Interview with Christiane Klöditz

As of 1 April 2017, Christiane Klöditz is Head of Mathematics and Computer Science in the Science Domain of NWO.

Who is Christiane Klöditz?

Christiane Klöditz (1966) has been Head of Mathematics and Computer Science in the NWO domain Science since 1 April 2017. She studied computer science in Magdeburg, Germany. She gained her PhD in the field of image processing. She has worked in the Netherlands since 1993; during the first eight years as an adviser in software development at a research and consultancy firm and at NWO since 2001. 'I entered industry as a scientist and subsequently made the step to the combination of management, science policy and science programming. I enjoy that mix.'
At NWO, Klöditz started as a programme coordinator of programmes that are always at the interface of computer science with other disciplines. Her first programme was ToKeN, a programme focused on the interaction between human users and knowledge and information systems in various application areas. Klöditz: 'My work has always contained multidisciplinary aspects. That suits me ideally. I want to bring different disciplines together.'
In 2010, Klöditz became Senior Manager Programme Innovation at the former Cluster Chemical and Physical Sciences. Back then, the coordination of the primary process and of policy across the natural sciences was part of her responsibilities. 'Within the cluster, we developed standard operating procedures for the awarding processes. We are still working with those now. I always find the scientific details more interesting, but you need transparent processes to serve science', she says.


Klöditz was happy with the position that she was given in 2014: Head of Mathematics. 'At that point, I was able to support Dutch mathematics from within NWO. For example, we developed a fantastic sector plan, the "Delta plan for Dutch Mathematics". That process started just when I became head and I could launch the Delta Plan committee straightaway. As a result of this, I had a lot of interaction with the field and with all of the stakeholders. The Delta Plan differs from the Sector Plan Physics and Chemistry because we scarcely have any funding for the follow-up. However, the plan was enthusiastically received by the Minister. A Mathematics Council was established recently, which should lobby politicians and others to acquire funding for the plans. Dutch mathematics can be proud of the Delta Plan.'


Christiane KlöditzAfbeelding: Christiane Klöditz

Facilitating advances in fundamental research

Klöditz really enjoys the combination of mathematics and computer science within her current job, as these two disciplines strengthen each other. 'Mathematics and computer science face the same challenge because they both touch upon current issues and offer a lot of knowledge to tackle these. Subjects such as big data, cyber security and complex systems are almost daily recurring news items. Digitisation is high on the national political agenda and that is no coincidence. There are widespread calls for a digital quantum leap. The Netherlands must expand and retain its current top position in mathematics and computer science and my drive is to contribute to this.'
Few people have any idea as to what fundamental research in mathematics and computer science means for society. A mobile phone is packed with mathematics and computer science, but the general public does not realise that. Klöditz thinks that is a real shame: 'Big data is a hot item, and the knowledge that stems from this will be widely used. However, the researchers must also have the opportunity to make advances in fundamental big data research. A large proportion of NWO funds currently go to public-private partnerships in the context of the top sectors. For researchers, it is a challenge to get companies to understand the significance of fundamental research and to subsequently receive funding for that. NWO must help scientists in this process. This can be done by bringing academia and industry together. Whenever we initiate programmes within the top sectors, we always try at least to organise a matchmaking meeting.'
As ICT is not a top sector but a cross-sectoral theme, it is in a difficult position, explains Klöditz. Nevertheless, ICT is involved everywhere and other sectors want to do something with big data and digitisation in the broadest sense of the word. Klöditz: 'Mathematicians and computer scientists already enjoy a good collaboration in the energy sector, as well as in healthcare and logistics. We are trying to set up big data research in the agrifood sector, because agriculture is currently all about ICT. The Top Sector Chemistry is interested in complex systems. Cyber security is a hot item that affects us all.'

The benefit of the transition

Klöditz refers to the department that she leads as 'cloud' because the word 'department' does not do justice to the collaboration with other units within NWO: 'Mathematics and computer science has two leaders who each cover a focus area. However, the people they collaborate with work across the boundaries of mathematics and computer science. The challenge is to expand the collaboration across the boundaries of the focus areas and the domain. And with CWI and our surrounding partners as well.'
Klöditz really enjoyed working on establishing the new NWO domain Science. 'NWO needed a transition', she says. She is enthusiastic about the result, especially because the disciplines in the new constellation can collaborate easily and strengthen each other as well. 'That is the benefit of the transition. Previously, researchers lost their way in the nine divisions and there was a lack of coherency between the funding instruments. It will be easier for scientists to see what NWO can offer them, also at the boundaries between disciplines', says Klöditz.

Collaboration is the key to success

The NWO domain Science must remain aware that the fields it represents in the seven disciplines are very diverse and that each of these has its own baggage. Klöditz is not a proponent of making things more uniform for the sake of it: 'We must tackle everything that can be made simpler with respect to instruments and processes while at the same time retaining the existing strengths. This applies to both the Science domain and the entire NWO organisation. An example is facilitating the contact between researchers with the NWO office and contact between researchers. The FOM Foundation was good at that and mathematics and computer science as well. We need to cherish that. The transition will cost time, but we need to give ourselves that time. The new NWO offers many opportunities for collaboration, and if we choose not to collaborate, then that needs to be a deliberate choice. I hope that we will emerge from this process stronger. Collaboration is the key to success.'