The board of NWO-I, the institute organisation of NWO, appoints Prof. Ton de Kok as director of CWI. On 1 October 2020, De Kok will succeed the current director, Prof. Jos Baeten, who has led the institute since 2011 and will retire.
“As the new director of the CWI, I hope to contribute to the positioning of mathematics and computer science as scientific disciplines that are crucial to understanding the world around us and making it a little more beautiful”, says Ton de Kok.
For De Kok, exploring mathematics and other scientific knowledge for a better world began at the end of the 1980s, when he joined Philips after his doctorate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. There he explored ways to better connect logistics and production with each other and the market. De Kok: ‘Decision-makers in these processes are constantly confronted with uncertainties in the demand for products and the time it takes to get those products to the customer. This is especially the case when they’re operating amidst an enormous complexity of interactions within their company and with other companies involved. By describing laws in the unambiguous language of mathematics, I have learned how we can use scarce resources as efficiently as possible to continue to provide mankind with food, clothing, means of communication, etcetera.”
Getting the most out of knowledge and expertise
Currently, De Kok is a full-time professor of Quantitative analysis of logistical management problems, at Eindhoven University of Technology. “As director of the CWI, I hope to further assist in finding the right connections between the scientific challenges we are working on and the societal issues of the 21st century: scarcity of people, resources and raw materials, and utilizing the technological opportunities available to us. We owe it to society to get the most out of our knowledge and expertise.”
Fact versus opinion
As director of CWI, De Kok wants to continue to strive for a clear separation between facts and laws on the one hand, and opinions on the other. De Kok: “This separation is important, particularly at this time, when it seems as if everyone can define their own truth. In a world in which more and more data is being generated, computer science enables us to efficiently confirm laws, identify new laws, and use them to make better use of scarce resources. For virtually all scientific disciplines, mathematics is the unambiguous language in which laws can be expressed.”