COSCH Profile: Frank Boochs
Anna Bentkowska-Kafel interviews Frank Boochs, Professor of Geoinformatics at i3mainz, and Chairman of COSCH, the 2012 recipient of the Rheinland-Pfalz Akademie der Wissenschaften - Literatur Award for outstanding research achievements.
Frank Boochs presents in the first meeting of the COSCH Working Groups in i3mainz, 26 March 2013. Photo © A. Bentkowska-Kafel
When I was a child I wanted to be...
It's a long time ago and there were varying aims, but I think my first wish was to become an engine driver. From our home I could see steam engines moving to and fro rearranging carriages in order to assemble new trains. At that time there was a popular TV puppet series about an engine driver and his son, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivvführer, see photo [based on the popular book of 1960 by Michael Ende, known in English speaking countries as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (ed.)]. For German people this series has still an almost ritual appeal.
Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver, from the © Augsburger Puppenkiste, Thienemann-Esslinger Verlag GmbH and Oehmichens Marionettentheater. Reproduced with kind permission.
What I enjoy most about being a scientist is pushing technology forward, finding new solutions, opening the door to new possibilities, having the freedom to follow ideas just delimited by the demands, needs, state of the art, to make technology accessible for new users, to learn from other scientists and understand their views.
What I find the most frustrating about my work is being limited by the administrative structures of universities of applied sciences. It's impossible to build sustainable structures and employment. This, especially in the technology-related fields, is a problem. We don't have the possibility to employ experienced engineers for a long time. When they have worked six years on various projects and have gained many skills, we have to release them. I see this as a problem, because at a university of applied sciences you need to know many tools in detail; it is difficult to exchange the personnel. Other universities offer long-term positions. Therefore, I see the Universities of Applied Sciences in Germany facing some structural problems at the moment. There are discussions to change this, but it's a long way to Tipperary…. It's also difficult to compete with older universities in Germany when looking for funds.
The anecdotal situation I recall is scientists from different fields being able to have vital and long discussions without understanding each other.
I started COSCH because, from my long experience working with people from human sciences, I see, and know from various discussions, the gap in understanding each other, which can only be bridged through a deep dialogue. I see the potential of modern technology for improving this situation.
I very much hope that COSCH will make a real difference in a number of fields when we can show the benefit of an open dialogue over the frontiers of disciplines, instead of remaining in one's own discipline and projecting views onto the potential needs and views of the users.
What would be your dream project if money were no object? Without having dreams, this is hard to imagine.