The institute for computing and data sciences (ISCD) at Sorbonne Université (SU) is developing and promoting mathematical and computational methods across sciences, humanities and medicine. The ISCD coexist and collaborate with various research labs and structures, while scientists associated with interdisciplinary projects remain affiliated to their home faculties. Scientific questions and applications raised by scientists in these projects will lead to new developments in mathematical and computational sciences which in turn will enable more complex and efficient simulations or analysis. The interdisciplinary spirit fueling the interactions has become the trademark of the ISCD.
The ISCD was founded in 2010 by the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) as a university research association (Fédération de Recherche) to advance science through innovative computational approaches in scientific computing, on the initiative of a small team of faculty members led by Pr. Olivier Pironneau, former head of the French Strategic Committee for High-Performance Computing. The creation of an interdisciplinary think tank with HPC resources was considered an attractive idea even though ambitious as there wasn’t comparable facility at French universities. Since then, the ISCD is dedicated to interdisciplinary research in scientific computing, scientific visualisation and data science. At the turn of the 21st century, these topics have developed into key technologies, complementing theory and experimentation. They require expertise from both areas, in addition to mathematics and computer science. The emergence of bioinformatics is a relevant example of the fruitfulness of the encounter between biology and computer science. The interdisciplinary involvement of the ISCD is not confined to research but it also contribute to the education of a new breed of scientists, as the research conducted by the teaching faculty will disseminate throughout the M.Sc. and the PhD curricula.
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The ISCD has grown to a university central structure with overall more than 200 researchers from mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, earth sciences, medicine and humanities. Since 2010, more than 50 PhDs and postdocs have been hired to work on a dozen of research areas, from computational chemistry and biology to mathematical modelling for forensic sciences, to digital archeology, to scientific visualization or to healthcare analytics.
The annual budget of the ISCD is provided by Sorbonne Université. In 2012, the ISCD has successfully applied to the French investment program (PIA/Programme Investissements d’Avenir) which acknowledged the structuring nature of this project to tackle interdisciplinary challenges in scientific computing. Since then, additional fundings came through European, national and regional initiatives. Sponsorship provides opportunities to have access to a valuable resource that would be difficult to be accommodated by the core institutions.
A measure of the success of the ISCD model is the amount of third-party funding raised by its researchers. A selection of major grants obtained by the researchers shows that the ISCD has been able to raise substantial funding to sustain its activities.