I just learned that a micro-brew brand of homemade skis has connections with statistics and, who knows, could become a sponsor to the next MCMSki… Indeed, the brand is called deviation (as in standard deviation), located in Gresham, Oregon, and sell locally made skis and snowboards with names like The Moment Generator or The Mode! The logo clearly indicates a statistical connection:
As it happens, two of the founding partners of deviation, Tim and Peter Wells, are the sons of my long-time friend Marty Wells from Cornell University. When I first met them, they were great kids, young enough to give no inkling they would end up producing beautiful hardwood core skis in a suburb of Portland, Oregon!!! Best wishes to them and to deviation, the most statistical of all ski brands! (Here is a report in The Oregonian that tells the story of how deviation was created.)
[Here is a call from the BayesComp Board for proposals for MCMSki 5, renamed as below to fit the BayesComp section. The earlier poll on the ‘Og helped shape the proposal, with the year, 2016 vs. 2017, remaining open. I just added town to resort below as it did not sound from the poll people were terribly interested in resorts.]
The Bayesian Computation Section of ISBA is soliciting proposals to host its flagship conference:
Bayesian Computing at MCMSki
The expectation is that the meeting will be held in January 2016, but the committee will consider proposals for other times through January 2017.
This meeting will be the next incarnation of the popular MCMSki series that addresses recent advances in the theory and application of Bayesian computational methods such as MCMC, all in the context of a world-class ski resort/town. While past meetings have taken place in the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, we encourage applications from any venue that could support MCMSki. A three-day meeting is planned, perhaps with an additional day or two of satellite meetings and/or short courses.
One page proposals should address feasibility of hosting the meeting including
1. Proposed dates.
2. Transportation for international participants (both the proximity of international airports and transportation to/from the venue).
3. The conference facilities.
4. The availability and cost of hotels, including low cost options.
5. The proposed local organizing committee and their collective experience organizing international meetings.
6. Expected or promised contributions from the host organization, host country, or industrial partners towards the cost of running the meetings.
Proposals should be submitted to David van Dyk (dvandyk, BayesComp Program Chair) at imperial.ac.uk no later than May 31, 2014.
The Board of Bayesian Computing Section will evaluate the proposals, choose a venue, and appoint the Program Committee for Bayesian Computing at MCMSki.
Along other members of BayesComp who launched a brainstorming session for the next MCMSki meeting before the snow has completely melted from our skis, we discussed the following topics about the future meeting:
1. Should we keep the brandname MCMSki for the incoming meetings? The argument for changing the name is that the community is broader than MCMC, as already shown by the program of MCMCSki 4. I have no strong feeling about this name, even though I find it catchy and sexy! I would thus rather keep MCMSki because it is already a brandname. Else, we could switch to M(CM)Ski, MCMSki with friends (and foes?), Snowtistics and Compuskis, or to any other short name with or without ski in it, as long as the filiation from the previous meetings is clear in the mind of the participants.
2. Should we move the frequency to two years? While the current meeting was highly popular and attracted the record number of 223 participants, and while the period right after the Winter break is not so heavily packed with meetings, we were several at a banquet table last week to object to a planned move from three to two years. I understand the appeal of meetings with great speakers in a terrific mountainous taking place as often as possible… However what stroke me with the meeting last week is that, despite the large number of parallel sessions, I overwhelmingly heard novel stuff, compared with previous meetings. And would have heard even more, had I been gifted with ubiquity. Moving to two years could cull this feeling. And induce “meeting fatigue. Furthermore, I fear that the increase in ISBA sections and the natural increase of meeting entropy pushes the percentage of meetings one can attend down and down. Sticking to a three year period would keep MCMSki more significantly attractive in that refusing an invitation would mean postponing for three years, &tc. So I personally oppose a move to two years.
3. Should we seek further financial support? The financial support behind a conference is obviously crucial. When planning MCMski 4, I however decided against contacting companies as I have no skills in the matter, but finding ways to support conference rooms, youngster travels, ski race, poster prizes and banquet would be more-than-nice. Anto’s initiative to bring a pair of skis offered by a ski company was a great one and one feat that I hope can be duplicated in the future. (During my spare week in Chamonix, I contacted ski rentals and the skipass company for a rebate, to no avail.) Travel support from ISBA and SBSS towards the travel costs of around 20 young researchers was much appreciated but is not necessarily to be found at each occurrence… Note that, despite the lack of corporate support, MCMski 4 is going to provide a positive financial return to ISBA (and BayesComp) and I strongly suggest we keep a tradition of minimalist services for the future meetings in order to fight outrageous conference fees. I think the fees should cover the conference rooms and possibly a cuppa or two a day but nothing more. In particular, the banquet should remain optional. And so should any other paying social event. (We can also do without goodies and conference material.)
4. Where should the next meeting take place? The call is on for potential organisers in either 2016 or 2017, early January. Between the Alps and the Rockies, there are plenty of possible locations, but more exotic places in the Northern Hemisphere could be suggested as well, from Lapland to Hokkaido… A question raised by Christophe Andrieu that I’d like to second is whether the preference should go to places that qualify as villages or as resort. Bormio and Chamonix are villages, while Park City is not. (I definitely prefer villages!)
Now that the conference and the Bayesian non-parametric satellite workshop (thanks to Judith!) are over, with (almost) everyone back home, and that the post-partum conference blues settles in (!), I can reflect on how things ran for those meetings and what I could have done to improve them… (Not yet considering to propose a second edition of MCMSki in Chamonix, obviously!)
