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Toby Kiers wins NWO Stairway to Impact Award

1 December 2021
Evolutionary biologist Toby Kiers is one of three winners of the Stairway to Impact Award of NWO.

Each winner will receive 50,000 euros to spend on further steps towards impact and knowledge utilisation. According to NWO, the three researchers have taken 'effective steps to create societal impact with their scientific results'. 

Fungal biodiversity
Toby Kiers uses science to warn society about the role and degradation of fungal networks on our planet. In an innovative manner, the VU Professor uses the characteristics of these networks to achieve non-harmful solutions for problems related to climate and biodiversity. She has established the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) with the aim of protecting fungal biodiversity. SPUN is a platform for people in various countries and disciplines to further investigate the status and possibilities of fungal networks.

The NWO jury is impressed by Kiers’ efforts to bring together a large group of people across the world: "Kiers is an inspiring advocate with a passion for her discipline. She encourages other scientists to use scientific knowledge to tackle a relevant societal problem."

VU president Mirjam van Praag: “The NWO Stairway to Impact Award is a well-deserved recognition for the tremendous impact that Toby Kiers' research has been generating. After accumulating an impressive list of achievements, including an ERC Starting grant, a Zwaartekracht project, a VICI, the VU-URC Chair, ánd the Ammodo KNAW award; she now receives this prize on the same day she announces the foundation of SPUN. Toby represents VU researchers at their best: deep scientific results accompanied with successful valorization initiatives.”

NWO Science Awards Week
This whole week is NWO Science Awards Week. For the second time, NWO Domain Science (ENW) awards five special scientific prizes in the areas of societal impact, team science, excellent science, diversity and communication. The aim of the prizes is to reward scientists who make a great effort in these areas and to inspire others to do the same. Eleven winners will receive a total of 350,000 euros.