engineering (aelab): æ-LAB is the research laboratory of the department of Architectural Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB-ARCH). The research within æ-LAB is focused on "the use of engineering tools to create architecture". This approach is applied on three topics that ask for interdisciplinary studies: the design of lightweight structures, renovation and re-use, and the incorporation of transformations.
Art Studies and Archaeology (SKAR): The Department of Art Studies and Archaeology (SKAR) is an interdisciplinary team that carries out research on art and material culture, studied as transitional cultural 'objects' with material characteristics and invested with immaterial values. Cultural 'objects' ranging from paleolithic tools to early-modern architectural treatises and from conceptual art to cultural landscapes come about, transform, disappear or survive in changing worlds. They change as their contemporary contextual relevance shifts. SKAR studies the cultural biographies of artistic and material culture, the heritage values accorded to it, and its negotiation with society by cultural brokers. Skar studies transitional cultural 'objects' from four main perspectives: 1. Heritage production and technology in (art) historical and archeological perspective (e.g. excavation and analysis of glassware, pottery, metals, but also the changing models for cultural infrastructure); 2. Image-making and imagination: artisthood and society; 3. Interactions in space and time: past and present exchange of cultural objects and ideas in and between cities and regions, global art world(s); and 4. The contemporary position of heritage workers, curators and academics as brokers in cultural objects: fundamental and policy-oriented research.
Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics (BIAL): BIAL (Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics) is a research group within the Applied Linguistics Department of the VUB that conducts applied linguistic research with a focus on transculturalism. We define transculturalism as a form of cultural hybridity which emerges when different cultural elements interact and eventually integrate with each other. Since Brussels is a natural melting pot of cultures, the emphasis on transculturalism is contained in the B of BIAL ("Brussels"). The research can be categorised according to the following lines of enquiry: 1) Translation and Interpreting: Research topics in interpreting include studies on the practice of interpreting (e.g. community interpreting) and the evaluation of interpreting skills; 2) Foreign Language Acquisition and Multilingualism: validation of teaching methods with a view to optimizing foreign language teaching, as well as research on multilingualism from the perspective of migration, transculturalism and education; 3) Jargon, terminology and communication in a multilingual, transcultural perspective: application-specific terminological analyses in a socio-cognitive perspective, the possibilities and limitations of ontology-based terminological databases, the importance of terminology (neologisms) within the dynamic process of understanding, multilingual neology, European terminology and equal authenticity of texts in different languages, terminological variation, and the role of vagueness and indeterminacy in language; and 4) Language Practice in transcultural society: interdisciplinary research on the relationship between political concepts and language use in different languages and their associated cultures.
Cartography and GIS (CGIS): Research activities in the Cartography and GIS (CGIS) group mainly focus on land-use/land-cover mapping from remotely sensed data, with emphasis on urban areas. Special attention in this research goes to the use of knowledge-based methods and machine learning approaches for image interpretation, relying on spectral, textural as well as contextual information. More recently the lab built up expertise in hyperspectral remote sensing in different application domains, from characterizing ecotopes in ecologically valuable areas to detailed mapping of urban surface types. At present the group is also investigating the use of superresolution methods for improving information extraction from satellite data through multi-angle image acquisition. Developing methods to extract information from remotely sensed data that is useful for local and regional decision making is an important concern in much of the work done by the lab. In relation to the monitoring and modeling of urban dynamics, remote sensing and GIS-driven approaches are developed for monitoring and modelling of urban dynamics, in relation to urban ecology and urban sustainability issues. Specific research topics include mapping and monitoring of urban sprawl, remote-sensing driven calibration of urban growth models, urban green monitoring, urban quality-of-life assessment, analysis of urban form, and impacts of urban growth on the water balance in urbanised areas.
