Archive for meeting

the future of conferences

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2019 by xi'an

The last issue of Nature for 2018 offers a stunning collection of science photographs, ten portraits of people who mattered (for the editorial board of Nature), and a collection of journalists’ entries on scientific conferences. The later point leading to interesting questioning on the future of conferences, some of which relate to earlier entries on this blog. Like attempts to make them having a lesser carbon footprint, by only attending focused conferences and workshops, warning about predatory ones, creating local hives on different continents that can partake of all talks but reduce travel and size and still allow for exchanges person to person, multiply the meetings and opportunities around a major conference to induce “only” one major trip (as in the past summer of British conferences, or the incoming geographical combination of BNP and O’Bayes 2019), cut the traditional dreary succession of short talks in parallel in favour of “unconferences” where participants set communally the themes and  structure of the meeting (but ware the dangers of bias brought by language, culture, seniority!). Of course, this move towards new formats will meet opposition from several corners, including administrators who too often see conferences as a pretense for paid vacations and refuse supporting costs without a “concrete” proof of work in the form of a presentation.Another aspect of conference was discussed there, namely the art of delivering great talks. Which is indeed more an art than a science, since the impact will not only depend on the speaker and the slides, but also on the audience and the circumstances. As years pile on, I am getting less stressed and probably too relaxed about giving talks, but still rarely feel I have reached toward enough of the audience. And still falling too easily for the infodump mistake… Which reminds me of a recent column in Significance (although I cannot link to it!), complaining about “finding it hard or impossible to follow many presentations, particularly those that involved a large number of equations.” Which sounds strange to me as on the opposite I quickly loose track in talks with no equations. And as mathematical statistics or probability issues seems to imply the use of maths symbols and equations. (This reminded me of a short course I gave once in a undisclosed location, where a portion of the audience left after the first morning, due to my use of “too many Greek letters”.) Actually, I am always annoyed at apologies for using proper maths notations, since they are the tools of our trade.Another entry of importance in this issue of Nature is an interview with Katherine Heller and Hal Daumé, as first chairs for diversity and inclusion at N[eur]IPS. Where they discuss the actions taken since the previous NIPS 2017 meeting to address the lack of inclusiveness and the harassment cases exposed there, first by Kristian Lum, Lead Statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), whose blog denunciation set the wheels turning towards a safer and better environment (in stats as well as machine-learning). This included the [last minute] move towards renaming the conference as NeuroIPS to avoid sexual puns on the former acronym (which as a non-native speaker I missed until it was pointed out to me!). Judging from the feedback it seems that the wheels have indeed turned a significant amount and hopefully will continue its progress.

Bayesian conference in वाराणसी

Posted in Mountains, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by xi'an

Following a successful meeting in 2005, the DST Centre for Interdisciplinary Mathematical Sciences, at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi, is organizing an ISBA Regional Meeting on January 06-10, 2013.  This is in almost two years from now, but it is worth advertising that early. (Besides, given the heavy traffic to and from India at this time of the year, plane tickets should be booked well in advance if not that in advance!) I have been kindly invited to this conference and I definitely plan to attend. Not only the previous program was quite exciting, but this is also the ‘city of temples’ and of ghats along the Ganges, and a place of pilgrimage for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Plus, this is certainly the place for a Bayesian conference that is the closest to the Himalayas!

O’Bayes 09 update

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , on June 4, 2009 by xi'an

The Objective Bayes meeting, O-Bayes09, is starting tomorrow in Philadelphia, at the Wharton Business School. Here are the slides I plan to present in the Jeffreys session, even though I do not see how I can cover the 148 of them in 45 minutes…

This means I will have more editing to do in the plane and tomorrow morning!

Meetings on mixtures

Posted in Statistics with tags , , on December 19, 2008 by xi'an

While preparing a future meeting on mixtures, I (surprisingly) found a still active link to the very first meeting I organised. It took place in the CNRS vacation center of Aussois (French Alps) in 1995 and it already focussed on mixtures. It was a very exciting meeting with some great talks, different perspectives and schools, and lasting connections. I also took part later in organising with Mike Titterington a smaller scale meeting on mixtures held at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in March 2001, where the small size of the audience allowed for open (and sometimes heated!) discussions.

The future meeting in 2010 will be held at ICMS, in Edinburgh, in March 2010. It is organised jointly with Kerrie Mengersen and Mike Titterington, and it will be of the same type as the previous one, with a limited and restricted audience made of invitees, and a small number of long talks followed by discussions and exchanges. However, anyone who would desperately like to attend, in particular PhD students from the UK with a topic related to mixtures, should feel free to contact me. (The purpose of restricting attendance is of course to preserve the congenial and interactive feeling of small meetings, which are mostly those where “something” happens!, and to concentrate the talks on a limited number of topics.) The topics involved for the 2010 meeting are

  • frequentist and Bayesian advances in mixture inference, especially concerning identifiability and connection with non-parametric and semi-parametric statistics—this includes the specific Bayesian issue of the label-switching phenomenon and proposals for its resolution or dismissal;
  • use of mixtures in mis-specified problems, in particular for data that are not independent and identically distributed;
  • new theory and methodology for computational issues, identifying advances and bottlenecks, covering associated issues of convergence, mixing and ways of reducing computational expense;
  • new latent-structure models, including the use of covariates in connection with components;
  • cross-fertilization concerning these and other aspects among those who contribute to the statistical, computer science and other literatures.

The attached picture of the Ring of Steall, facing Ben Nevis, was taken in 2003 during one of the most beautiful day “hikes” I ever did. (Sadly, another hiker fell to his death on the same ridge the very same day.)

O’Bayes 09

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , on December 15, 2008 by xi'an

The next Objective Bayes meeting, O-Bayes09, is taking place in Philadelphia, in the superb modern building of the Wharton Business School, from June 5th till June 9th, 2009, and is organised by Larry Brown, Ed George, Linda Zhao and Kai Zhang. It follows earlier meetings on objective Bayes methodology held in Purdue, USA, 1996, València, Spain, 1998, Ixtapa, Mexico, 2000, Granada, Spain, 2002, Aussois, France, 2003—the one that I organised and where the O’Bayes nn brand was officially launched!—, Branson, MO, USA, 2005, and Rome, Italy, 2007. To borrow from the main page of the conference website, “the principal objectives of O-Bayes09 will be to facilitate the exchange of recent research developments in objective Bayes methodology, to provide opportunities for new researchers to shine, and to establish new collaborations and partnerships that will channel efforts into pending problems and open new directions for further study. O-Bayes09 will also serve to further crystallize objective Bayes methodology as an established area for statistical research.” This has always been an exciting meeting with a small enough attendance to facilitate debates and exchanges in a most congenial and traditional Bayesian way!

The conference starts on the 5th of June with a series of tutorials on Bayesian Statistics in the morning and withTheory of Probability lectures on Jeffreys’ book Theory of Probability on the afternoon. I am organising this afternoon session following a reading class I gave this year in Paris. I will also give an introductory talk along this reading paper we wrote this Spring with Nicolas Chopin and Judith Rousseau. Anyone interested in contributing to this session should feel free contact me, since there is room for posters and discussants. I originally wanted to organise this meeting in St John’s College, Cambridge, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the publication of Theory of Probability, but it is more than fitting to have a session on Jeffreys and his lasting influence at an Objective Bayes conference.