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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Niki Vermeulen

Niki Vermeulen
Dr Niki Vermeulen
Lecturer - History/Sociology of Science
Science Technology and Innovation Studies School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
Attic - Room A1 Chisholm House High School Yards Edinburgh UK EH1 1LZ
+44(0)131 650 6396
Research Interests
Science & technology studies, History of science and medicine, Social Organisation of Knowledge, Science policy, Innovation, Life Sciences


Niki Vermeulen specialises in science and innovation policy and the organisation of research, with an emphasis on scientific collaboration in the life sciences.

She holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Maastricht University, The Netherlands, was a Marie Curie research fellow in the Science and Technology Studies Unit at the University of York, lecturer/researcher in the Department of the Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna, Austria, and research fellow in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine of the University of Manchester.

In addition, Niki has been a visiting scholar at the Centre for Society and Life Sciences of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the University of Madison-Wisconsin, USA, and the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, as well as the Centre for Interdisciplinary Health Research of the University of Augsburg, both in Germany.

Niki is a member of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), and the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland (YAS).

Next to her academic positions, she has experience as a policy advisor and consultant in science and innovation policy, working for Technopolis Group, the Executive Board of Maastricht University, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), and the Scientific Council of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC, USA.


Research Interests

Science & technology studies History of science and medicine Social Organisation of Knowledge Science policy Innovation Life Sciences

Research Overview

I study the ways in which science is practised and organised, specialising in scientific collaboration in biology with an emphasis on taxonomy/ecology, molecular biology, systems biology and biomedicine. I investigate the entanglement of epistemic and social transformations, analysing new ways of doing research as well as the political and institutional structures in which the research is performed.

As a Wellcome research fellow I have been working on the emergence of systems biology as a new field, shedding light on the recent history of the biosciences, and the ways in which different disciplines become reconfigured. Special attention is given to different local and national patterns of emergence, fashions in science policy, and the shaping of international collaboration. Thereby, I have become particularly interested in the ways in which research becomes institutionalised, which led to my project on the new Francis Crick Institute as well as explorations of various Institutes of Advanced Studies. I am investigating the history and present functioning of these institutes, whereby I pay explicit attention to the architecture of collaboration and ways to integrate bibliometrics research into qualitative research approaches.

During the past decade I have also been involved in the development of the concept of bio-objects, co-founding a network of young researchers which culminated in the European COST action ‘Bio-objects and their Boundaries: Governing Matters at the Intersection of Society, Politics, and Science’ (2010-2014), and which is continuing exchange in various ways (e.g. we recently organised a workshop at MIT and a session during the 4S/EASST conference in Barcelona).  At the moment, I am using this new approach to investigate the making of bio-printed organs in collaboration with Gill Haddow and scientists Will Shu and Alan Faulkner-Jones from Strathclyde University.

My research into scientific collaboration is embedded in broader knowledge of developments in science and innovation policy. Research subjects in this area include the knowledge society; changing roles of universities; innovative clusters; the integration of ICT in research; projectification of science; evaluation of research; and careers of (young) researchers.

Current Projects

The emergence of systems biology (Wellcome Trust fellowship)

Following the life of a research institute: a biography of the Francis Crick (Wellcome Trust seed grant)

Curious Edinburgh: creating mobile walking tours of Edinburgh's history of science, technology and medicine (variety of funders including AHRC and Edinburgh alumni fund)

Other Research Activities

Media coverage

Janssen, R. (2015). ‘Edinburgh versus Maastricht’. Observant, January 12.

Armas Foster, I. (2013). Collecting Big Data in Big OceansDatanami.

Pain, E. (2012). ‘Preliminary results of Euroscience survey’. Science Careers Blog.

Dirtel, T. (2011). ‘EU-Netzwerk COST: Neue Lebensformen im Fokus’. Uni:view.

Cressey, D. (2010). ‘Out of the blue’, Nature, 467, 514-515.

Pennisi, E. (2010). ‘Taxonomists propose counting all of Earth’s species’ Science Insider

Selected presentations

3D Bioprint Me: reflections on growing your own in the lab, 4S/EASST conference Barcelona, September 1, 2016.

Counting quality, ISSTI Retreat - Special SSU50 Edition, June 15, 2016.

Curious Edinburgh: making a website and mobile app on the history of SMT in Edinburgh  with Bill Jenkins, History of Science, Medicine and Technology network, University of Edinburgh, March 17, 2016.

From reductionism towards integration: systems biology as a fashion in science and policy? Institute for Technology Assesment (ITA), Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2015, and Seminar at the Department of Sociology, University of Sheffield, May 21, 2015.

The emergence of systems biology as a social intellectual movement. Creativity in Arts and Sciences, conference at Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Berlin, Germany, May 7-8, 2015.