Centre for Information, Documentation and Research on Brussels (BRIO): BRIO’s main objective is to increase knowledge about Brussels and its surrounding municipalities through scientific, interdisciplinary and policy supporting research by initiating, developing and distributing scientific research, and by promoting research cooperation and information exchange. BRIO has four major axes of research: 1) Language Policy and Integration; 2) Diversity in Society; 3) Politics and Administration; and 4) Comparative Research on Divided and Multilingual Cities.
Centre for Literary and Intermedial Crossings (CLIC): CLIC brings together researchers in the field of literary, theatre and performance studies. CLIC offers them an interdisciplinary network to stimulate research along three key concepts: media, genres and spaces. Literature, theatre and performance traditionally belong to specific medial systems. However, these systems often interact in hybrid, intermedial ways. CLIC members study a broad range of phenomena of intermediality as well as methodological issues related to this field. Generic questions too are at the centre of CLIC research. Genres produce and communicate meaning, and also change over time, in response to specific socio-cultural but also political and economic contexts. Moreover, authors and artists often consciously renew, transgress or mix genre conventions. Last but not least, CLIC research focuses on spaces, ranging from the urban space of modernism to the contact zone of postcolonial theory and the rhizomatic network of the megalopolis. Through imaginary topographies and theatrical scenographies, transnational and multilingual identities are negotiated and disputed, as are new forms of politically committed artistic production.
Culture, Emancipation, Media & Society (CEMESO): Research at CEMESO examines the role of media and culture in social life. The production, distribution and appropriation of symbolic resources, whether it be in a technological, artistic, material, bodily, didactical or discursive way, make up CEMESO’s research field. From these perspectives, CEMESO investigates how media and culture contribute to the construction, reproduction, negotiation and contestation of meanings in social life. CEMESO is involved in both academic and action research projects that contribute to human emancipation and to sustainable forms of empowerment, fairness, diversity and democracy. Through its research and engagement, CEMESO articulates a social commentary on media and culture in contemporary society.
Centre of Expertise Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality (RHEA): The Centre of Expertise Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality (RHEA) aims to contribute to knowledge generation on gender, diversity and intersectionality, through scientific and interdisciplinary research and education. RHEA is an interfaculty research group and offers a platform for researchers from across the university. It plays an important role in advising policy makers at the university and in the political world, offering expertise on equal opportunity and diversity policy. The centre of expertise: performs fundamental and applied research on gender, diversity and intersectionality in various disciplines; offers specialized and integrated education related to gender, diversity, in bachelor, master and doctoral education; provides internal and external advice on equal opportunities and diversity policy; and offers a platform for academic personnel from various VUB departments and faculties, who integrate gender, diversity and intersectionality in their research and education.
Brussels Centre for Urban Studies board members: Sophie Withaeckx (effective)
Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research: The Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research is a research centre within the Department of Geography of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is dedicated to research and teaching in geography, spatial planning and urban design. Committed to pursuing both academic and practice relevant research, Cosmopolis actively engages policy makers, governments, citizen networks and other urban partners to transform knowledge into action. The group gradually established itself as an interdisciplinary research group analysing urbanity, processes of ‘glocalisation’ (globalisation and localisation) and the relationship between urban space, society and culture. Over the last fifteen years, Cosmopolis has continuously grown in size and is now an established centre of urban research situated in the heart of Europe.
Crime & Society (CRiS): The Research Group Crime and Society (CRiS) builds on more than 30 years of research expertise in critical analysis of the social phenomena of crime and deviance and of the formal and informal reactions to these phenomena. Over the years, four main research areas developed: penology; youth justice studies; security, prevention and policing; and crime and the city. In 2013, a common Research Programme was established: 'Crossing Borders: Crime, Culture and Control'. It aims at integrating the expertise of the different research domains into one single research team and research plan, focusing on our common constructionist, critical, comparative and interdisciplinary approach to crime and crime control as social phenomena.
