Wolfgang Pauli Institute (WPI) Vienna

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Mission of the WPI

To create a critical mass in

a)   research through building bridges and links between thematically connected high level groups in Vienna and, eventually, other centers. Scientific synergy and 'interdisciplinarity' is promoted by joint research projects, joint seminars and enhancing a continuous personal contact, especially of PhD students and PostDocs.

b)   scientific education : Bringing together the PhD students and PostDocs of the various high level projects and doctoral schools fosters cross-fertilization in the high level education. and should facilitate the build-up and financing of an excellent infrastructure.

c)   grants and fundraising : both the application and the implementation of large grants is significantly more efficient in an environment like the WPI. The experience of each of these highly succesfull groups helps the other (and future) groups. Such an interdisciplinary center has an especial advantage e.g. in the tough competition for funding in the framework programs of the European Commission.

d) professional assistance and help for foreign visiting scientists : for problems like visa, social security, etc. a joint structure like the WPI operates more efficiently than would individual scientists-in-charge separately administering their respective programs.

The general mission of the WPI is to create an internationally recognized Center of Excellence that makes Vienna a more attractive place in science. The WPI is already an important Austrian landmark of the European Research Area and it has the scientific potential to be a global player.

Also, the joint center will contribute more efficiently to bringing mathematics and natural science to the attention of the broader audience and raise the public awareness of science . The concentration of scientists willing to participate in such activities, supported by competent staff, enhances efforts to popularize science.

Scientific mission of the WPI

An address from the founding president in 2001

The main scientific challenges of the twenty-first century may no longer be divided into the classical disciplines of Mathematics, Informatics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc. For example, theoretical biology is currently in the phase of formulating laws of nature in terms of mathematical statements; quantum chemistry has already become an important research field in applied mathematics; physics needs more and more input from computer science and mathematics, including logic and informatics; and, outside of the natural sciences, "financial mathematics" has developed highly reliable tools for economic market and stock analysis. But how will researchers be motivated to do interdisciplinary research in a university environment, given the current system in which academic careers (typically) advance based upon a record of publication in a single field?

We believe that structures which foster interdisciplinarity between fields and thrive on their synergetic effects have to be created at the national and international levels of research. "Interdisciplinarity" should not be obtained by basic (often superficial) knowledge of several fields by one person, but by enhancing contact as much as possible between the strongest groups in neighbouring fields, especially, contact between the PhD students and PostDocs.

This is precisely the spirit in which the Wolfgang Pauli Institute has been founded by a group of Austrian START and Wittgenstein laureates. Our idea is to create a structure which is open to high level research training projects in those fields of science where mathematics is fundamental, be it in the underlying modeling or for numerical simulations. Mathematics is a unifying language and toolbox for many scientific fields and as such plays a central role in modern interdisciplinary research.

However, we consider the present activities of our newly founded institute only as crystallization focus for future activities. The membership of the Institute and the composition of its scientific board will evolve over time. Due to the carefully designed structure of the WPI there will be a "self-focusing" effect in "hot fields," balanced by a "dispersion effect" due to the temporary status of full membership. We believe that central planning of science is not only impossible but that attempts to choose isolated "key fields" which receive all the funding are dangerous. The Wolfgang Pauli Institute is a bottom-up approach to research and postgraduate training in closely related scientific fields designed to optimize the public monies invested in science and research.

The name "Wolfgang Pauli" is very appropriate for an Institute that unites several scientific fields, for Pauli -- like other Nobel laureates in physics of that Golden Age -- was also a very strong mathematician with interests in chemistry, biology, and other disciplines as well.

Peter A. Markowich

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