van der Meer

Historian of medicine and science, working on the history of collective action and public health


I work on the history of public health as an example of how things are done together in modern societies. During my Bachelor in History at Utrecht University, I got interested in this topic as an exchange student at the Medical History and Bioethics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I initially specialised in the history of eugenics, evolutionary theory, and Malthusianism in the Netherlands during my MSc in history of science at Utrecht University. These topics motivated me to further explore the history of population health at Oxford University and write a thesis on the role of biological concepts in interwar Dutch public health debates. I revised its chapter on the history of Dutch eugenics as an essay titled ‘Sown without care: Dutch eugenicists and their call for optimising developmental conditions, 1919-1939. For this manuscript I received the Roy Porter Essay prize from the Society for Social History of Medicine in 2022.

During the summer of 2020, the Dutch Scientific Council (NWO) awarded me funding for my project ‘Safeguarding a healthy future: Dutch child health intervention between politics and practice 1901-2020.’ I explore the collective practices of weighing, vaccinating, and testing to investigate how and why concerns about the health of pre-school children motivated collective activities in the emerging Dutch welfare state. I use this history to understand why and how certain preventive activities proliferated, became ‘social,’ and transported and reïnforced social norms. I do this research at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Erasmus MC under supervision of Noortje Jacobs, Ralf Futselaar, and Timo Bolt. I receive training in Science and Technology Studies at WTMC - the Netherlands Graduate School of Science, Technology, and Modern Culture. For presenting my research on infant mortality as a public issue, I was awared the Pieter van Foreest prize for best PhD-presentation from the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health in 2023.

Besides my research into medical history, I am interested in the historical sociology of late modern science, particularly of research funding, academic publishing, peer review, academic career structures, and academic integrity. I deeply care about improving the academic system through interdisciplinary projects fostering a robust, diverse, reflexive, and democratic research culture. Besides my research, I have worked as a policy maker focused on responsible research at Tilburg University. I also acted as chair of the Centre of Trial and Error.

Together with Stefan Gaillard, I have been listed at the 2024 Forbes 30 under 30 list in the category of Science and Healthcare for our work for the Journal of Trial and Error, which we co-founded together with Max Bautista Perpinyà.


PhD researcher : Safeguarding a Healthy Future - preventive child health intervention in between politics and practice, 1901-1920, Erasmus University Rotterdam & Erasmus Medical Centre [2021-now].

Senior policy Advisor : research ethics, data management, open science, privacy, academic integrity, Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences, Tilburg University [2020-2024].

Policy Advisor : academic integrity and knowledge safety, Erasmus Medcial Centre [2022].

Lecturer : Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus Medical Centre
‘Journal Club: Medical History’ (BA) 2022, 2023
   ‘Biopower: breeding feeding and bleeding for world domination’ (BA) 2022, 2023
‘History of Modern Societies’ (BA) 2022
‘Open Science and sociology of science’ (MSc) 2021, 2022, 2023
‘History and Sociology of Public Health’ (MSc) 2020
‘Scientific Revolution’ (BSc) 2019, 2020
‘History of the Social Sciences’ (MSc) 2019

Freelance Journalist : Vrij Nederland, NRC. Projects on science, medicine, and society [2019-now].

Chair and co-founder : Center and Journal of Trial and Error, International publication community aiming to explore uncertainty in science, and publish failed research in a reflective and meaningful manner [2018-now].

Board member : Gewina - Belgisch Nederlands genootschap voor wetenschaps- en universiteitsgeschiedenis [2018-now].

ResearcherFaces of Open Science: a sociological analysis of Open Science, Open Science Programme, Utrecht University [2020-2022].


On history of public health and biomedicine:

With Noortje Jacobs, ‘When Infant Mortality was Born: Dutch Preventive Child Health Care without the State, 1890-1930’ European Journal for the History of Medicine and Health 80:1 (2024)

‘Sown Without Care: Dutch Eugenicisits and Their Call for Optimising Developmental Conditions, 1919-1938’  Social History of Medicine 

‘Het vertrouwen in erfelijk alcoholisme’, Wonderkamer: tijdschrift voor wetenschapsgeschiedenis 2.1 (May 2021).

‘Tuberculosevrees: medisch hervormers tussen cultuurpessimisme en maakbaarheid in het interbellum’, Utrecht Student Journal for Young Biomedical Scientists 2.2 (September 2021).

‘De gekke mensen van vroeger: essay-review “Pest en Cholera: een bloedstollende geschiedenis van de geneeskunde”, HTA 35.1 (2020).

‘Geschiedenis, Filosofie én Gezondheidszorg? Review-essay “Basisboek Geschiedenis en Filosofie van de Gezondheidswetenschappen”’, HTA 33.2 (2019).

‘Historici, hedendaagse politiek, en beschuldigingen van 20ste eeuws racisme’, HTA34.3 (2019).

Edited special issue, ‘Themanummer Wetenschapsgeschiedenis’, HTA 33.2 (2019).

‘Medisch Materiaal: een historische interpretatie van patiëntendossiers als bijdrage aan het bio-ethisch debat over objectivering’, HTA 33.3 (2017).