Data and Policy: The Research Unit Data and Policy (RUDP, or OCDB in Dutch) is an interdisciplinary research unit at the R&D Department of the VUB which focuses on issues concerning R&D policy and funding/evaluation instruments in the regional (Flanders and Brussels), federal (Belgium) and European context. The Research Unit develops relevant indicators and mechanisms which allow to stimulate and to measure and monitor the (social) valorization and performance of research and innovation, both at institutional and policy level. The Research Unit also conducts policy-relevant research regarding science and research policy in general and in Flanders and Brussels in particular.
Educational Sciences (EDWE): EDWE is a recently assembled research group, consisting of the former Educational Sciences Department and the Adult Education research group. Together they have defined three topics for research: - Educational change and innovation - Community building - Cultural education. Within the first, change and innovation are studied on micro-level (learning and instruction), organizational level and national policy level. The second, community building, aims at investigating conditions for positive community building from a humanistic perspective. The third, cultural education, is aimed at the improvement of instructional strategies and settings for culture education in different age groups.
Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes (HOST): Urban history is a broad and dynamic research area in which scholars from very diverse disciplines can encounter and inspire one another. At the same time, it is an area of research that can be explored and implemented in many different ways. In HOST the focus lies with European cities in the early modern period and long nineteenth century, with special attention for the role of cities as catalysts for processes of economic innovation, social exclusion/integration, and political-institutional change.
Human Physiology Research Group (MFYS): Research in the Human Physiology Research Group (MFYS) is focused on ‘Exercise and the Brain in Health & Disease’ where the interaction of exercise on neurochemistry and neurophysiology is explored. The research is concentrated on three different levels: 1) Fundamental – Physiological research: We perform fundamental research on the limits of fatigue, mechanisms of thermoregulation, and the positive effects of exercise on neurogenesis. The new research line on exercise and pollution and the brain also includes animal studies; 2) Applied – Clinical research aims at examining the value of the study findings of the fundamental research at the applied/clinical level. Again, all studies are within the area of exercise and the brain in health & disease. In general, the applied – clinical research is focused on studying exercise and training in different patient populations such as cardiovascular disease, obese, diabetes patients, sports injuries. Recently, the effects of exercise and pollution are integrated into the applied – clinical cluster, this way the health enhancing effects of ‘commuter cycling’ are weighed against air pollution; and 3) Benchmarking – Policy making research: The ‘Commuter Cycling’ research line investigates the effect of cycling for transportation on health in a broad prospective. In collaboration with VITO we examine the balance between the health enhancing effects of commuting by bicycle and exercising in busy traffic (polluted air). Bicycle accidents are analyzed in detail in adult and adolescent populations in order to advise policy makers how to create a safer and healthier environment.
Brussels Centre for Urban Studies board members: Bas de Geus (effective)
Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering (HYDR): The Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering has since its start pursued a strong interest in numerical simulation techniques and computer applications. This resulted in an expertise in development and use of hydrological modelling techniques. In the development, application and visualisation of these models and their results, GIS and remote sensing is implemented. Many research projects on Flemish, Belgian and European level have been executed with financing from Flemish, Belgian and EU scientific programmes, as well as directly from administrations and industry. The research activities are focused on development, calibration and validation of modelling techniques for: 1) Simulation and forecasting of the hydrological processes on a river basin scale; 2) Simulation and analysis of processes controlling runoff and quality of surface water; 3) Hydrodynamics and sediment transport as well as lithologic and geomorphologic evolution in aquatic environment; 4) Assessment of quantity and quality of groundwater flow and regional groundwater reservoirs; 5) Techniques to forecast and improve integrated water management practices on a regional scale; and 6) Research on ecohydrology to quantify interactive processes between water and the environment, strongly linked with GIS and remote sensing techniques.
