For the project “Complex World – Dynamic Simulation” a unique approach was taken in order to convey the impact of mathematical simulation to a broad audience.
During the initial phase the project team selected four research teams working in very different fields. The level of simulation that was already used by these teams also varied widely. While the archaeologists already relied on simulation to test their hypotheses other teams had little or no experience with mathematical computer simulation.
The project team thus first established common ground with the researchers and identified scenarios in which computer simulation could benefit the researchers as well as a broad public audience.
These scenarios where then prepared in such a manner that the simulation-experts of the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna, Research Group for Mathematical Modelling and Simulation) could create a first draft model based upon the description. In an iterative feedback-loop these drafts were then presented to the scientists and their feedback used to improve and refine the simulation models.
After reaching a state where the respective specialists were satisfied with models (i.e. scientific correctness), the project team employed user-interface (UI) specialists to create intuitive, entertaining and user-friendly interfaces for a non-scientific audience.
To the knowledge of the project team this innovative process is still unique. One of the reasons for this is the required high level of expertise necessary to communicate and “translate” between application field and simulation experts.
The great advantage of this approach is, that its outcome is (1) scientifically valid and thus (2) of benefit to the domain-experts, who are able to test theories. And finally, if kept at a reasonable level of detail (3) the created simulation-models are a great means to communicate the complexity of the research field in an understandable manner to non-experts.