Supersizing and synthesizing science. Collaboration in the life sciences, LMU Exzellent Kooperation und Konkurrenz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Münich, Germany, May 22, 2014.

From reductionism towards integration: systems biology as a scientific social movement. Department of History and Philosophy, University of Cambridge, UK, February 25, 2014.  

Scientific collaboration in the life sciences. Naturkunde Museum, Berlin, Germany, January 20, 2014.

Systems biology in the Netherlands: integration or fragmentation? Rathenau Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands, September 17, 2013.

Life Sciences: promising integration Center for Society and the Life Sciences symposium ‘Responsible Promise Management’ in Brussels, Belgium, September 11, 2013.

Reflections on scientific collaboration. Humboldt Serbia Kolleg ‘Resources of Danubian Region: the possibility of cooperation and utilisation’, University of Belgrade, Serbia, June 13, 2013.

Scientific collaboration as projectification. Manchester Projects, Programmes and Portfolios Network (MP3), Manchester Business School, UK, January 29, 2013.

Counting quality? The case of the Czech Evaluation Methodology. Center for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University, The Netherlands, June 29, 2012.

Collaboration in the life sciences. Center for Society and Genomics, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, March 29, 2011.

Supersizing science: making biology big. Making it BIG?’ Tracing collaboration, complexity and control in the biosciences, University of Exeter, UK, March 18, 2011.


Undergraduate Teaching

History of Science


The course aims to provide a broad overview of some of the most salient developments in the history of science. These include the influence of Ancient Greek philosophy and Christian theology on the origins of modern scientific thinking, the development of the experimental method, of modern views on the nature of the cosmos, of Newtonian science, and of theories of biological evolution. 

Other Teaching Activities

I have previously taught in the STS Master programme of the Department of Social Studies of Science (University of Vienna), the History of Science, Technology and Medicine programme (University of Manchester), and the Arts and Sciences programme, the European Studies programme and the European Society, Science and Technology (ESST) Master programme of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Maastricht University).

PhD Supervision

PhD Topics

I would be happy to supervise students with an interest in science policy; scientific collaboration; institutionalisation of research (e.g. Institute of Advanced Studies); transformations in the life sciences (e.g. taxonomy, ecology, systems biology, biomedicine).

Find out more about the programmes that I am involved with:

PhD in Science and Technology Studies; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies


Hackett, E., Parker, J., Vermeulen, N. & B. Penders (2016). ‘The Social and Epistemic organisation of Scientific Work’. In Handbook for Science and Technology Studies, Volume 4, Cambridge: MIT Press (In press).

Vermeulen, N. (2016). ‘Big Biology; supersizing science during the emergence of the 21st century’ In special edition on Collaboration and competition of NTM Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, 24: 195-223.

Vermeulen, N., Tamminen, S. & B. Bock von Wulfingen (2016). Bio-objects meet Multispecies Ethnography, Workshop at MIT Anthropology, 30 Oct 2015, EASST Review, 35(1) March 2016.

Vermeulen, Niki (2016). “Plant Elicitors as Bio-Objects.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 8: 1-4.

Good, B.*, Vermeulen, N.*, Tiefenthaler, B., & E. Arnold, (2015) ‘Counting quality? The case of the Czech Evaluation Methodology.’ Research Evaluation, 24 (2): 91-105. (* joint first authorship).

Vermeulen, N. (2015). ‘From Virus to Vaccine: projectification of science in the VIRGO consortium’. In Penders, B., Vermeulen, N. & J.N. Parker. Collaboration across health sciences and care. London: Routledge.

Penders, B., Vermeulen, N. & J.N. Parker (Eds.). (2015). Collaboration across health sciences and careLondon: Routledge.

Vermeulen, N. & M. Meyer (2014). ‘Crossing Borders’ D'Lëtzebuerger Land, October 24.

Vermeulen, N & M. Bain (2014). ‘Little Cell, Big Science’. Issues in Science and Technology, Summer: 38-46. (See for an illustrated version the Think Write Publish project website).

Bain, M. & N. Vermeulen, (2014). ‘Little Cell, Big Science’ Creative Nonfiction52: 59-68.

Vermeulen, N., Parker, J.N. & B. Penders (2013). ‘Understanding life together: A brief history of collaboration in biology’. Endeavour, 37 (3), 162-171.

Vermeulen, N. (2013). ‘The Census of Marine Life; marine biology as big science’. PLOS 1, 8(1): e54284.

Swierstra, T, Vermeulen, N., Braeckman, J. & R. van Driel (2013). ‘Re-thinking the life sciences’. EMBO reports, 14, 310 - 314.

