Thomas Machiels wins Young Academics Best Paper Prize at the AESOP Congress

Date: 17 September 2019

Introduction: Thomas Machiels was rewarded with the Young Academics Best Paper Prize at the AESOP annual planning congress in Venice, July 2019, for his paper entitled 'The role of uncertainties in the decision-making process of the 'New Sea Lock' megaproject in the port of Zeebrugge.

This year’s AESOP annual planning congress was hosted by the Università Iuav di Venezia, with “Planning for Transition” as central theme. Over one thousand speakers and visiting researchers presented their work in 16 thematic parallel sessions and 24 special sessions. The Young Academics Best Paper Prize – among other yearly rewards – went to Thomas Machiels. Thomas has been a member of the research group for Urban Development and a PhD candidate at the University of Antwerp since October 2018. The price is awarded by the “AESOP Young Academics, a network providing support in various ways for young researchers, PhD students and postdoc researchers. The choice for the best paper was made by the Journal of Urban Design and Planning, in which the paper will be published.

In his paper, Thomas researches the importance of uncertainties in an ongoing complex project for the construction of a second sea lock in the Port of Zeebrugge. He performed a document analysis of the MER (Environmental Impact Assessment) and MKBA (Societal Cost-Benefit Analysis), among others. Thomas discusses in the results that while uncertainties are barely present or mentioned in these official planning instruments and documents, they still have a significant impact on the actual decision-making process. The case study is representative for other complex projects in Flanders, and a call for identifying rather than ignoring uncertainties with all involved stakeholders, as an prerequisite for more adaptive planning.