Archive for CNRS

Masterclass in Bayesian Statistics in Marseilles next Fall

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, R, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2018 by xi'an

This post is to announce a second occurrence of the exciting “masterclass in Bayesian Statistics” that we organised in 2016, near Marseilles. It will take place on 22-26 October 2018 once more at CIRM (Centre International de Recherches Mathématiques, Luminy, Marseilles, France). The targeted audience includes all scientists interested in learning how Bayesian inference may be used to tackle the practical problems they face in their own research. In particular PhD students and post-docs should benefit most directly from this masterclass. Among the invited speakers, Kerrie Mengersen from QUT, Brisbane, visiting Marseilles this Fall, will deliver a series of lectures on the interface between Bayesian statistics and applied modelling, Havard Rue from KAUST will talk on computing with INLA, and Aki Vehtari from Aalto U, Helsinki, will give a course on Bayesian model assessment and model choice. There will be two tutorials on R and on Stan.

All interested participants in this masterclass should pre-register as early as possible, given that the total attendance is limited to roughly 90 participants. Some specific funding for local expenses (i.e., food + accommodation on-siteat CIRM) is available (thanks to CIRM, and potentially to Fondation Jacques Hadamard, to be confirmed); this funding will be attributed by the scientific committee, with high priority to PhD students and post-docs.

science tidbits

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2018 by xi'an

Several interesting entries in Le Monde Science & Médecine of this week (24 Jan 2018):

  1. This incredible report in the Journal of Ethnobiology of fire-spreading raptors, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, and Brown Falcon, who carry burning material to start fires further away and thus expose rodents and insects. This behaviour was already reported in some Aboriginal myths, as now backed up by independent observations.
  2. A report by Etienne Ghys of the opening of a new CNRS unit in mathematics in… London! The Abraham de Moivre Laboratory is one of the 36 mixed units located outside France to facilitate exchanges and collaborations. In the current case, in collaboration with Imperial. And as a mild antidote to Brexit and its consequences on exchanges between the UK and the EU. (When discussing Martin Hairer’s conference, Etienne forgot to mention his previous affiliation with Warwick.)
  3. A good-will-bad-stats article on the impact of increasing the number of urban bicycle trips to reduce the number of deaths. With the estimation that if 25% of the daily trips over 167 European (and British!) cities were done by bike, 10,000 deaths per year could be avoided! I have not read the original study, but I wonder at the true impact of this increase. If 25% of the commutes are made by bike, the remaining 75% are not and hence use polluting means of transportation. This means more citizens travelling by bike are exposed to the exhausts and fumes of cars, buses, trucks, &tc. Which should see an increase in respiratory diseases, including deaths, rather than a decrease. Unless this measure is associated with banning all exhaust emissions from cities, which does not sound a very likely outcome, even in Paris.
  4. An incoming happening at Cité internationale des Arts in Paris, on Feb 2-3, entitled “we are not the number we believe we are” (in French), based on the universe(s) of Ursula Le Guin who most sadly passed away the day the journal came out.
  5. A diffusion of urban riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005 that closely follows epidemiological models of flu epidemics, using “a single sociological variable characterizing neighbourhood deprivation”. (Estimation of the SIR model is apparently done by maximum likelihood and model comparison by AIC, given the ODE nature of the models, ABC would have been quite appropriate for a Bayesian modelling!)

a trip back in time [and in Rouen]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2017 by xi'an

On Monday, I took part in a celebration of the remarkable career of a former colleague of mine in Rouen, Gérard Grancher, who is retiring after a life-long position as CNRS engineer in the department of maths of the University of Rouen, a job title that tells very little about the numerous facets of his interactions with mathematics, from his handling of all informatics aspects in the laboratory to his support of all colleagues there, including fresh PhD students like me in 1985!, to his direction of the CNRS lab in 2006 and 2007 at a time of deep division and mistrust, to his numerous collaborations on statistical projects with local actors, to his Norman federalism in bringing the maths departments of Caen and Rouen into a regional federation, to an unceasing activism to promote maths in colleges and high schools and science fairs all around Normandy, to his contributions to professional training in statistics for CNRS agents, and much, much more… Which explains why the science auditorium of the University of Rouen was packed with mathematicians and high schools maths teachers and friends! (The poster of the day was made by Gérard’s accomplices in vulgarisation, Élise Janvresse and Thierry Delarue, based on a sample of points randomly drawn from Gérard’s picture, maybe using a determinantal process, and the construction of a travelling salesman path over those points.)

This was a great day with mostly vulgarisation talks (including one about Rasmus’ socks..!) and reminiscences about Gérard’s carreer at Rouen. As I had left the university in 2000 to move to Paris-Dauphine, this was a moving day as well, as I met with old friends I had not seen for ages, including our common PhD advisor, Jean-Pierre Raoult.

