Lorentz Center receives structural support from NWO and Leiden University

The Lorentz Center is a melting pot, which is visited by researchers from around the world. “Miracles happen” during our five-day interactive workshops. And there is an extra reason to celebrate our 25th anniversary. On 28 April, NWO and Leiden University signed their new agreement for the Lorentz Center. NWO and all faculties of Leiden University will now structurally support us.

During one week, astronomers come together, while during yet another week, a diverse group of theologians meets to discuss the theory of evolution. ‘That is what makes the center so unique in the world’, says institute manager Anna Tudos: ‘The Lorentz Center provides room for all disciplines and everything in between. Imagine you are a mathematician who has developed a model, and you think it might also be useful in biology and linguistics. Then you can invite those researchers here for a focused exchange of ideas.’


Who do you invite? Perhaps not that one Nobel Prize laureate
As a researcher, you can organize a workshop at the Lorentz Center that usually lasts five days. You come up with the theme in consultation with our scientific coordinators and one or more of our eight science councils. The Lorentz team is therefore closely involved in the subsequent design of the workshop. And it also assists in answering the question as to who you should invite. Tudos: ‘Organizers usually want to invite that one Nobel Prize laureate or another hotshot but is that indeed the best way to achieve the workshop’s objective? And you should not forget to invite a few scientists who might not have much to contribute, but could gain a lot by attending.’


Eighty workshops per year at two locations
Interactive breakouts are crucial for our workshops and the Lorentz team is increasingly asked to moderate the sessions. During each of the eighty or so workshops per year that are held at two locations, several dozen researchers work on a problem or exchange insights. Director Arjen Doelman, also mathematics professor in Applied Analysis, has experienced this himself. In 2014, he organized a workshop with ecologists and mathematicians. During this, they acquired important insights into the resilience of ecosystems. Doelman: ‘Then I once again discovered that these workshops really work.’ A publication in Science at the end of last year was partly thanks to that workshop.


Funding from NWO and Leiden University
The Lorentz Center is funded by NWO and Leiden University. So far, the NWO funding was provided in cycles of five years, but now that will change. The agreement signed by NWO and Leiden University on 28 April states that, from now on, both NWO and Leiden University will structurally fund the center.



Marcel Levi and Hester Bijl (photo by Hilbert Krane)

Hester Bijl, Rector Magnificus of Leiden University: ‘The Lorentz Center not only helps researchers to dig deeper, but also to look across the boundaries of their own discipline and to acquire new insights in doing so. I am really pleased that we can now structurally facilitate this together with NWO. We can enable and encourage that interdisciplinary collaboration even more now that all of the faculties are supporting the center. This collaboration also includes future plans to organise workshops of less than five days, which will nevertheless retain the essential ingredients of active involvement and interaction.’


Marcel Levi, President NWO: ‘NWO supports the Lorentz Center due to the connection it creates between researchers within all disciplines. The Lorentz Center is a unique place where international researchers can organise workshops within and between all disciplines in the natural, social and medical sciences as well as the humanities.’


The network grows with each workshop
A typically Dutch aspect of the center, according to Doelman, is its relatively low costs. ‘We have an outstanding reputation among researchers and our network grows with each workshop. Researchers like to come here even if that means that they have to pay for their travel and accommodation costs themselves.’ However, the Lorentz Center tries to help guests who have less financial leeway. And there is also a special budget for researchers who, for example, have just had a baby and who could not come to Leiden without that extra support.


Also for the public, companies and policymakers
All of the researchers who visit Leiden for a Lorentz workshop are often engaged in research that is also of interest to a wider public. Tudos: ‘We work together, for example, with the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, which organizes public lectures by some of our visitors.’ And researchers increasingly also involve companies or policymakers in their workshops. Thus, knowledge is not just shared among researchers, but gets disseminated and implemented in society, a process that is initiated at the Lorentz Center.

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