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Inaugural Address of the President of Goethe University

Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff

We are all facing global challenges that we can only tackle through joint efforts. We are dealing with both known unknowns and unknown unknowns, in short, unpredictable complex system dynamics at different temporal and/or spatial scales that require multidisciplinary knowledge, interdisciplinary collaboration, and new transdisciplinary approaches in which we continuously test, develop, and reflect on our theories and methods in dialogue with society. Nowadays this always means that we use our formal models and advanced computational methods and techniques to describe multi-scalar phenomena, integrate theories to improve our predictions and interventions - and to do all of this in a legitmate and justifiable manner.

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The Center for Critical Computational Studies, which I initiated and which was established at Goethe University in April of this year (2023), takes all of this into account. It serves as a plattform for multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary research and method development, open to all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the exploration, development, transfer, and reflection of computational methods and techniques and their application to describe and explain complex, "critical" transformation dynamics. The importance of this research is underscored by Goethe University's establishment of the C3S as a central scientific institution equipped with at least 12 new professorships, located at a new site, which, together with internal and external PIs, will develop Critical Computational Studies into a standalone research profile that extends to teaching and education.

It goes without saying that such a center does not emerge overnight. The initial conceptual contribtuors, Juliane Engel, Martina Klausner, Thomas Betzwieser, Christoph Burchard, Matthias Kaschube, Alexander Mehler, and Ernst Stelzer, have made essential contributions by nurturing the original idea and by advancing the transdisciplinary ambitions of C3S. They have thus laid the foundation for the founding board, which is now tasked with sharpening the C3S's profile, initiating first research and education projects, but above all creating an environment for the newly appointed colleagues who we will be recruiting in the years to come. For this, I thank them very much!

Meet the Team

Founding Speaker

Prof. Dr. Christoph Burchard, LL.M. (NYU)

Christoph Burchard is the founding speaker of the C3S. He holds the chair for German, European and International Criminal Justice, Comparative Law and Legal Theory at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. He is also adjunct faculty of LUISS University Rome (program in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability), and principal investigator of the Normative Orders research network. In his current research, he inter alia focuses on the normative order of computational technology in postdigital societies, including on how AI impacts (stabilizes and transforms) the very core of normativity. He has co-published on argument mining in legal texts and the use of large generative AI models in legal writing.

Read his take of C3S

"In Critical Computational Studies, both Cs – the Critical and the Computational – meet on equal footing. We complement computational (as in: operating with software, hardware, and data) with critical (as in: reflective and pertaining to significant transformative) approaches. Both Cs may prove challenging for one another. But they do not assail, let alone dissolve each other. Both Cs come together to constructively and creativly so that we - as researchers, teachers, users and citizens - enjoy the agency to shape our (post-)digital futures.

In the Center for Critical Computational Studies, or C3S, we hence set out to interweave these two Cs without prejudice. Neither is one C pushing boldly ahead while the other stands in the way of progress. Nor is one C meant to disentchant the other and its calamities.

This openness is what makes C3S unique, and why it can inspire innovative research across and beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Today’s (post)computational realities are characterized by anthropogenic climate change, pluralism and inequalities. Computational research and solutions hence need to be trustworthy and sustainable – or more generally speaking: they need to be justifiable. This is exactly what Critical Computational Studies is after.

At the same - remember C and C meeting on equal footing - computational approaches offer indispensable insights into complex systems, especially into critical points of their evolution and transformation. Such insights will, now or in some future, prompt vital solutions to impending challenges. For example, by exploring possible commonalities, even isomorphisms between and across different domains, I expect Critical Computational Studies to come up with novel cross-domain computational methods (e.g. multi-scale simulations of complex multi-actor networks). Such methods will generate deeper system understandings, including on how computational technologies are themselves shaping (for good or bad) these very systems and their understandings.

In working with social, political and industrial leaders as well as with our highly motivated students, C3S will advance - not only as an afterthought, but as a critical building block of our mission - Critical Computational Literacy as a necessary future skill to tackle our (post)digital planetary societies, and to shape them 'properly' for all those concerned and affected by computational technologies, including future generations."

Christoph Burchard, 21 April 2023

Founding Director for Teaching

Prof. Dr. Franziska Matthäus
Franziska Matthäus is the founding director for teaching at C3S. She holds the Giersch Professorship in Cellular Bioinformatics affiliated with the departments for computer science and mathematics, as well as biology. She is also a fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Speaker of the Center for Multi-scale Modeling in the Life Sciences (CMMS), and PI in the DFG Research Training Group Interfacing Image Analysis and Molecular Life Science. Her research interests concern image analysis and modeling for complex multi-cellular biological systems, with focus on collective phenomena, self-organisation and pattern formation.
Read her testimonial

"The Center for Critical Computational Studies will be an educational hub for the transfer of knowledge between the disciplines. It will be a place to acquire basic and advanced computational skills, as well as insights regarding the benefits and implications of computational methods for science and society. The connection of previously distant academic areas through data and methodology will lead to new research questions, new modes of teaching, and act as an ideal setting to emanate future skills."

Founding Director for Research

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Meyer

Ulrich Meyer is the founding director for research at C3S. He holds the chair for Algorithm Engineering at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Ulrich Meyer is also a fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and PI in the ADYN and CMMS research consortia. From 2014 to 2022, he was the spokesperson for the DFG Priority Programme "Algorithms for Big Data". His current research encompasses both theoretical and experimental aspects of processing large data sets with advanced computational models including efficient generation of network training data, certifying computations, and computational methods to ensure fairness in data and resource consumptions.

