The Dutch Platform for Mathematics

Organisational structure of mathematics in The Netherlands

After several reports had been written on the need for a suitable national structure, in 2010 the Platform Wiskunde Nederland (PWN, the Dutch Platform for Mathematics) was founded. The idea was to have an organisation speaking with 1 voice for mathematics, and lobbying for the discipline. Characteristics:

  • A board with representatives from the founding “fathers”, viz. KWG (Royal Dutch association of mathematicians, oldest in the world) and NVvW (association of maths teachers)
  • An office with a director (Wil Schilders since 2010) and administrative staff
  • 5 committees to develop ideas and present plans to the board: Research, Innovation, Education, Publicity and Publications (together constituting the “PWN Pentagon”)

The plan was discussed with the national funding institution (NWO) and the mathematics institutes. A written agreement was made with NWO, who provide 85 kEuro per year, under the condition that the budget is discussed annually with them. The 9 mathematics institutes at the universities each pay an equal amount each year (currently 7500 Euro), the CWI in Amsterdam pays in kind by providing office space and meeting facilities, and the two founding institutions (KWG, NVvW) each pay an annual contribution (currently 7500 Euro).

PWN has been extremely active since 2010 in making the committees be very effective. Also, since 2013, a “3-stage rocket” has been launched to bring mathematics in a higher orbit. This rocket consisted of a vision document (“maths till 2025”), a Deloitte report about  the economic value of mathematics for The Netherlands with convincing figures, and a book “Success formula” (Dutch) to provide a much better understanding of what mathematics can do for industry and society. The reports have been presented to the ministries of Science/Education and Economic Affairs, and have led to the request of the ministries to produce a more detailed report with action lines and associated price tags: “A Deltaplan[1] for Dutch mathematics” (in Dutch). This report was finished in 2016, and was followed by the installation of the so-called “Mathematics council” that was made responsible for monitoring the execution of the action lines in the “Deltaplan”, and to discuss with the ministries additional funding for Mathematics: in the Deltaplan, all together an amount of 6.5 MEuro per year was asked for. As Physics and Chemistry has produced a similar plan in parallel to Mathematics, the 3 disciplines teamed up and together they convinced the ministry that additional funding was necessary. This has now led to a so-called “Sectorplan Beta and Technology”, paid by the ministry with about 60 MEuro per year. Mathematics will probably obtain about 6 MEuro per year, for new positions, outreach, education and more. The funding will be for at least 6 years from now.

Besides these positive developments, PWN has taken under its umbrella many existing activities, such as  the Dutch branch of the European Women in Mathematics. Furthermore, also the Studygroups Mathematics with Industry (in Dutch: SWI, on the European level ESGI run by ECMI) are under this umbrella now, and recently PWN has sponsored a new website with all history of past studygroups: https://www.swi-wiskunde.nl/. NWO funds these studygroups annually by an amount of 30 kEuro, to enable maximum participation (accomodation, travel and all meals covered!). Such studygroups have been organised in The Netherlands for more than 20 years, and turned out to be extremely useful as first contact points with industry.

Acting together at the national level has thus brought quite some success. Mathematics is viewed as an extremely well organized discipline, with all stakeholders on board. All activities undertaken are for the benefit of the entire mathematical community. Recent new activities are an inventory of all open access and related issues in the committee Publications (useful but very complex info for all mathematicians), and a new committee on “internationalisation” to discuss participation of Dutch mathematicians in international committees, conferences, etc. Also, much attention is being paid to stimulate mathematicians to apply for national and European funding. PWN organizes workshops to inform the community about the various opportunities. In December 2018, a meeting was held with 3 renowned speakers from Europe who have acquired European funding, serving as examples for the Dutch mathematicians: https://www.platformwiskunde.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Aansluiting-bij-Europa.pdf. On February 18, 2019, another important meeting is organised on “The Impact of Mathematics” at the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, with Philips Bond, author of “The era of mathematics” as a keynote speaker. More info: https://www.knaw.nl/nl/actueel/agenda/the-era-of-mathematics.

More information: https://www.platformwiskunde.nl/ (in Dutch, but will give nevertheless a good impression)


[1] The terminology “Deltaplan” refers to the major flooding we had in The Netherlands in 1953. After that, a huge plan, costing many billions, was set up to avoid future floodings, and termed “Deltaplan”. Nowadays, the term is used for big plans that are intended to make a huge change.

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