Archive for visa

day four at ISBA 22

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2022 by xi'an

Woke up an hour later today! Which left me time to work on [shortening] my slides for tomorrow, run to Mon(t) Royal, and bike to St-Viateur Bagels for freshly baked bagels. (Which seemed to be missing salt, despite my low tolerance for salt in general.)

Terrific plenary lecture by Pierre Jacob in his Susie Bayarri’s Lecture about cut models!  Offering a very complete picture of the reasons for seeking modularisation, the theoretical and practical difficulties with the approach, and some asymptotics as well. Followed a great discussion by Judith on cut posteriors separating interest parameters from nuisance parameters, especially in semi-parametric models. Even introducing two priors on the same parameters! And by Jim Berger, who coauthored with Susie the major cut paper inspiring this work, and illustrated the concept on computer experiments (not falling into the fallacy pointed out by Martin Plummer at MCMski(v) in Chamonix!).

Speaking of which, the Scientific Committee for the incoming BayesComp²³ in Levi, Finland, had a working meeting to which I participated towards building the programme as it is getting near. For those interested in building a session, they should make preparations and take advantage of being together in Mon(t)réal, as the call is coming out pretty soon!

Attended a session on divide-and-conquer methods for dependent data, with Sanvesh Srivastava considering the case of hidden Markov models and block processing the observed sequence. Which is sort of justified by the forgettability of long-past observations. I wonder if better performances could be achieved otherwise as the data on a given time interval gives essentially information on the hidden chain at other time periods.

I was informed this morn that Jackie Wong, one speaker in our session tomorrow could not make it to Mon(t)réal for visa reasons. Which is unfortunate for him, the audience and everyone involved in the organisation. This reinforces my call for all-time hybrid conferences that avoid penalising (or even discriminating) against participants who cannot physically attend for ethical, political (visa), travel, health, financial, parental, or any other, reasons… I am often opposed the drawbacks of lower attendance, risk of a deficit, dilution of the community, but there are answers to those, existing or to be invented, and the huge audience at ISBA demonstrates a need for “real” meetings that could be made more inclusive by mirror (low-key low-cost) meetings.

Finished the day at Isle de Garde with a Pu Ehr flavoured beer, in a particularly lively (if not jazzy) part of the city…

bravo, Dr. Robert!!!

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2021 by xi'an

Last Friday, our daughter Rachel attended the graduation ceremony for her medical school cohort master graduation. On the Saclay campus next to ENSAE (and so did we!), with nice and short talks by medicine professors and the University President, with a massive (?!) conflict of interest as her own daughter was part of this cohort!  And learned that she will work her first medical internship semester in French Guiana, next month, as part of her choice of a medical specialisation in internal medicine in the French Caribbean departments, over the five next years. Congrats to her and all of her fantastic friends for this massive achievement!!! And [fatherly and a wee bit anxious!] best wishes for this new and exciting period of her life!!! (And concerned thoughts for her female doctor colleagues at the French Institute for Mothers and Children in Kabul, like Dr. Arifa and Dr. Shoranghaize. interviewed in Le Monde the same day.)

post-COVID post-conference mood

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2020 by xi'an

Nature ran a 4-page comment on the post-COVID future of massive conferences (NeurIPS or JSM style) and on how to make them less carbon greedy. Some of their common-sense suggestions come close to what I had suggested a while ago and some became promptly implemented in these times of COVID-19 travel restrictions, as, e.g., to systematically include virtual attendance option(s), with provisions from one’s institutions for quality time (as if one was indeed away), to add multiple (3?) regional hubs to a single location, which also offers the perk of a round-the-clock meeting, with an optimisation of the three places chosen to minimise (estimated) total flight distances for the potential participants, as in e.g. choosing U.S. central Chicago rather than extremes like Seattle or Miami, and possibly adding Tokyo and Paris, to reduce the frequency of the monster meetings by coordinating with sister societies, to enforce an individual or institutional maximum yearly budget, to have corporate sponsors turning from travel support to improving remote access in less favoured countries.

Obviously, it seems difficult to completely switch to a fully virtual solution, as attending a conference has many academic dimensions to be accounted for, but the “big ones” should be the first to shrink, if only because the most impacting. And also because small, high quality workshops have much more impact research-wise on their attendants. With the above still offering some savings. And also the possibility to bypass financial, personal, visa, political, life-threatening impossibilities to attend a meeting in a specific foreign country. Provided uncensored remote communication tools are allowed or possible from the said  country. (Calling for the question, barring financial difficulties, and once COVID-related restrictions have been lifted, what are the countries where everyone could consider attending?!)

This year, before lockdown forced the cancellation of ABC in Grenoble, we had set a mirror version in Warwick. Which led us to create the One World ABC seminar. The Bernoulli-IMS World congress was postponed by one year but a few dedicated volunteers managed to build within a few weeks a free impressive virtual substitute with more than 600 talks and close to 2000 participants (so far). Remember it is to take place on 24-28 August, on different time zones and with ten live plenaries repeated twice to this effect.

Next year, we still hope to organise an Objective Bayesian workshop at Casa Matemática Oaxaca (CMO) in México and the current sanitary conditions imply a reduction of the physically present participants by two thirds. Meaning for certain a remote component and possibly a mirror location depending on the state of the World in December 2021.

NeurIPS without visa

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2019 by xi'an


I came by chance upon this 2018 entry in Synced that NeurIPS now takes place in Canada between Montréal and Vancouver primarily because visas to Canada are easier to get than visas to the USA, even though some researchers still get difficulties in securing theirs. Especially researchers from some African countries, which is exposed  in the article as one of the reasons the next ICLR takes place in Addis Ababa. Which I wish I could attend! In the meanwhile, I will be taking part in an ABC workshop in Vancouver, December 08, prior to NeurIPS 2019, before visiting the Department of Statistics at UBC the day after. (My previous visit there was in 1990, I believe!) Incidentally but interestingly, the lottery entries for NeurIPS 2019 are open till September 25, to the public (those not contributing to the conference or any of its affiliated groups). This is certainly better than having bots buying all entries within 12 minutes of the opening time!

More globally, this entry makes me wonder how learned societies could invest in ensuring locations for their (international) meetings allow for a maximum inclusion in terms of these visa difficulties, but also ensuring freedom and safety for all members. Which may prove a de facto impossibility. For instance, Ethiopia has a rather poor record in terms of human rights and, in particular, homosexuality is criminalised there. An alternative would be to hold the conferences in parallel locations chosen to multiply the chances for this inclusion, but this could prove counter-productive [for inclusion] by creating groups that would never ever meet. An insolvable conundrum?

missing [thumb] category

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on January 2, 2018 by xi'an

I had a fairly uneventful trip to Kolkata today, except for a rather long wait at the e-visa station in Delhi where the young agent in the booth was at a loss on how to handle my missing thumb and kept returning to a senior agent for instructions! As they were speaking Hindi, I could not understand precisely the exchanges but he was told to enter “missing” and when this failed, “disabled” which worked out fine! The Indian Statistical Institute is locate quite a fair distance north from the centre of Kolkata and I searched in vain for a tea dealer in the immediate vicinity tonight. (Walking ten minutes in the street was most likely equivalent to smoking a full pack of cigarettes!!! I am glad I did not bring running gear as this would have been borderline suicidal… (On the flight back, the security agent was equally interested in my absent thumb, enquiring how I had lost it.)

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