Archive for safeisba@bayesian.org

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.

scientific societies start to address sexual harassement

Posted in Books, University life with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2018 by xi'an

As ISBA releases a letter of her president to the members about the decision by the ISBA Board [taken in Edinburgh] to exclude three of its members following multiple complaints of harassment, the ASA publishes an update on the activities of the task force created to address this issue last November. And Nature reports on the report published by the US academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which points out the limited impact of the current policies and mechanisms at play in US institutions.

“The analysis concludes that policies to fight the problem are ineffective because they are set up to protect institutions, not victims.” Nature, June 12, 2018

A common feature between the ASA and the Academy approaches is to rely on a survey of their respective members, soon to come for ASA members. Another feature of major relevance is the issue of anonymous reporting and counselling. So that victims and witnesses of harassment can trust the procedure strongly enough to report  a case without being afraid of being known to a large number of people. In my opinion, having identified individuals that represent the diversity of a scientific society such as ISBA, rather than an anonymous email account or a web form, is more likely to induce testimonies or complaints.

ISBA code of conduct [open to discussion]

Posted in pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2018 by xi'an

After many electronic meetings and as numerous consultations with lawyers and other legal experts, the safeISBA committee has come up with a code of conduct that covers all ISBA activities and applies to all members. Just in time for the ISBA 2018 meeting next month in Edinburgh. And all satellite and subsequent ISBA sponsored ones. The document is available on-line for everyone to peruse and discuss. There will be round-table sessions to this purpose in Edinburgh. And hopefully no opportunity for having to implement the proposed disciplinary options… (Comments, complaints, testimonies, concerns, and suggestions can also be sent to our dedicated account safeisba at the standard bayesian.org email address.)

how to make ISBA conference safe for all?

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2017 by xi'an

As Kristian Lum’s courageous posting of her harrowing experience at ISBA 2010 and of her resulting decision to leave academia, if not thankfully research (as demonstrated by her recent work on the biases in policing software), is hitting the Bayesian community and beyond as a salutary tsunami, I am seeking concrete actions to change ISBA meetings towards preventing to the largest extent sexual harassment and helping victims formally as well as informally, as Dan Simpson put it on his blog post. Having discussed the matter intensely with colleagues and friends over the past days, and joined a Task Force set immediately on Dec 14 by Kerrie Mengersen in her quality of President of ISBA, there are many avenues in the medium and long terms to approach such goals. But I feel the most urgent action is to introduce contact referents (for lack of a better name outside the military or the religious…) who at each conference could be reached at all times in case of need or of reporting inappropriate conduct of any kind. This may prove difficult to build, not because of a lack of volunteers but because of the difficulty in achieving a representativity of all attendees towards them trusting at least one member well enough to reach and confide. One section of ISBA, j-ISBA, can and definitely does help in this regard, including its involvement in the Task Force, but we need to reach further. As put by Kerrie in her statement, your input is valued.