Interview with Prof. dr. Jaap van den Herik

Jaap van den Herik


Last 8 October 2021, Leiden University organized a symposium in honor of the retirement of Jaap van den Herik, professor emeritus of Computer Science and Law at the Faculty of Science (since 2014) and at the Faculty of Law (since 1988) at Leiden University. Van den Herik’s main work consists of being Chair of the Board of Directors of the Leiden Centre of Data Science (LCDS). Besides many ancillary activities, professor van den Herik is board member and one of the founders of the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities. After his farewell address at the symposium, he was awarded with a royal decoration as Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau.

What was your personal motivation for founding the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities?
My personal focus in science has always been on artificial intelligence and law. This started with my interest in computer chess. As a PhD, I was the first person in the Netherlands who performed research in artificial intelligence. Together with Prof. dr. Joost Kok, professor of Computer Science, and Prof. dr. Jacqueline Meulman, professor emeritus of Applied Sciences, we founded the Leiden Centre of Data Science (LCDS).

Founding the Centre for BOLD Cities was a result of a brainstorm session initiated by Prof. dr. Huib Pols. Together with Prof. dr. Liesbet van Zoonen and Prof. dr. Ellen van Bueren (TU Delft) we noticed the need for multidisciplinary research with its focus on the citizen-government relations in the digital society.

I am proud of the effective collaboration between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

What accomplishments of the Centre for BOLD Cities are you proud of?
I am proud of the effective collaboration between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Furthermore, the Centre for BOLD Cities successfully contributed to the Global Parliament of Mayors in 2016. Mayors of cities all around the world gathered to share their knowledge and ideas on urgent issues, such as climate change, migration and sustainability. Researchers from all three LDE universities participated in special ‘resource teams’ of international experts that assisted the mayors during the different sessions. The Centre for BOLD Cities conducted a survey amongst the mayors which gained more insight into citizen participation and the usage of Big Open and Linked Data in cities worldwide.

Why do you think a multidisciplinary approach is needed for smart city related research?
A multidisciplinary approach is necessary, because in sociological research the use of informatics is always very important. The knowledge and application of artificial intelligence techniques and law are necessary in the research projects at the Centre for BOLD Cities.

What is your vision for the future of the Centre for BOLD Cities?
We need to develop new techniques for applications that help cities become smarter. I am thinking of society related topics such as climate, livability, traffic safety and the transport of hazardous substances. These matters are all connected and depending on big data. Furthermore, we need to collect more sensor data, social media data and remain collecting data the classical way, think of the data collection at CBS (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek). We should design an urban landscape; a data landscape and a city scape. For example, how many high-rise buildings do we need in a city, where should we build them and who will do the calculations. These are very complex questions that need multidisciplinary research. It consists of questions about privacy, safety and ethics in cities.

What will your personal focus be on the coming years?
I will proceed my work in mentoring PhD’s at Leiden University for the coming two years and work further on Legal Technologies (AI techniques and applications for law) in collaboration with the local and national government and law firms. Additionally, I will still give lectures and courses to governmental departments. At the Centre for BOLD Cities, I will end my position as a board member this year. Nevertheless, I will remain involved where necessary.

Find the farewell address by Prof. dr. Van den Herik entitled ‘The power of the blind spot’ in the document down below.

Farewell address (English) by Prof. dr. Van den Herik
Farewell address (Dutch) by Prof. dr. Van den Herik
More information
Royal decoration for Prof. dr. van den Herik