VUB awards six honorary doctorates to defenders of freedom and inspiring scientists
This year, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel will award six honorary doctorates to pioneering scientists and socially engaged people. They are secretary-general of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard, co-founder of Scholars at Risk Robert Quinn, economist Mariana Mazzucato, celebrated international law scientist Martti Koskenniemi, mathematician Efim Zelmanov and physiologist Andrew Jones. The theme is Science and Freedom. “Science and scientists are increasingly under attack around the world,” says rector Jan Danckaert. The presentation of the honorary doctorates will take place on Thursday 1 June. Andrew Jones will receive his title earlier, on Thursday 20 April.
The press are welcome to attend both events and interviews can be arranged. Invitations to the ceremonies will follow later.
Agnès Callamard is a French human rights activist with an impressive track record. Throughout her career she has worked with aid and human rights organisations. From 2016 to 2021, she was special rapporteur appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council, with a mandate to investigate extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. She led the investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; she received death threats after presenting her findings in 2019. She also investigated the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and concluded that the Kremlin was behind the attack.In 2021, she became secretary-general of Amnesty International, which she had previously also worked for.
Agnès Callamard has been nominated by the university for societal merit.
Robert Quinn is co-founder and executive director of the Scholars at Risk network. The international organisation, established in 1999 in the US and based at New York University, defends academics who face danger and aims to provide them with a safe haven. It works closely with more than 500 universities in 42 countries and every year offers protection to some 300 academics. VUB has offered shelter to three scientists, with a fourth process under way. For VUB, the network is vital to secure both the intellectual capital of scientists in danger and freedom of thought.
Roger Quinn has been nominated by the university for societal merit.
Andrew (Andy) Jones
Andrew (Andy) Jones is professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter in the UK. He is sometimes known as “Andy Beetroot”, because of his research showing that beetroot juice positively affects submaximal performance during exercise. Prof Jones enjoys international recognition as a leading researcher into, among other things, the causes of exercise intolerance in healthy people and people with disabilities, the kinetics of respiratory oxygen exchange during exercise, and exercise physiology and nutrition during endurance events. He has won several scientific awards and has extensive experience in coaching elite athletes, including distance runner Paula Radcliffe. He was also involved in the Breaking2 project, where he coached Eliud Kipchoge to run the marathon in under two hours.
Andrew Jones has been nominated by the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy.
Martti Koskenniemi (Finland) is a global authority in the field of international law. The link between law and power is central to his work. Since the publication of From Apology to Utopia: The Structure of International Legal Argument (1989), and later The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870-1960 (2001), Prof Koskenniemi has been a leading figure in international law, legal theory and history of law. His work is essential to understand why colonial and economic power relations have undermined the neutrality of international law. He bridges the gap with political science and the history of ideas, where interest in international law has grown significantly, and couples scientific excellence with social commitment. He was also a diplomat from 1976 to 1996, including a role as head of the legal department at the Finnish ministry of foreign affairs.
Martti Koskenniemi has been nominated by the Faculty of Law and Criminology.
Professor Efim Zelmanov is a Russian-American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to the theory of Jordan algebra, introduced to physics in the 1930s. He also made crucial contributions to the theory of Lie algebras, again finding solutions to major problems that mathematicians had thought impossible. He introduced new ideas, concepts and techniques and is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest algebra specialists.Researchers at VUB’s Department of Mathematics and Data Science are still using ideas and results from the theory that Zelmanov developed and expanded. Prof Zelmanov was appointed the Rita L. Atkinson Chair in Mathematics at UC San Diego in 2002. Before that, he was professor at Yale University, University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has received numerous prestigious awards, including the highest distinction in maths, the Fields Medal, in 1994.
Efim Zelmanov has been nominated by the Faculty of Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences.
The Italian-American Mariana Mazzucato is professor in the economics of innovation and public value at University College London. She has received several international awards and is one of the three most important thinkers on innovation according to the magazine The New Republic, one of the 50 most creative people in the business world according to the website Fast Company, and one of the 25 leaders who are shaping the future of capitalism according to WIRED. Prof Mazzucato has written several bestsellers, such as The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013), about the role of the state in stimulating growth, and The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (2018), about how value creation should be rewarded over value extraction. In 2021, she published Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism. Mariana Mazzucato advises policymakers around the world about inclusive and sustainable growth, driven by innovation. As a special advisor to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation (2017-2019), she authored a report on mission-driven research and innovation in the EU, with the aim of making missions a crucial tool in the Commission’s Horizon innovation programme.
Mariana Mazzucato has been nominated by the Faculty of Social Sciences & Solvay Business School.