Vermeulen, N. (2013). 'Reflections on scientific collaboration'. In Popovic, L., Vidakovic‡, M., & D. Kostic (Eds.). Resources of Danubian Region: The possibility of cooperation  and utilization. Belgrade: Humboldt-Club Serbien.

Tamminen, S. & N. Vermeulen (2012). ‘Bio-objects and generative relations’. Croatian Medical Journal, 53(2), 198-200.

Vermeulen, N., Tamminen, S. & A. Webster (Eds). (2012). Bio-objects: Life in the 21st Century. London: Routledge.

Vermeulen, N. (2012). ‘Growing a cell in silico; On how the creation of a bio-object transforms the organisation of science’. In Vermeulen, N., S. Tamminen & A. Webster (Eds.). Bio-objects: Life in the 21st Century. London: Routledge.

Wheeler, et al. (2012). ‘Mapping the biosphere: exploring species to understand the origin, organization and sustainability of biodiversity’. Systematics and Biodiversity, 10(1), 1-20.

Ohler, F., Radauer, A., Vermeulen, N., Ionita, M., Rotaru, F., Toncu, A. C., Pislaru, D. & M. Horvat (2012). Mid-Term Evaluation of the National Strategy and the National RD&I Plan in Romania 2007-2013. Vienna: Technopolis/Bucharest: FM Management Consultancy/GEA Strategy & Consultancy.

Arnold, E., Good, B., Ohler, F., Tiefenthaler, B. & N. Vermeulen (2011). Institutional Funding and Research Evaluation in the Czech Republic and abroadBrighton/Vienna: Technopolis.

Parker, J. N., Vermeulen, N. & B. Penders. (2011). ‘Admin Burden is Part of the Job’. Nature, 476 (7358).

Felt, U., Vermeulen, N, Tempelmaier, B & K. Perkovits (2011). Ökologie im Wandel. Epistemische und institutionelle Transformation der  Ökologie in Österreich. Wien: Institut für Wissenschaftsforschung.

Moodie, L.H., Reeve, J.C., Vermeulen, N. & M. R. Elkins. (2011). ‘Inspiratory muscle training to facilitate weaning from mechanical ventilation: protocol for a systematic review’, BMC Research Notes, 11(4), 283.

Vermeulen, N., Parker, J.N., & B. Penders (2010). ‘Big, Small or Mezzo?: Lessons from Science Studies for the ongoing debate about ‘Big’ versus ‘Little’ Science’. EMBO reports, 11, 420-423.

Parker, J. N., Vermeulen, N. & B. Penders (Eds). (2010). Collaboration in the New Life Sciences. London: Routledge.

Vermeulen, N & B. Penders (2010). ‘Collecting collaboration. Understanding life together’. In Parker, J., N. Vermeulen & B. Penders (Eds.). Collaboration in the New Life Sciences. London: Routledge.

Zuijdam, F., Boekholt, P., Deuten, J., Meijer, I., & N. Vermeulen (2010). The role and added value of large-scale research facilities. Amsterdam: Technopolis.

Arnold, E., Boekholt, P., Good, B., Radauer, A., Stroyan, J., Tiefenthaler, B. & N. Vermeulen (2010). Evaluation of Austrian support structures for FP 7 & Eureka and impact analyses of EU research initiatives on the Austrian research and innovation systemVienna: Technopolis.

Penders, B., N. Vermeulen & J. N. Parker (2010). To make progress we must remember and learn from the pastNature, 463 (7278), 157.

Vermeulen, N. (2009). Supersizing science; On building large-scale research projects in biology. Maastricht: Maastricht University Press.

Vermeulen, N. (2008). ‘Supersizing science: building large-scale research projects in biology’. In Global research seminar: Sharing Research Agendas on Knowledge Systems, Final Proceedings. Paris: UNESCO, pp. 76-77.

Vermeulen, N. & B. Penders (2007). ‘Big Science.’ In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment.

Vermeulen, N. & R. Kleinenberg (2004). ‘Life Sciences in de VS: stimuleren, reguleren, discussiëren’. Published online on 28-5-2004 at the TWA website of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Vermeulen, N. (2003). ‘Biotechnologie clusters in de Verenigde Staten’. TWAnieuws, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, 41 (6), 5-7.

Vermeulen, N. & R. Kleinenberg (2003). ‘Life Sciences in de Verenigde Staten’. TWAnieuws, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, 41 (4), 8.

Wilde, R. de, Vermeulen, N. & M. Reithler (2003). Bezeten van Genen; Een essay over de innovatieoorlog rondom genetisch gemodificeerd voesel[Possesed by Genes. An essay on the innovation war around genetically modified food]. Background study Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy, vol. 117The Hague: Sdu Publishers.