Beyers Louw

Postdoctoral Researcher University of Groningen

My personal and professional career ambitions are to better understand how civilizations function and evolve. This is a broad statement, but it's the culmination of being forever inspired by Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novel series. In this alternative future, a scientist develops a branch of mathematics, called psychohistory, which predicts the future of a civilization with mathematical certainty. The closest thing we have to the field of psychohistory is an interdisciplinary branch of science called Data Science.

The goal of researchers across various disciplines, including but not limited to Economics, Politics, Sociology, and Computer Science, is to use data science to study causes and effects. The challenge is that scientific disciplines often work in isolation, using different methods. My wish is that Causal Inference be viewed as a branch of its own and that researchers from any discipline choose the causal inference method that is best suited for the problem, regardless of where it originated.

In my research, I aim to develop methods that provide a universal language of causal inference, by using causal diagrams and machine learning, based on a conceptual understanding of how data is interlinked. The goal is to develop methods that will help us understand patterns of complex social science phenomena and to increase the rigor and transparency of research methods used in social science. I have published in journals such as Organizational Research Methods (forthcoming) and Journal of Causal Inference.

“The advancement of our civilization has mostly been enabled by partnerships that were formed throughout history. Great movements and occurrences are usually known and symbolized by a single group or person but what is often overlooked is that strong leaders are craftsmen in influencing people around them” - Opening lines of my Masters thesis in 2018

So the question is, how do we mathematically model how organizations make decisions? In my postdoctoral research, I am developing a multi-decision-making model that guides the process in which organizations, which consist of many individuals, make decisions. I am working in collaboration with eight firms as they are transitioning towards a new sustainable technology.