This trip back in time was also an opportunity to (re-)visit the beautifully preserved medieval centre of Rouen, with its wooden houses, Norman-style, the numerous churches, including Monet‘s cathedral, the Justice Hall… Last time I strolled those streets, George Casella was visiting!

GG Day in Rouen

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2017 by xi'an

[Notice: This post is fairly “local” in that it is about a long-time friend being celebrated by his university. Nice poster though and an opportunity to stress his essential contributions to the maths department there!]

Next June, I will spend the day in Rouen for a conference celebrating the career and dedication of Gérard Grancher to mathematics and the maths department there. (When I got invited I had not realised I was to give the research talk of the day!) Gérard Granger is a CNRS engineer and a statistician who is indissociable from the maths department in Rouen, where he spent his whole career, now getting quite close to [mandatory] retirement! I am very happy to take part in this celebration as Gérard has always been an essential component of the department there, driving the computer structure, reorganising the library, disseminating the fun of doing maths to high schools around and to the general public, and always a major presence in the department,  whom I met when I started my PhD there (!) Working on the local computers in Pascal and typing my thesis with scientific word (!!)

CNRS bans airbnb!

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , on February 4, 2017 by xi'an

A few days ago, like all members of French research labs associated with CNRS, the national research institute, I received an email stating

” Le recours aux service de co-voiturage (ex, BlablaCar) et le recours aux services de location entre particuliers (ex. Air B&B [sic]) ne sont pas autorisés car ils font peser un risque sur le CNRS en termes de responsabilité.”

which means that it will no longer reimburse travel expenses connected to airbnb rentals for fear of litigation. While the decision is not completely surprising, given the bureaucratic tendencies of the CNRS, and the fact that cities and administrations are increasingly targeting airbnb, making it primarily a politically motivated ban, this is a most unwelcome item of news, both for funding reasons, as airbnb or a similar rental service offers massive gains when attending a conference with colleagues, and for comfort reasons, as I find resorting to hotels much less relaxing than in a rental, if only because I cannot cook and eat what I want.

Claire Voisin’s CNRS Gold Medal

Posted in pictures, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2016 by xi'an

voisatrLast week, I attended the award ceremony of the Gold Medal of the French Scientific Research Council, which may well be the most prestigious scientific award in the country. It was awarded this year to Claire Voisin who is a specialist in algebraic geometry.

While I ended up in the meeting by the chance occurrence of Jean-Michel Marin visiting me, it was an impressive event with great talks from Claire Voisin (with a poetic praise of the complex exponential) and the CRNS Head, Alain Fuchs, but also quite enjoyable and mostly a-political discourses from the two Ministers attending the ceremony, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Thierry Mandon, who both mixed quotes from classics with some appreciation of Claire Voisin’s work. Even if one may suspect that those discourses were not (completely) written by the speakers (even though Mandon went looking for a Zweig’s quote during the meeting and ended up reading it from his phone, which was clearly unrehearsed!), they were delivered with enough conviction to be, well, convincing!

voiseuxThe event took place in the Grand Amphithêatre de la Sorbonne, which looked much nicer in the evening than when I attended the IUF rentrée a few weeks ago. And the classic (19th) paintings on the walls of this part of La Sorbonne made the ensuing cocktail even more classy. (Not that we had any opportunity to mingle with the Ministers, who are most likely too risk-adverse to be drawn in potential debates on the status of [funding] French Academia and academics…)

An update: on the road to Normandy, to visit my mother, we listened to a one-hour interview of Claire Voisin on France Culture that was a very good layman introduction to the maths she works on. (In French only.)

in support of Turkish mathematicians

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2016 by xi'an

[Here is a call from the three French maths and stats societies about the Human Right violations in Turkey and in particular the dire conditions of academics in Turkish universities.]

The Scientific Council is outraged by and condemns the arrests, persecutions and dismissals of more than a thousand of scientists in Turkey for more than a year : teachers, academics, doctors and PhD students. There can be no great country without free and independent research. We therefore ask that our colleagues be released and reinstalled in their positions, regain their freedom of speech and may travel abroad. We also condemn the latest decree that removes the autonomy of universities. It cancels the elections of the presidents (rectors) of the universities, private and public, and allows the President of the Republic to appoint who he wants in their place, as happened at the Bosphorus University. We also encourage all initiatives, at the CNRS and in the French Universities, to welcome our scientific colleagues from Turkey who are refugees in France.

The three French mathematical societies (SFdS, SMAI and SMF) also express their solidarity with all their colleagues who are discriminated against in Turkey without being able to leave the country. They support notably Mustafa Kalafat, mathematician dismissed from his functions at the University of Tunceli and arrested on the Georgian border. He is currently imprisoned and accused to be linked to the Gülenists and the coup attempt of July 2016. They also remain attentive to the fate of Kivanç Ersoy, a mathematician at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul, accused of supporting terrorism for signing a petition for peace calling for dialogue and the cessation of armed conflict in Kurdistan. He is awaiting his appeal on December the 22nd, 2016.