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Twentieth anniversary of the Lorentz Center: developing ideas in a scientific bubble

The 20th anniversary of the Lorentz Center will be celebrated on 28 June 2017 with the opening of an exhibition in the Oude UB. For two decades already, the Center has been a place of retreat for groups of international academics who want to explore a single issue.

The Lorentz Center literally provides room for academics from different countries to examine a single scientific problem – preferably a multidisciplinary problem – from their own different perspectives. They do this in workshops that can last anything up to five days. At first only the natural sciences were welcome but in recent years the Center has also opened its doors to the humanities and social sciences. Every four months, proposals can be submitted to NWO from all over the Netherlands.

Curator Marthe Sophie while she prepares the exhibition.

Future of a discipline

A workshop can be about anything. Many concentrate on the future of a discipline, and the participants work on a joint research agenda that may result in a grant application. Momentous workshops have taken place that have determined the long-term direction of a field, but equally there have been workshops that have addressed, for example, a new computer science curriculum for secondary schools. Some workshops have an associated summer school for PhD candidates. Since 2010, academics and industry have come together in workshops to seek concrete solutions to a problem. Such study groups with industry have already taken place in the fields of Physics, Life Sciences and IT. They bring together the private and academic sectors.

Innovative bubble

Workshop participants tend to be wildly enthusiastic about the concept of the Lorentz Center: where else can you and your peers concentrate without interruption on a single scientific problem? Rather than on lectures or presentations the focus lies on deliberation, brainstorming and sharing ideas in a relaxed setting. The Center’s staff take care of the practical side of things, allowing the participants to retreat into an innovative academic bubble. The Center has been designed to facilitate this: participants can clarify their ideas by drawing or writing on the walls, even in the kitchen.

Eighty-four workshops in 2017

This year the Lorentz Center is holding 84 workshops, in which almost 3000 academics from over 50 countries are participating. Every four months, proposals can be submitted to NWO from all over the Netherlands. They are assessed by scientific advisory boards in the various disciplines. Enough applications were submitted to merit the opening of a second Lorentz Center building in 2012. The Oortgebouw is for groups of up to 55 and the Snelliusgebouw for groups of up to 25.

Ook een workshop organiseren?

If you consider organising a workshop, you can find more information on the website of the Lorentz Center or contact Henriette Jensenius (jensenius@lorentzcenter.nl). Deadlines to submit your workshop proposal are 15 January, 15 May and 15 September.

The Lorentz Center is funded by Leiden University and NWO on a fifty-fifty basis. Furthermore, it is also possible to apply for extra funding for a workshop at NWO.


Over de tentoonstelling
Curator Marthe Sophie ontwikkelt artistieke projecten en is zelf ook kunstenaar. Ze is geïnteresseerd en wetenschap, in het bijzonder het onzichtbare daarvan. De tentoonstelling in de Oude UB bestaat uit affiches van de workshops die in de loop van de jaren door diverse kunstenaars en vormgevers zijn gemaakt. Vaak gingen workshops over abstracte onderwerpen of over wetenschap die niet zichtbaar is, zoals quantummechanica. Wat Sophie fascineert is hoe daar bij de makers van de affiches toch een beeld bij is ontstaan. Deze prachtige beelden wil ze laten zien.

Woensdag 28 juni 2017, 16.00 uur,
door Henri Lenferink, burgemeester van Leiden
Oude UB, Rapenburg 70, Leiden

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