#WIMG is a PERMAGOV campaign designed to celebrate the role of women in marine governance. Case studies take the form of short interviews where participants share their background, interests, ideas and recommendations for improving the way in which ocean affairs are managed. Each story is unique. By spotlighting our WIMG stars, we hope that readers from all walks of life will be inspired to make their contribution in support of a sustainable ocean. Featured in this case study is Judith van Leeuwen, PERMAGOV Coordinator and Associate Professor at Wageningen University.
I am an associate professor at the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University. I teach BSc and MSc students, supervise MSc and PhD students in developing their research and thesis, publish research articles (together with others), and coordinate and manage research projects.
I work with a diverse set of teams, depending on the research project. Some of these teams are large and international, like the PERMAGOV project consortium. I also work in interdisciplinary teams, such as within the Horizon Europe project Source to Seas Zero Pollution 2030, but also within Wageningen University and Research where I supervise a PhD student together with Wageningen Food and Biobased Research and the Environmental Technology Group.
Study and career path
I spent my whole working life at the Environmental Policy Group (ENP) of Wageningen University. After I graduated from my Masters, I sought a PhD position which I found at ENP in Wageningen. I have been lucky in having had to opportunity to keep developing my academic career within this research group. I have been a study advisor, a lecturer and did my Postdoc at ENP as well. I became Assistant Professor in 2014 and Associate Professor in 2022.
Role in PERMAGOV
I coordinate the project, which means I keep a helicopter view of all tasks and issues related to the project. However, I also lead Task 2.2, which runs in the first phase of the project (until the middle of the second year). I have a PhD student that leads a case study on marine plastics in the Mediterranean Sea and a Postdoc researcher that leads the case study on decarbonising maritime transport.
I have a wide definition when analysing and thinking about marine governance, although I am mostly interested in how governments and industry co-constitute governance arrangements and mechanisms to improve sustainability of marine related economic activities and reduce pollution ending up in the marine environment. This means that much of my research (beside my focus on shipping) actually focuses on land-based activities, such as production and use of chemicals and plastics. Governance mechanisms can be based on regulation, but can also include self-regulatory approaches such as CSR (corporate social responsibility) or non-binding commitments/pledges.
If I could change and improve marine governance I would like to contribute to make a better connection between high ambitions for sustainability change, on the one hand, and processes for reflection and learning, on the other hand. In order to make real changes, business as usual is no longer an option. There is a need to recognise how actors individually, and governance arrangements more collectively, continue to allow room for path dependencies that end up in a business as usual approach, even though the intention is to enact change. Only by reflecting on what change is needed, by questioning past decisions and solutions, and by experimenting and co-creating, can we start to move away from the status quo. But this will require courage from a wide range of actors.
There are a lot of women in the field of marine science and governance, so you can always find someone to support you. The working field is booming, so there are lots of opportunities out there now!