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Dynamics of Complex Continua

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DOCC (Dynamics of Complex Continua)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2021-05-31

DOCC is an interdisciplinary MSCA doctoral programme at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) that is training 15 research fellows for 3 years on modelling and simulation of complex dynamical continuum systems in research fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, atmospheric sciences, material and engineering sciences, and computer science.
DOCC provides structured training in both research-relevant and professional skills by building expertise in the intersectorally seminal fields of computational material, fluid and gas dynamics, which procures multiple topical technological, societal and medical applications relevant to climate, energy, safety, or nano and life sciences. In our research focus on "Dynamics Of Complex Continua" (DOCC) we develop and apply methods for theoretical and numerical analysis in modelling and simulation of dynamical processes, such as stability, nonlinearity, transport and structure formation. In particular we consider meso- and macroscopic many-body and continuum systems of solids, soft matter, liquids, gases and plasmas, that are characterised by complex couplings between its constituents, its environment, or multi-scale dependence.
Many contemporary research and technology fields rely on modelling and simulation (M&S) as a fundamental tool. A variety of areas require in-depth understanding of structural and dynamical properties of matter and materials, whose meso- and macroscopic many-body or continuum properties often show a high level of dynamic complexity. Researchers in M&S across all areas are faced with a number of common challenges that complicate both model building and computational simulation, as well as the resulting application to complex dynamical systems.
DOCC prepares Europe's next top modellers to link simulations and the real world within a multi-disciplinary environment, by providing beyond essential technical expertise also the training in key abilities to communicate and transfer methods and results.
Our world and society increasingly rely on accurate predictions, on trustworthy implementation of processes, and timely political decisions, which are based on reliable modelling, simulation and understanding of complex dynamical systems. The often neglected "soft" skills of communicating and discussing the underlying essential issues of reliability, uncertainty, and predictability of consequences inherent to models and simulations become increasingly important. Targeted training in communication and knowledge-transfer skills is therefore implemented as a central supplementary pillar within the programme.
A further aspect is based on cooperations with and secondments of fellows to intersectoral partners. Many of the participating research groups already have long established regional or international industrial or public-sector contacts on technological applications of their research. All fellows in the programme will be able to benefit from intersectoral exposure through such existing or newly established partners, and from specific training courses on career-related skills and perspectives.
The programme will ensure that the fellows become familiar with a significant range of methods and develop a way of thinking that allows them to transcend traditional borders and communicate between disciplines, which are necessary and important skills for all ESR in research and innovation.
DOCC is directed towards advanced interdisciplinary training of 15 ESR in modelling and simulation in fundamental and applied sciences. At the present end of the first reporting period (24 months), recruitment of all fellows is completed after three successive calls for applications, following transparent selection criteria of excellence and commitment to the specified research fields, and training activities have been started.
Major management work has concerned the organisation of the calls for applications, and the recruiting and employment processes, which were complicated under the challenging conditions during the international Covid-19 restrictions following March 2020. For example, several thousand e-mail correspondences had been handled with the 452 applicants, and many thousand electronic documents were processed in total during the programme so far. The primary information medium of the programme and its calls is the DOCC web presence (docc.eu). Posters and various call advertisements have referered to the web page for detailed information on the programme, and in particular for an explicit transparent description of the selection process.
The necessary time period for evaluation and selection was longer than anticipated because of a large number of applications, the necessity for a third call, and delays caused by world-wide institutional shut-downs and travel restrictions. The Covid-19 complications have mainly affected the evaluation and selection processes of the 2nd and 3rd calls, and also caused delays in the starting date of work for some of the appointed fellows.
The DOCC training programme intends to enhance the potential and future career perspectives of fellows. It is based on support towards gaining skills and potential in field-specific research training, interdisciplinary training, and transferable skills training.
All fellows have so far started and progressed their field specific research work. Allthough still in the initial research phases, already 6 journal publications from or with contributions from DOCC fellows have appeared so far, and 9 (mostly online) conference contributions have been presented.
Interdisciplinary training and transferable skills training has already partly been provided in the form of various offered training courses (lectures, seminars, summer/winter schools), and will be further pursued as planned during the upcoming programme period. All lectures and seminars however had to start strongly restricted within the Covid years 2020/2021, and had to be implemented as virtual online courses and video-conference workshops with the adverse effects of reduced possibilities for discussions and social interactions among fellows.
DOCC supports the career prospects of the fellows by providing personal mentoring and career development plans, practical intersectoral secondments, and international experience. All fellows have been assigned an individual intersectoral mentor, and annual coaching discussions have been started. However, so far no intersectoral or international secondments or research vists have been possible because of Covid-19 related safety measures and travel restrictions. We will motivate all fellows to still pursue such secondments in the upcoming years when possible and feasible.
In face of all complications to the start of the DOCC programme through the pandemic restrictions, all doctoral training fellows are reporting smooth progress in their respective research works. The initial joint training programme commenced mostly in virtual online modes but is also progressing largely as planned. The upcoming phase of the programme will include further training units, and the research work of the fellows is expected to lead to many more publishable results and final dissertation theses. Any progress beyond the state of the art and wider potentials impacts may then be expected in the upcoming next project phase.
Logo of the DOCC programme