Interface Demography (ID): Research at Interface Demography is aimed at enhancing scientific understanding on the determinants and consequences of population change. Our work concentrates around five major research areas. The first three areas are typical substantive demographic topics. We study changes in: 1) fertility and households; 2) health and mortality; and 3) migration. The theoretical knowledge generated in these areas is used to feed the topic of 4) population dynamics and urbanisation. A last area of research is transversally related to the four previous topics and covers the development of research infrastructure through 5) data collection and data management.
Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS): The interdisciplinary Research Group on Law Science Technology & Society (LSTS) is devoted to analytical, theoretical and prospective research into the relationships between law, science, technology and society. LSTS's core expertise is legal, but the group also has a strong track record in legal theory, philosophy of sciences and bio-ethics, and engages in criminological (surveillance & security) and STS-research too. LSTS's main challenge is to (re)think the constitutive principles of democracy and the rule of law (including principles as precaution, participation, accountability and responsibility) in relation to contemporary scientific and technological developments that seem to confront citizens with irreversible decision-making processes with a major impact on their lives.
Management and Strategy (MAST): The Management and Strategy (MAST) cluster conducts research and advisory work in three domains: 1) stakeholder management, with a special focus on complex investment evaluations. Unique research and advisory expertise has been developed in the optimal design of public private partnerships (PPSs), triple bottom-line (TBL) measurement tools for projects with high external effects, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. 2) Sustainable mobility and infrastructure management, focused on assessing large-scale projects such as port terminals, intermodal transport hubs, brownfield rejuvenation investments for mixed usage, and greenfield development sites. The cluster builds upon more than 25 years of leading research and thought leadership in this area. 3) International strategic management, with a focus on the governance and expansion strategies of large multinational enterprises and their subsidiaries. The cluster has achieved world-class status in this field with numerous publications in leading scholarly journals.
Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MEMC): The Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MEMC) departments studies the mechanical behavior of innovative material systems and lightweight constructions under complex loading conditions by means of (combined) experimental testing and advanced numerical modeling, in close collaboration with our national and international academic and industrial partners. Fundamental and applied research is developed within the following themes: 1) Durability - Reliability of polymer based composite systems; 2) Mixed numerical-experimental techniques or inverse methods; 3) Mineral polymers and their composites; 4) Damage mechanics on material and structural levels; 5) Non-destructive testing and experimental mechanics; 6) Design and analysis of constructions; 7) Renovation of buildings and civil engineering constructions.
Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Centre (MOBI): MOBI is leader in electromobility and socio-economic evaluations for sustainable mobility and logistics. Socio-Economic: MOBI is defining the state-of-the-art in socio-economic evaluations. Methods and models are developed and then translated into practical tools that are tailor made for the transport sector. Examples of key contributions include a geographic information system enabling simulations for the intermodal transport sector (LAMBIT), a policy analysis tool involving stakeholders at early stage (MAMCA), or a specific external costs calculator for transport activities (ECC). Over the years, the centre gained a strong expertise in city logistics, intermodal transport, and transport users behaviour, and has proven track records on traffic safety and road accident analysis. Technology: From a technological perspective, the centre has a leading position in electromobility, thanks to its experience of over 40 years in electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles R&D. The centre possesses state-of-the-art infrastructure and models for the testing, development and design of components - batteries, supercapacitors, power converters -, vehicle power trains, and inductive and conductive charging infrastructure. Simulation techniques have been developed to define energy-efficient and low-emission power control strategies in hybrid propulsion systems. It offers a unique LCA methodology for the entire automotive sector to analyse the environmental, economical and societal impacts caused by the development and implementation of new vehicle technologies, components, materials and policy measures. MOBI has an international reputation in the field of Electric Vehicles Standardization, and is involved in several standardization commissions. A Multidisciplinary team with key assets: The strength of MOBI resides in proposing a unique combination of socio-economical, environmental & technical competencies, together with tools specifically developed for the sustainable logistics, electric and hybrid vehicles, and sustainable mobility.
