Behavioural scientists have only investigated climate-friendly conduct on a large scale for the past decade. And Linda Steg is most certainly a pioneer in this field. After gaining her doctorate from the University of Groningen for her thesis entitled Gedragsverandering ter vermindering van het autogebruik (i.e. Behavioural change to reduce car use), she worked at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research for several years. A key question in her work is which factors stimulate environmentally friendly behaviour. An important outcome is that people’s actions are not solely based on “rational” facts and arguments or cost-benefit analyses, but that moral and environmental considerations play a role too. She investigates the effects of interventions on environmentally friendly conduct that focus on these factors. Steg concentrates on general determinants that explain different types of environmental behaviour in areas such as car use, energy consumption in homes, sustainable food and reducing household waste.
The selection committee for the Stevin Prize emphasises the enormous impact that Steg and her research have on international climate policy and the battle against climate change, a battle that she, according to the committee, contributes important new perspectives and instruments to. This is illustrated, in particular, by her role within the IPCC, the renowned climate agency of the United Nations. Traditionally the IPCC’s recommendations mainly came from natural scientists and focussed on aspects such as regulation, price policy and technology. Thanks in part to Steg, due consideration is now given to the vision and evidence that people’s intrinsic motivation is vital for the acceptance of climate policy.
With her drive, Steg has an unrivalled ability to bring together policymakers, NGOs, scientists, companies and consumers around this theme. Colleagues within and outside of her discipline praise her communication skills and her ability to listen to all stakeholders in the complex field of the climate debate. As both a scientist and a connector, she has a sharp eye for the sometimes highly diverse interests of all those parties involved. Steg not only builds bridges with other research disciplines but she also deliberately involves stakeholders outside of science in all phases of her research. That is a crucial condition for success within a grand societal challenge such as climate change.
Her research group has a defining role in her discipline, and she is also known as an inspiring role model for young researchers. The highly acclaimed master’s programme that she has established draws students from around the world to Groningen. Science outreach is an integral aspect of Steg’s research. Thanks in part to her pioneering work and reputation, she succeeds in obtaining funding from public and private parties in the Netherlands and abroad for programmes and projects that she is involved in as project leader or co-applicant.
Steg has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2017. In that same year, her name appeared for the third time in the list of “The world’s most influential scientific minds”, which Thomson Reuters publishes each year and which she has continued to appear on since. Due to her exceptional scientific achievements, she was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. That further emphasises what one of the referees said about her: ‘I feel highly privileged whenever I have the opportunity to meet her. In my opinion, she is a fantastic scientist and a wonderful person.’
Who is Linda Steg?
born in Ravenswoud on 21 February
1991 graduated in educational sciences from the University of Groningen 1995 appointed at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research 1996
gained her doctorate from the University Groningen for her thesis entitled Gedragsverandering ter vermindering van het autogebruik [Behavioural change to reduce car use]
1999 took sabbatical leave at University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 2009
appointed Professor of Environmental Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen
2009 organised the first international Summer School on Theories in Environmental Psychology 2010 was president of division 4 “Environmental Psychology” of the International Association of Applied Psychology 2013 became scientific director of the Kurt Lewin Institute, a collaboration between five Dutch universities in the area of social psychology 2014 appointed chair of the Department of Social Psychology, University of Groningen 2014
included in Thomson Reuters’ list of “The world’s most influential scientific minds” (also in 2016 to 2019)
2014 was founder and coordinator of the international Platform for Energy Research in the Socio-Economic Nexus 2015 became an adviser to the European Commission through membership of the Expert group RTD-AGE of the Directorate-General Research and Innovation 2016 established the master’s programme Environmental Psychology 2016 became a member of the Supervisory Board of the University of Twente 2017 became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) 2019 became a member of the supervisory committee of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment 2019 appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion 2020 became a member of the KNAW board (from September onwards) and, as part of that position, chair of the Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law Domain