John Groenewegen

Position

Professor of the Economics of Infrastructures (emeritus).

Private life

"I am married, and a father of three children. We have a daughter, who owns a restaurant in Rotterdam, a son who studied civil engineering at Delft and is now a consultant and another son, who studied communication."

Favourite pastime

"I enjoy running and playing tennis, but I have had to stop because of an Achilles tendon injury. These days, I work up a sweat on the home trainer in my cellar. I hate it, as I'd much rather train outside, but I manage to distract myself and set a good rhythm by playing old Elvis Presley songs. My wife and I also bike long-distance cycle routes, to Rotterdam, for example, or The Hague or Scheveningen. City trips are another favourite pastime, preferably to Paris and Barcelona."

High point of your career

"On starting at university in 1967, I was inspired by Professor Henk Lambers. Later on, I became his student teaching assistant and employee. He taught Institutional Economics, which was at the time a much maligned field: it was sociology, not economics! This was the area I was interested in, but despite my resistance, I found myself steadily being sucked into the mono-disciplinary field. Institutional economics did not really gain a respectable place on the Dutch curriculum until the 1980s and 1990s. The best part is that in 1999, I was appointed Professor of Institutional Economics: the first chair since Lambers! And during the ceremony, there he was in the front row!"

The best thing about your work

"The fact that TPM is an interdisciplinary faculty. The main challenge is linking economics into other areas of science. You explore hard technology, as well as the social sciences. This side was new to me, but I really enjoy it. I also like teaching economics to technicians, so that they can talk about it and incorporate the knowledge they acquire into their technological background. The field also recognises many different ways of thinking, all of which work well together. For instance, I'm used to thinking in terms of economic models, while other people have different thinking patterns. But working together on the same product forces you to open your mind to other lines of thought. This approach is unique in the world."

Best quality

"I don't know about that. Let's say I very much enjoy working with students. I am always open to other lines of thought. For example, I try not to instil just the standard theories into my students' minds. I always hope that students will give me a hard time by coming up with complicated problems that we can spend time debating. This keeps me on my toes. We do this with colleagues during a colloquium every Friday, at which other sections are also welcome. We discuss research and articles in order to learn from each other and give others an opportunity to take a critical look at our work. We do this at international level too, during our international conference in Delft, for example. Representatives from government, business minds and international scientists all trying to push back the boundaries. I love it!"

Least good quality

"The fact that I am open to other ways of thinking means that I tend to take on a thousand and one things at one time. So I sometimes make gaffes. But as I always say: you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. On the other hand, I am usually fairly well organised and never miss my appointments. But if I find myself with too many appointments, it becomes a matter of give and take. This can be difficult for those around me and a nightmare for my secretary! I am sometimes jealous of mono-disciplinary economists who are able to really sink their teeth into one single area. Unfortunately this isn't me, although I must admit, I sometimes find myself exhausting."

Working with others

"That is fantastic here. Everyone respects and appreciates each other and the organisation is extremely flexible. You can organise a lot yourself. In this respect, it's almost paradise. On the other hand, a lot is required of you. The organisation makes huge demands. I suppose you could say it's more of a vocation."

Sources of inspiration

"In the Netherlands: Jan Tinbergen and of course Henk Lambers. Internationally: John Kenneth Galbraith, economic advisor to President Kennedy and Ambassador of India. As a multi-disciplinarian, he too looked beyond the boundaries. He wrote a lot, including a book about the Great Crash in 1929."

Outlook on life

"There's no time like the present! Ask yourself what really matters every single day, and more importantly, how you intend to enjoy each day!"

John Groenewegen

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