Read his testimonial

"Almost every field of human endeavour nowadays requires some form of computer support and algorithmic expertise, and people are acquiring own programming skills and a basic algorithmic understanding, or they hire personnel with such a background. The problems addressed in academic algorithmic research, however, tend to be highly technical and specific, and often do not directly match the needs on the application side. Hence, users mostly select tools based on how easy they are available instead of how well they fit, or basic do-it-yourself solutions are employed. This is unfortunate, because better algorithms can often improve the performance or quality by orders of magnitude, or even enable new, unforeseen possibilities. Over the years this gap has become a critical brake on innovation. C3S with its multi- and trans-disciplinary approach is set out to narrow this gap."

Founding Director for Transfer

Prof. Dr. Juliane Engel

Juliane Engel is a Professor of Education focusing on schools and cultural transformation. In systematic and empirical studies, her work examines educational processes and learning considered in the context of dynamics of social transformation, such as processes of cultural pluralization and (post-)digitality, highlighting asymmetries of power. This analysis focuses on the materiality and mediality of processes of subjectification as well as on new forms of agency in postdigital realities. She is chair of the Commission for Qualitative Educational and Biographical Research of the German Society for Educational Science (QBBF), where she works on advancing the methodological development of digitized research. She is (co-)founder of an international research group on “becoming planetary” and co-editor of the journal Education in the Anthropocene: Sustainability, Transformation, Cultures.

Read her testimonial

"Society as well as academia are now firmly in a state of post-digitality: a state characterized by digital ubiquity and ongoing internalization of algorithmized orders that has been transforming cultures and societies. The Center for Critical Computational Studies is dedicated not only to studying these dynamics of transformation but also to rising to the task and taking responsibility by shaping them, in a joint interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary endeavor. I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this exciting collaborative research from the perspective of education."

Managing Director

Eva-Christina Mohr, MBA

Eva-Christina Mohr is the Managing Director of the C3S. Prior to C3S, she worked for a multinational professional services network, and one of the Big Four accounting organizations, KPMG, for several years. She has also gained experience working for the Goethe University Frankfurt during her employment as a Senior Auditor at the Internal Audit Department. She holds a Master of Finance from the University of Amsterdam as well as a Master of Digital Transformation Management (MBA) from the Goethe Business School, which she obtained on a Presidium Scholarship by the university's Executive Board.


We form a vibrant research community

Recruitment of new professors

Over the next years, we are recruiting at least twelve new professors (W1 TT/W2 TT/ W3) as ordinary principal investigators. They include, but are not limted to, professors of Sustainable Computing; Advanced Simulation in Life and Social Science; Predictions in Complex Systems; Computational Climate/ Climate Impact/ Earth System Science; Critical Data Analytics; Science and Technology Studies; Critical Computational Methodology; Ethics in Computation.

Learn more
The process of concretizing and scouting for four Anchor Professorships will commence in summer term 2023
  • Simulations in Life Sciences, e.g. Hybrid Multi-Scale Simulations
  • Sustainable Computing
  • Critical Data Analytics
  • Critical Computational Methodology

The Anchor Professorships, with their diverse, yet core disciplinary backgrounds (life science, computer science, social science, humanities) and complementary expertise (algorithmic, data etc.), will provide C3S with the necessary permanent core faculty. This will prove crucial to tackle the many tasks ahead, and to activate C3S as a vital player in the current excellence initiative.

The process of concretizing the research and teaching profiles of the Anchor Professorships will be integrative and participative. C3S is now approaching the "Fachbereiche", "Profilbereiche" and other actors of Goethe University for advice and input.

C3S is also in the process of setting up, per the Internal Rules of Procedure, a Recruitment Advisory Board (RAB) to help C3S identify innovative and powerful fields of research.

In so doing, C3S will also draw on the adivice of an International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB), which the Presidium of Goethe University is currently setting up.

The actual hiring process will of course follow the procedures laid out in the "Berufungssatzung" of Goethe University.

There will be two further scouting symposia, likely in April 2024 and in September 2024.

More information will follow in due time.

Affiliation and Association of Principal Investigators

We are constantly seeking to win new affiliated principal investigators (PIs) from within Goethe-University, and associated principal investigators from outside Goethe-University. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

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According to the Charter and the Internal Rules of Procedure (IRP) of C3S, PIs have shown expertise in Critical Computational Studies and/or its subfields and, as a rule, a doctorate or comparable degree. PIs contribute to the implementation of the current as well as the design of the future profiles of C3S. Affiliation/association normally takes place step-by-step, and first takes place in the context of a research, teaching or transfer project. The project exhibts a sufficient fit with and an added value to the current research profiles of C3S. Suitable projects include

  • Development and/or implementation of C3S-related teaching modules that can be used permanently by the C3S, including in continuing academic education.
  • Development and application of C3S-related third-party funding proposals.
  • Situating ongoing research projects, in particular those funded by third-parties, at C3S.
  • Organisation and implementation of C3S-related transfer activities.

Also see our current calls to get involved


Goethe Research Community

Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is the academic home base of C3S.
See the six research profiles of Goethe Research Community
See some of the Research Networks and Clusters at Goethe University