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Ruđer Bošković Institute: Twinning for a step forward of the Theoretical Physics Division

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RBI-T-WINNING (Ruđer Bošković Institute: Twinning for a step forward of the Theoretical Physics Division)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2019-01-31

The RBI-T-WINNING project is granted to the Division of Theoretical Physics (DTP) at Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI, Croatia) – Coordinator beneficiary – for the duration 01/02/2016 to 31/01/2019. The project provides complementary funding for theoretical physics, with the aim of raising the research profile to that of excellent institutions. This aim is pursued by supporting strong links with leading European research institutions - in particular with the partner institutions – Beneficiaries - SISSA (Italy), Laboratoire de Physique Theorique d'Orsay (LPT) at CNRS (France), Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) München (Germany) and Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) at UCPH (Denmark). The set of measures include staff exchanges, training, conferences, summer schools, dissemination and outreach activities for impact on the local community.

The research topics in theoretical physics at DTP are broad, from understanding the basic constituents of the Universe, to the study of new materials and complex systems. In recent years research was increasingly suffering from a strong limitation of resources. DTP strived to preserve the level of its scientific output and impact in unfavorable external conditions. The lack of funds caused a significant weakening of contacts with top international institutions, a dramatic absence of PhD students and of good candidates for turnover. As a result of this situation, there is a sensible decrease in the scientific output as well as of attractiveness of DTP for potential top staff candidates.

This RBI-T-WINNING project is ideally placed as remedy. Through it, funding is provided for mobility with top institutions and for attracting top talents. This gives DTP a chance to become an international hub of theoretical physics, where new and topical research questions are addressed also in a multidisciplinary manner, with a positive influence on RBI and thus Croatian policies. The presence of the Twinning project also shows students that high quality research with strong international collaboration can be performed in Croatia. This will reduce the brain drain and impact positively the trend of students graduating in physics. DTP recently renewed its hiring policy, by opening more to foreign candidates, a previous atypical policy that also RBI is starting to implement. DTP has a very realistic potential to significantly enhance its scientific impact, and also to substantially improve the advancement of RBI and its contribution to the Croatian Smart Specialisation strategy.

Specifically, the objectives of the proposed projects are:

Objective 1: To enhance the research capacities and role of RBI in the field of theoretical physics, aiming at bringing the DTP to the level of excellent institutions. This objective is pursued by dedicated knowledge transfer, collaboration support and increased mobility of RBI researchers.

Objective 2: To enhance the capacities of RBI for multidisciplinary applications of theoretical physics, using present knowledge in related theoretical physics directions: particle and astroparticle physics, mathematical physics, statistical physics, and condensed matter.

Objective 3: To contribute to the realization of the Croatian Smart Specialization strategies. RBI has already a very prominent role: the ESIF project O-ZIP (60 MEURO) explicitly approved by the EC in the Croatian Operational Programme 2014-2020; RBI WIDESPREAD ERA Chair project PaRaDeSEC (2.7 MEURO). Through the RBI-T-WINNING project, DTP contributes also to their realization.
In the first reporting period from 01/02/2016 to 30/04/2017 in achieving the project objectives, DTP used staff exchanges, training, conferences, summer schools, dissemination and outreach activities. We give brief explanation of the work carried out and the results so far achieved.

Objective 1 (To enhance the research capacities and role of RBI in the field of theoretical physics)
Actions taken in the first reporting period:

* At DTP 6 lecture series and 4 research seminars by partners from twinning institutions were organized in addition to 6 lectures and 1 seminar given during the project kick-off meeting.

* DTP staff visited international institutions, collaborated and presented research results (26 visits at twinning institutions and 7 at other institutions).

* DTP staff attended international meetings (41 attendance).

* DTP staff presented research results at international conferences and workshops (25 talks) as well as, at foreign institutions (11 talks: 6 at twinning institutions and 5 at other institutions). Additionally, SISSA and LPT researchers also presented joint papers with DTP researchers (5 talks).

* DTP students attended schools and lecture series at partner institutions.

Results so far:

* Joint papers (3 published so far) with partners (see WP4 and 1.3. Impact) as well as several joint researches underway.

* Hiring scientific staff – 3 students (local), 4 postdocs (international), 1 new permanent researcher.

* Joint project proposal with international partners still in planning phase. Two new projects at DTP approved by Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ).

Objective 2 (To enhance the capacities of RBI for multidisciplinary applications of theoretical physics)

Actions taken:

* Seminars and Journal club at DTP – mixed topics and mixed audience

* Hiring policy – consultation between existing groups within DTP to find best people at interface of different research directions.

Results so far:

* Hiring of 1 new staff member on the statistical and mathematical physics interface.

* New research directions & collaborations – hard to quantify but recent research results in the application of the field theory expertise applied in cosmology; new research in mathematical physics based on applying the intuition of physics models on mathematical problems

Objective 3: (To contribute to the realization of the Croatian smart specialization strategies)

Actions taken:

* DTP’s active role in RBI’s O-ZIP planning and implementation

* Experimental particle and astroparticle groups member at RBI invited to present their work at DTP seminar.

* Planning of joint PhD studies.

Results are so far not quantifiable (mostly discussions, planning and consulting).
While DTP always managed to keep contact with the state of the art research, through connections with partners
1. we moved to the front of the state of the art, as seen from increased publications impact factor and indeed with the fact that our lower quartile of the impact factor is now on the level of median impact factor in previous years.
2. we are broadening our research front by opening of some new research areas:
* Evolutionary game theory – started through collaborations with Twinning institutions.
* Quantum information and nonequilibrium statistical mechanics – also through employment of new researchers based on ERA principles.

More students are interested in pursuing their careers on DTP and the amount of applications have steadily risen. Our department now employs a number of foreign researchers, reaching likely the highest percentage of foreigners of all Croatian scientific departments. This shows that through help of international grants we can at least partly reverse the yearly brain drain problem. In that sense our department became a poster child which received considerable media attention possibly influencing some scientific decision makers.
RBI (DTP) project team in February 2016
RBI-T-WINNING partner institutions and research fields
DTP in May 2017 (in front of Rudjer Boskovic statue)