Professor Peter Wakker: ‘Science is top-class sport’

Peter Wakker, professor at the Econometric Institute of Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)
Peter Wakker, professor at the Econometric Institute of Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

He works as if he’s an athlete, always striving for the top and taking only one week off, at the most. Peter Wakker, Professor at the Econometric Institute of Erasmus School of Economics, was quoted by a Dutch newspaper this summer saying he prefers work above holidays.

Why would you prefer work above vacation? For Peter Wakker not going on holiday is a conscious decision. The EUR Professor refers to the field of professional sports when he talks about his profession. ‘Like a top-class athlete or surgeon you must always go on and always be the best you can. If people ask why some professionals cannot spent fewer hours, I think: of course they can’t. Some work can only be done if you are fully committed. My work is in that field. To be good in your line of work, you must be aware of the latest developments so you have to keep on reading.’

Doing a proper job

Why he referred to top-class sport when talking about science, Erasmus Today asked him. ‘Like top-class athletes you can only reach the top if you train – or study – a certain amount of time. And like athletes scientists have this built-in drive to always improve themselves. However, unlike sports, science is not about being the best, but about doing the job properly.’

The beauty of a quiet campus

In this interview with the Dutch newspaper Wakker comments on how nice and quiet university campus is during summer. There are no lectures, so no students running around, and about half of his colleagues are on vacation. ‘I love it,’ he says. ‘I only do one weak a year absolutely nothing. It is highly uncomfortable and I am bored stiff, but I feel it’s important.’

About Peter Wakker

Peter Wakker is Professor of decisions under uncertainty at the Econometric Institute of Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), working in behavioural economics and on risk and ambiguity. He published in leading journals on economics, business, medicine, psychology, statistics, and mathematics, and was nominated the best-publishing Dutch economist in 1994, 1998, 2003 and 200. In 2003 he was ranked 90th in the world in the ISI's most cited scientists in economics and business. He received a Medical Decision Making Career Achievement Award (2007), the Frank P. Ramsey Medal (2013) and an Honorary doctorate in economics at the University of St. Gallen (2016).