’We are witnessing the development of a new scientific discipline: Process Science’

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On Friday, 19 January, Hajo Reijers held his inaugural lecture in the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University. Since 2019, Reijers has been Professor of Business Process Management & Analytics in the Department of Information and Computing Sciences. In his inaugural lecture, Reijers argues, among other things, that a new scientific discipline is emerging called Process Science. The discipline originates from the analysis of business processes but extends its focus to a much broader range of processes.

Computer scientists have been studying business processes for about thirty years. This has yielded many accomplishments, from workflow management systems to methods for the innovation of business processes. A major recent development in the study of business processes within computer science is process mining. With process mining, it is possible to gain insight into how business processes unfold, based on log files, databases, and other information systems.

Greater impact on science and society

In his inaugural lecture, Reijers argues that a new scientific discipline is emerging: Process Science. Within this discipline, researchers use and extend the methods, tools, and techniques developed for the study of business processes. However, they apply these to analyze a much broader range of processes that also have a greater impact on science and society. "I believe it is time to broaden our view," says Reijers.

Process Science was first defined in a scientific paper in 2021 as the interdisciplinary study of continuous change. A few months ago, a new journal on Process Science was established.

Well-known problems, questions, methods, and theories take precedence over more risky, radically new ideas.

Professor Hajo Reijers

Burnouts and the Dutch childcare benefits scandal

Reijers’ inaugural lecture is bursting with examples of processes where Process Science, in his view, can be of great significance. These involve work-related processes, such as bureaucratic processes and work processes in healthcare. For instance, Reijers is hopeful that the new discipline can contribute to improving the well-being of employees by providing insights into processes that lead to stress or burnout.

Moreover, the methods of Process Science are applicable to processes unrelated to work, such as historical events. After all, these events can also be viewed as processes. Reijers’ research group recently submitted a paper in which they visualize the events and stakeholders that were relevant to the emergence of the Dutch childcare benefits scandal. The possibilities seem endless because processes are pervasive.


According to Reijers, for Process Science to evolve into a fully-fledged discipline, several obstacles need to be overcome. He believes that, in general, there is conservatism in science. Establishing an interdisciplinary project is not always easy, he points out. Additionally, well-known problems, questions, methods, and theories take precedence over more risky, radically new ideas.

Furthermore, Reijers feels that there is an additional obstacle: the hypercriticism among computer scientists themselves. "If you don’t precisely adhere to what colleagues consider normal or if there isn’t enough formalization in your work, you may risk the scorn of your peers," he says. He experiences this firsthand as the chairman of the advisory committee for computer science at NWO. In his opinion, there is a need for more constructive and civilized feedback. His conclusion is that it starts with senior computer scientists because they serve as role models for the next generations.