Section: Research Program
Research Program
Introduction. Computer simulation of physical systems is becoming increasingly reliant on highly complex models, as the constant surge of computational power is nurturing scientists into simulating the most detailed features of reality – from complex molecular systems to climate/weather forecast.
Yet, when modeling physical reality, bottomup approaches are stumbling over intrinsic difficulties. First, the timescale separation between the fastest simulated microscopic features, and the macroscopic effective slow behavior becomes huge, implying that the fully detailed and direct long time simulation of many interesting systems (e.g. large molecular systems) are out of reasonable computational reach. Second, the chaotic dynamical behaviors of the systems at stake, coupled with such multiscale structures, exacerbate the intricate uncertainty of outcomes, which become highly dependent on intrinsic chaos, uncontrolled modeling, as well as numerical discretization. Finally, the massive increase of observational data addresses new challenges to classical data assimilation, such as dealing with high dimensional observations and/or extremely long time series of observations.
SIMSMART Identity. Within this highly challenging applicative context, SIMSMART positions itself as a computational probability and statistics research team, with a mathematical perspective. Our approach is based on the use of stochastic modeling of complex physical systems, and on the use of Monte Carlo simulation methods, with a strong emphasis on dynamical models. The two main numerical tasks of interest to SIMSMART are the following: (i) simulating with pseudorandom number generators  a.k.a. sampling  dynamical models of random physical systems, (ii) sampling such random physical dynamical models given some real observations  a.k.a. Bayesian data assimilation. SIMSMART aims at providing an appropriate mathematical level of abstraction and generalization to a wide variety of Monte Carlo simulation algorithms in order to propose nonsuperficial answers to both methodological and mathematical challenges. The issues to be resolved include computational complexity reduction, statistical variance reduction, and uncertainty quantification.
SIMSMART's Objectives. The main objective of SIMSMART is to disrupt this now classical field of particle Monte Carlo simulation by creating deeper mathematical frameworks adapted to the challenging world of complex (e.g. high dimensional and/or multiscale), and massively observed systems, as described in the beginning of this introduction.
To be more specific, we will classify SIMSMART objectives using the following four intertwined topics:
Rare events Objective 1 are ubiquitous in random simulation, either to accelerate the occurrence of physically relevant random slow phenomenons, or to estimate the effect of uncertain variables. Objective 1 will be mainly concerned with particle methods where splitting is used to enforce the occurrence of rare events.
The problem of high dimensional observations, the main topic in Objective 2, is a known bottleneck in filtering, especially in nonlinear particle filtering, where linear data assimilation methods remain the stateoftheart approaches.
The increasing size of recorded observational data and the increasing complexity of models also suggest to devote more effort into nonparametric data assimilation methods, the main issue of Objective 3.
In some contexts, for instance when one wants to compare solutions of a complex (e.g. high dimensional) dynamical systems depending on uncertain parameters, the construction of relevant reducedorder models becomes a key topic. This is the content of Objective 4.
With respect to volume of research activity, Objective 1, Objective 4 and the sum (Objective 2$+$Objective 3) are comparable.
Some new challenges in the simulation and data assimilation of random physical dynamical systems have become prominent in the last decade. A first issue (i) consists in the intertwined problems of simulating on large, macroscopic random times, and simulating rare events. The link between both aspects stems from the fact that many effective, large times dynamics can be approximated by sequences of rare events. A second, obvious, issue (ii) consists in managing very abundant observational data. A third issue (iii) consists in quantifying uncertainty/sensitivity/variance of outcomes with respect to models or noise. A fourth issue (iv) consists in managing high dimensionality, either when dealing with complex prior physical models, or with very large data sets. The related increase of complexity also requires, as a fifth issue (v), the construction of reduced models to speedup comparative simulations. In a context of very abundant data, this may be replaced by a sixth issue (vi) where complexity constraints on modeling is replaced by the use of nonparametric statistical inference.
Hindsight suggests that all the latter challenges are related. Indeed, the contemporary digital condition, made of a massive increase in computational power and in available data, is resulting in a demand for more complex and uncertain models, for more extreme regimes, and for using inductive approaches relying on abundant data.
For simplicity, we have classified SIMSMART research into the following already mentioned four main objectives.

Objective 1: Rare events and random simulation, which mainly encompass item (i).

Objective 2: High dimension and advanced particle filtering, which encompass item (iv).

Objective 3: Nonparametric inference, which mainly encompass item (ii) and (vi).

Objective 4: Model reduction, which mainly encompasses item (vi).
Uncertainty quantification (item (iii)) in fact underlies each aspect since we are mainly interested in Monte Carlo approaches, so that uncertainty can be modeled by an initial random variable and be incorporated in the state space of the physical model.