Although this was clearly a side issue for most participants, the fact that the ski race did not take place still rattles me! In retrospect, adding a mere 5€ amount to the registration fees for all participants would have been enough to cover the (fairly high) fares asked by the local ski school. Late planning for the ski race led to overlook this basic fact…
Since MCMSki is now the official conference of the BayesComp section of ISBA, I should have planned well in advance a section meeting within the program, if only to discuss the structure of the next meeting and how to keep the section alive. Waiting till the end of the last section of the final day was not the best idea!
Another thing I postponed for too long was seeking some sponsors: fortunately, the O’Bayes meeting in Duke woke me up to the potential of a poster prize and re-fortunately Academic Press, CRC Press, and Springer-Verlag reacted quickly enough to have plenty of books to hand to the winners. If we could have had another group of sponsors financing a beanie or something similar, it would have been an additional perk… Even though I gathered enough support from participants about the minimalist conference “package” made of a single A4 sheet.
Last, I did not advertise properly on the webpage and at all during the meeting for the special issue of Statistics and Computing open to all presenters at MCMSki IV! We now need to send a reminder to them…
The next MCMSki meeting, MCMSki IV, will be held in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France, from Monday, January 6 to Wednesday, January 8, 2014. As for the previous MCMSki meetings, it jointly supported by the IMS (Institute of Mathematical Statistics) and ISBA (International Society for Bayesian Analysis), as the first meeting of the newly created BayesComp section of ISBA. It will focus on all aspects of MCMC theory and methodology, including related fields like sequential Monte Carlo, approximate Bayesian computation, Hamiltonian Monte Carlo. In contrast with the earlier meetings, it will merge the satellite Adap’ski workshop into the main meeting by having parallel (invited and contributed) sessions on those different themes. A call for proposals of sessions and talks is available here. There will be also opportunities for presenting one’s work at plenary and well-attended evening poster sessions.
In terms of location, after an excursion to Utah, MCMSki IV is back in the Alps, on the French side of Mont-Blanc, and Chamonix offers a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities during the breaks, with all levels of skiing available. The meeting will take place at the Conference Centre le Majestic (Centre des Congrès – Le Majestic) in Chamonix Mont-Blanc. (With a large population of English expatriates living there, Chamonix is very easy to handle for English speakers. The lodging capacities are both diverse and plenty.)
The next MCMSki IV conference will for the first time host contributed sessions as well as invited sessions. The scientific committee thus welcomes proposals for contributed talks and even more for contributed sessions. Contributed talks are scheduled to last 20 minutes, plus questions, and contributed sessions one hour and a half, including questions, which corresponds to 4 talks or 3 talks and a discussant.
Proposals should be sent to me, Christian Robert, before March 20, 2013, and includes the name of the speaker(s), the title of the talk(s), and a short 5-15 lines abstract(s). All speakers in a contributed session must be contacted and give their agreement prior to the submission of a session, obviously. The scientific committee will then evaluate the proposals and notify the session organiser/the speaker before April 20, 2013. We remind everyone that MCMSki IV will also schedule two evening poster sessions in the best tradition of the Valencia and MCMSki meetings, sessions in which everyone is welcome to present.
Topics for the proposals include “Big Data issues”, “computationally intensive Bayesian applications”, “probabilistic advances for MC methods”, “variance reduction techniques and Rao-Blackwellisation”, “MC for non-parametric Bayes inference “, “adaptive MC”, “interacting MC”, “INLA”, and “ABC”.
The last sessions at the SuSTain workshop. were equally riveting but I alas had to leave early to get a noon flight—as it happens, while I expected to get home early enough to work, run, cook, and do maths with my daughter, my taxi got stuck in an endless traffic jam and I only had time for the maths!—, hence missing the talks by Chris Holmes—second time after Kyoto!—, Sofia Massa, and Arnoldo Frigessi… I am glad I managed to get Michael Newton’s and Forrest Crawford’s talks, though, as Michael presented a highly pedagogical entry to computational concepts related to system biology (a potential candidate for an MCMSki IV talk?) and Forrest discussed some birth-and-death processes, including the Yule process, that allowed for closed form expressions of their Laplace transform via continued fractions. (Continued fractions, one of my favourite mathematical objects!!! Rarely appearing in statistics, though…) I have to check on Forrest’s recent papers to understand how widely this approach applies to philogenetic trees, but this opens a fairly interesting alternative to ABC!
This was a highly enjoyable meeting, first and foremost due to the quality of the talks and of their scheduling, but also by the pleasure of seeing again many friends of many years—notice how I carefully avoided using “old friends”!—, by the relaxed and open atmosphere of the workshop—in the terrific location of Goldney Hall—and of course of unofficially celebrating Peter Green’s deeds and contributions to the field, the profession, and the statistics group in Bristol! Deeds and contributions so far, as I am sure he will keep contributing in many ways in the coming years and decades, as already shown by his committed involvement in the very recent creation of BayesComp. I thus most gladly join the other participants of this workshop both to thank him most sincerely for those many and multifaceted contributions and to wish him all the best for those coming decades!
As an aside, I also enjoyed being “back” in Bristol once again, as I do like the city, the surrounding Somerset countryside, the nearby South Wales, and the wide running possibilities (from the Downs to the Mendip Hills!). While I sampled many great hotels in Bristol and Clifton over the years, I now rank the Avon Gorges Hotel where I stayed this time quite high in the list, both for its convenient (running!) location and its top-quality facilities (incl. high-speed WiFi!)