Political Science (POLI): The Department of Political Science groups all the people involved in political science teaching and research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Most of the research conducted in the Department falls under four major themes: 1) Political participation and representation, 2) Nations, nationalism and ethnic conflict, 3) The politics of the European Union, 4) Chinese politics and society. Several projects and PhDs also focus on gender studies, urban and local politics, international security, political theory and ideologies, and discourse analysis. The Department collaborates closely with the Institute for European Studies IES and with the Brussels Institute for Contemporary China Studies BICCS. The Department is a member of the European Consortium of Political Research. The Department organizes a Bachelor in Political Science (in Dutch), a Master in Political Science (in Dutch) and it participates in the organization of an Advanced Master in European Integration (in English).
Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST): In the past ten years, food research has gained tremendous interest in the humanities and social sciences. Sociologists, anthropologists, economists, historians, art historians, social geographers, linguists, philosophers, archaeologists, ethnologists, and social and cultural theorists devoted attention to the seemingly banal acts of shopping, cooking, eating and drinking. This was characterized by a myriad of approaches and themes, which comprised social and economic policy, health concerns, identity formation, sociability, inequality, signification, and globalization. As of the 1970's, the Department of History of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel plays an important role in this research field, in Belgium and on an international level. In April 2003, FOST (Social & Cultural Food Studies) was founded. FOST works in collaboration with the Flemish Interface Centre for Cultural Heritage (FARO), the Institut Européen de l'Histoire de l'Alimentation and the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique. FOST aims at consolidating the expertise by inviting (foreign) specialists to workshops and colloquia, by operating within networks, by publishing and contemplating about food studies, and by performing new (multidisciplinary) food research. This multidisciplinary, internationally rooted base guarantees a diversity of approaches, methodologies and theories around a common research
Sport & Society (SASO): The research unit Sport & Society (SASO) focuses on the study of developmental, societal and policy-related issues regarding sport involvement of various segments of the population (e.g., youth, elderly, people with disabilities). These issues relate to sport participation within different contexts (i.e., organised, informal and alternatively organised sport) and levels (i.e., grass root and elite sport). SASO has advanced theories and methodologies with regard to the measurement, development and enhancement of the processes and performances of sport policy and sport organizations. In relation to grass root level sport, SASO has developed a special interest in studying individual and social meanings of sport participation among specific ‘target’ groups (e.g., socially deprived youth, ethnic minorities). In recent years, a number of doctoral studies have been initiated looking at the potential of sport for personal and social development of youth. SASO has developed the international research collaboration platform SPLISS (Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success), involving researchers from over 20 countries worldwide. SPLISS is a privileged partner in international organizations, such as the IOC and the European Union.
Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT): Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT) is part of iMinds, the Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology. SMIT specializes in social scientific research on media and ICT, with an emphasis on innovation, policy and socio-economic questions. Currently, the research center consists of over 70 researchers. SMIT research combines user, policy and business analysis with both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. In order to develop new methodological tools, a continuing dialectic between theory and empirical research is one of the centre’s high-level objectives.
Voicing Youth (VOIC): Voicing youth is an interdisciplinary research group bringing together different VUB research groups of Social Sciences (IDNS - Interpersonal, Discursive and Narrative Studies), Law (FRC - Fundamental Rights and Constitutionalism), Criminology (CRiS - Crime & Society), Sports Education (SASO- Sport & Society) and Teacher Training. The research focusses on voicing youth at social risk due to poverty, social exclusion, migration, violence, armed conflicts and war. Voicing highlights the aim to work from the perspective of these youths. Together with (Brussels) organizations we want to co-create spaces where youth’s voices can be heard and translated into social action. The overall objective of the VOIC research group is to generate knowledge and insights that support: (1) the development of participative rights-based and empowering research methods, and (2) the implementation of rights-based and empowering prevention and intervention practices for children and youngsters at social risk.
Brussels Centre for Urban Studies board members: Julia Villanueva O’Driscoll (effective) & Gerrit Loots (replacement).