Name: Frits Brouwer
Civil status: Married, three children
Alumnus Frits Brouwer has been the director of KNMI (the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) for ten years. On 1 February he made a move to NDW, the National Data Warehouse for Traffic Information. When geodesy plays a role, Brouwer feels at home.
“Weather and traffic are the two most common topics during birthdays and similar gatherings. I’m lucky in that regard: until recently I focused on weather, and now I deal with information on traffic congestion. These are partly affected by the same issues. One example is the role of open data. Another is the division of tasks between the government and market players. For example, KNMI issues weather alerts, while Buienradar (rainfall radar) makes pictures for your mobile phone. It’s the same at NDW: the government takes charge of the overall traffic management when disruptions occur due to collisions or snow, while companies provide advice to individual motorists.
Working at NDW is attractive for a geodesist. I chose geodesy in 1972, because I was looking for a programme with plenty of applied mathematics and physics. I was the president of the study association Snellius for one year, during which I became familiar with the professional field of geodesy in the Netherlands. I also learned quite a bit in terms of management: holding meetings, negotiating and making deals.
After completing my PhD, I combined a part-time job as an assistant professor at TU Delft with two days of GPS research per week at Kadaster (the Netherlands’ Cadastre, Land Registry and Mapping Agency). Four years later, I decided to leave academia behind. The joys of management kept calling. I transferred to Geometric Services at Rijkswaterstaat, and I became head of a department that conducted research into soil movement. I later became the adjunct director for all geodesic research in that organisation.
Although I left TU Delft as an employer, you can see in all my positions that I have kept in contact with the university. At the Kadaster, this contact concerned GPS, and at Rijkswaterstaat, it involved soil movement and remote sensing. I had less contact as the Water Director at Rijkswaterstaat Noord-Holland, but it intensified again when I was at KNMI. A climate centre was established at TU Delft, where KNMI employees also work part-time. A centre of expertise for Open Data has also been started at OTB. I was involved with it through KNMI and it is also relevant to what we do at NDW. Therefore, in one way or another, my training in geodesy and my relationship with TU Delft have always played a role in my career.”