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Dr Frank Pijpers (1964) has been appointed professor by special appointment of Complexity for Official Statistics at the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The chair was established on behalf of Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Pijpers will combine his professorship with his functions as programme manager for methodological research and senior methodologist at the CBS.

Frank Pijpers
Frank Pijpers (photo: Sjoerd van der Hucht)

Governments, both inside and outside the Netherlands, strive to underpin their policy and management decision-making on the basis of evidence from effectiveness studies. Evidence can come from economic or social models, but direct testing against primary figures and analyses thereof plays an increasingly important role. In order to underpin policy, there is a need to identify and quantify causal relationships. While correlations between measurable quantities are relatively easy to demonstrate or reject, causal relationships are much more difficult to assess. Scientific techniques and mathematically sound proof are necessary to reject hypothetical causation, especially in situations where controlled and closed experiments are not possible. This is the field of official statistics. Pijpers: ‘Using complexity theory, important phenomena in society and the economy can become more understandable. This theory can be used by the CBS in order to better describe complex phenomena from a statistical point of view.’ Official statistics are not only important for substantiating decision-making. They are also essential in the search for safe and transparent applications of AI and data science techniques.

Complexity Science

As professor by special appointment at the Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics at the UvA, Pijpers will focus on applied statistics, in particular on the application of the theories and analysis techniques of complexity science to causal relationships in social and economic phenomena in our society. He will do this in close collaboration with the UvA Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), which brings together researchers from all academic disciplines to study complex research issues and specifically the effect of possible interventions. Pijpers' research covers three general areas: Agent Based Modeling, dynamics systems analysis, and network analysis and reconstruction. Using these different methodologies, insights can be drawn from complex systems and utilised for evidence-based policy in society.

UvA-CBS collaboration

Pijpers will also further shape the collaboration between the UvA and the CBS. The development of knowledge through research is also of great importance to the CBS. As professor by special appointment, Pijpers will fulfil a bridging function between the two institutions, promoting contacts between employees of the CBS Netherlands and UvA master students, PhD students and postdocs through research internships, collaborations at project level and (guest) lectures and meetings. In this way, he will not only contribute to the valorisation of research, but also to the training of a new generation of researchers.

About Frank Pijpers

Pijpers has worked at the CBS since 2010, as a senior methodologist since 2014, and, since 2015, as a programme manager for methodological research. Previously, he was a government operational researcher (senior) in the Department for Children, Schools and Families of the UK government, a lecturer at Imperial College London (United Kingdom) and associate professor at Aarhus University (Denmark). Pijpers studied Physics and Astronomy at Leiden University and obtained his PhD at the same university for his thesis entitled The Dynamics of the Winds of Cool Giants and Supergiants.