On how I think we can make academia better:

With Marjolijn Antheunis and Boudewijn Haverkort, ‘The Practicalities of a Partial Lottery to Allocate Research Funding’ Research Evaluation (2024)

‘How “Recognition and Rewards” in Dutch academia turned metrics into incentives,’ Blog of Trial and Error (March 2023):

With J. Schaafsma, ´Universiteiten zitten te slapen, grote uitgeverijen gaan er met hun data vandoor,´ NRC Handelsblad (May 2022).

With J. Schaafsma, '"Pure" Misery: how Open Access makes us more dependent on big publishers,' Univers (November 2021).

With S. de Knecht, L. Brinkman & F. Miedema, ‘(Re)shaping the academic self: connecting education with open science’, published as white paper:

with M.A. Burke, ‘To all graduate students: science is broken and you need to fix it’, DUB August 2020.

‘Waarom een kerncurriculum helpt bij het bestrijden van de volgende pandemie’, DUB November 2020.

Geesteswetenschappers falen aan de lopende band’, DUB January 2020.

with Sean Devine, Max Bautista Perpinyà, Valentine Delrue, Stefan Gaillard, Thomas F.K. Jorna, Martijn van der Meer, Lottricia Millett, Chelsea Pozzebon, and Jobke Visser [equal contribution], ‘Bridging the gap between what is researched and what is published’, Journal of Trial and Error 1.1 (November 2020):

‘Introducing the Journal of Trial and Error to Historians of Science’, Shells and Pebbles, February 2020.

with S.M. Gaillard, ‘Wetenschap, wees eens eerlijk over jezelf!’, DUB December 2019.

with M. Bautista Perpinyà, S. Galliard, N. Hamman, J. Visser & D. Calveri, [equal contribution] ‘Manifesto for Trial and Error in Science’ on (2019).


> ‘Sown without Care: Dutch Eugenicists and their call for environmental reform’ Biannual Meeting of the Society for the Social History of Medicine (19.07.2024).

> ‘An uncomfortable history of the biomedical career’, Biomedisch Interfacultair congres (19.04.2024).

> With Noortje Jacobs, ‘A good mother enters the clinic: How Dutch preventive child health care ordered everyday lives, 1900-1940’ Centre for History in Public Health: London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (23.04.2024)

> With Noortje Jacobs, ‘When Infant Mortality Was Born: Dutch Preventive Child Health Care without the State, 1890-1930’ Egenis Seminar, University of Exeter (20.05.2024).

> ‘Slordig gezaaide akkers? Nederlandse eugenetici tussen biologische en sociale maakbaarheid,’ Nederlandse Vereniging voor Psychiatrie (11.04.2024).

> ‘Navigating “Open Science.” What it is, can be, and should be‘, invited speaker: Open Statistics (04.12.2023).

> ‘Infant mortality as a public problem’, invited speaker: HHH - medical history meets historical demography (10.3.2023)

> ‘Preventie als sociaal project’, invited speaker: Leergroep ontwikkelkansen BMC (9.3.2023)

> ‘CHALLENGING TUBERCULOSIS — building a consensus on environmental causes during the Dutch interwar years’, Contested Expertise (Gewina, 16-17.06.2022)

> ‘Academic integrity in the context of systemic change’, Pitch @ Summer Seminar on Research Integrity (VU Amsterdam, 26.08.2021).

> ‘From proximal cause to epidemiological unit: conceptualising the eatiology of tuberculosis during the Dutch interwar years’, Early career workshop: What was Epidemiology? The History of an Undisciplined Field (University of Edinburgh, 17.06.2021).

> ‘Doing Good Science in a Compromising Context’, invited speaker: Seminar of Apollo Society for Translational Medicine (U.M.C. Utrecht, 25.06.2021).

> ‘Wetenschap als geïnstitutionaliseerd vertrouwen’, Invited speaker: VeerEvents (UTwente, 18.02.2021).

> ‘We should rethink big-discovery-science’, Material Pioneers symposium III (T.U. Delft, 18.01.2021).

> ‘Success, at last’, International launch of the Journal of Trial and Error (Utrecht, 30.11.2020).

> ‘A Sonderweg of Dutch Public Health? A conceptual history of heredity during the interwar years’, Annual Graduate History Conference (Oxford University, 10.06.2020).

> ‘Malthus on Man: In Animals no Moral Restraint: Social and Environmental Reform around 1900’,  HPS Graduate colloquium (Utrecht University, 23.04.2019).

> ‘History versus Philosophy of Science: How Applied History Requires Bridging Descriptive and Normative Knowledge’, HPS. Peer Seminar (Utrecht University, 26.11.2019).

> with M. Bautista Perpinyà, ‘Back to Bacon and Boyle: what about publishing trial and error?’, keynote address, LMB Graduate Symposium (University of Cambridge, 12.07.2019).

> with S. D. M. Gaillard, ‘Introducing a Journal of Trial and Error’, Gewina Woudschoten Conference for History of Science (Woudschoten, 22.06.2019).

> ‘What about a Journal of Trial and Error?’, Descartes Colloquium, (Utrecht University, 19.06.2019).

This is me in a college residence - preparing my first academic talk at Cambridge. It went okay-ish.