Lorentz Center - The Future of Multi-Scale Soft Matter Modeling from 31 Aug 2015 through 4 Sep 2015
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    The Future of Multi-Scale Soft Matter Modeling
    from 31 Aug 2015 through 4 Sep 2015


Scientific report of the Lorentz Workshop ‘The future of multi-scale soft matter modeling’ !

Dates: August 31-September 4, 2015.

Location: Snellius

Organizers and co-organizers: Agur Sevink (Universiteit Leiden, NL), Ignacio Pagonabarraga

(Universitat de Barcelona, Spain), Andrei Zvelindovsky (University of Lincoln, UK), Ryoichi

Yamamoto (Kyoto University, Japan) !



1. Description and aims

A key challenge in the study of soft structured materials, which includes living matter, is that the

emergent properties are a consequence of mechanisms at a variety of length/time scales, often down

to the smallest scales, and it is the strong correlation between these processes that renders them

inseparable. New multi-scale & multi-resolution computational approaches deal with these issues,

but the key challenges remain disputed and the most promising route ahead remains unclear.

Among computational scientists, there is a strong need for discussing the various prospects/

limitations of these new modelling paradigms and for setting up collaborative frameworks that

contribute to validation and integration of these modern techniques in a lab environment.

Moreover, how can we improve the position of this emerging field on the research agenda in terms

of funding, against the growing tendency to fund only towards application?


2. Tangible outcome

Based on the discussions during the week, a list of priorities concerning multi-scale simulation of

heterogeneous soft matter was drawn and a number of individual collaborations were started on

diverse topics. A small group of participants - Kawakatsu, Milano, Schmid and Sevink - are currently

working on materialising this outcome in a review on multi-scale modelling, to be submitted to npj

Computational Materials. The position of multi-scale modelling community on the (local and

international) research agenda has been strengthened by an initiative of participants Asinari,

Paillusson and Sevink after the meeting. In April 2016, Asinari (member of the European Materials

Modelling Council/ EMMC) and Sevink will present prospects of multi-scale modelling in a network

meeting on Nanosafety in Brussels, one day prior to their participation to the Roadmap meeting of

the EMMC. An additional outcome is that the same organisers submitted a new Lorentz workshop

proposal on structured soft interfaces (January 15, 2016).


3. Scientific breakthrough

The setup - inviting scientists with multi-scale modelling as common denominator but otherwise

diverse expertise - was geared toward shaping minds rather than facilitating the detailed discussion

needed for a scientific breakthrough on special topics (although this was not ruled out). In this

sense, the workshop was a great success. The technical and conceptual discussions, as well as the

diverse overview of efforts in this field, were a good starting point for out of the box thinking,

cross-fertilisation and discussion of future collaborations.


4. “Aha” moments

The discussion focussing on ‘common’ issues, e.g. systematic versus thermodynamic driven

coarsening schemes, benefitted from the presence of many experts in sub-topics, and touched

upon issues that are usually considered too technical or where no proper solution exists. It

provided a profound understanding of the actual challenges and improved insight in commonalities

between different disciplines. A few unexpected topics arose, e.g. the need and opportunities to

better quantify the precision of simulation methodologies.The discussion of identifying funding

opportunities - proactive versus program-driven - was an eye-opener for many. !



5. Format of the workshop

We replaced our proposed format - few talks, many outbreak discussion sessions in groups, case

studies - by a more conventional one during the preparation stage, after consultation with the

Lorentz Centre. Given both the broad topic and diverse background of the participants, we felt

that the workshop would be better served by keeping the discussion central and enabling all

participants to define their field via short plenary talks. Since the number of participants was small

(25 on average), such a setup works very well. One of the key restrictions associated with other

formats is that they are better suited for small(er) communities, which usually have closer ties and

enhanced commitment during the preparation stage. Unfortunately, in practice, most researchers

(in particular high-profile) are used to start preparing only after on-site arrival.


6. Other comments

Lorentz workshops provide a unique platform for discussion amongst peers. Compared to the

many highly-focussed workshops that are organised in small communities, they possess a unique

value in providing a platform for stimulating and timely discussions of important topics/insights in a

new setting, bringing together less familiar faces, expertise and disciplines. As such, the workshops

are attractive to all scientists, but this attraction does not stem from keeping participants confined

(several participants complained about the remote location of the hotel) or forcing participation all

week. They should be naturally attractive, provide a home for the scientists by the opportunities

that they offer. The support of the Lorentz Centre in the practical part - program and planning - is

therefore extremely valuable. That some scientist, in particular those of greater fame, cannot

commit themselves for a whole week is understandable and does not reflect any statement on the

intrinsic value of the workshop (their participation does!). With such a dynamic audience, the total

number of invitees can easily be more than 25, to ensure critical mass at all times.