Tuesday, April 17, 2018

STOC child care

I received a request to call attention to the following, but will refrain from sharing it with the Theory of Computing blog aggregator since others have already done so (for example here).

In a challenge to my long-standing view of academic life as a hybrid of Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game and Paul ErdÅ‘s’ itinerant-scholar lifestyle, STOC 2018 will be the first STOC to provide subsidised, pooled childcare. (OK, this is not completely new. Dagstuhl has had this facility for some years, and the earliest example I can recall is the year 2000 British Colloquium on Theoretical Computer Science, although I don’t recall it being subsidised.)

On a related note, I was separately circulated an email advertising a TCS women event at STOC. Features include a panel of senior female researchers, a women’s lunch, and a research rump session. They have also secured funding to sponsor travel scholarships for women to attend STOC (see the web site); the organizers would like to see increase in women participation from outside of USA.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

SAGT and WINE 2018

New web sites for conferences later this year in Algorithmic Game Theory:
Note that the paper submission deadline for SAGT is getting close.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

thinking algebraically or geometrically

I was recently talking with an historian who mentioned to me that when Stephen Hawking lost the use of his hands (so could no longer write on a whiteboard), he had to switch from thinking algebraically to thinking geometrically. The historian asked me about this distinction, and I attempted to explain these alternative modes of mathematical thinking. We discovered an analogy that is so cute that I have to write it up: the historian, who specialises in shipping in the Mediterranean, often visualises the scenery, and life on board the ships, but does not end up illustrating his books with his imagined scenes. Visualising the past environment presumably helps to understand the narrative of what was going on at the time, and of course, that corresponds to the geometrical thinking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2018 Alan Turing Institute Doctoral Studentships

Doctoral research in data science: studentships to begin in autumn 2018. The application deadline is midday on 30 November 2017.

Here is a link to the full advertisement, with details about what the studentships offer.

I’m on the 2018 Turing supervisor list and received an email suggesting to circulate the advert.

Monday, September 25, 2017

JOB: Associate Professorship of Algorithms and Complexity Theory, Oxford

Associate Professorship of Algorithms and Complexity Theory with Tutorial Fellowship at Hertford College



Applications are invited for the post of Associate Professor (or Professor) of Algorithms and Complexity Theory to be held in the Department of Computer Science with effect from 1 October 2018. The successful candidate will also be appointed as Fellow and Tutor in Computer Science at Hertford College; Tutors being responsible for the organisation and teaching of their subject within the College.

The salary for this position is offered on a scale from £46,336 per annum, plus substantial additional benefits, including single accommodation at college, if available, or a living-out allowance of £9,437 pa. An allowance of £2,700 pa would be payable upon award of Full Professor title.

The Department of Computer Science is a vibrant and growing academic department, which has a research profile across the entire spectrum of contemporary computing. The Associate Professor will be expected to engage in independent and original research in the field of Algorithms and Complexity Theory, to secure funding and engage in the management of research projects and disseminate research of the highest international standard through publications, conferences and seminars. They will also will contribute to teaching on the Department’s highly successful undergraduate and graduate programmes. Oxford has a strong tradition in Algorithms and Complexity Theory, with multiple active faculty members in the Computer Science, Information Engineering, and Statistics departments.

The Associate Professor will be a member of both the University and the college community. They will be part of a lively and intellectually stimulating research community with access to the excellent research facilities which Oxford offers. They will have a role to play in the running of the College as a member of the Governing Body and a trustee of the College as a charity.

The successful candidate will hold a doctorate in Computer Science, or a related subject, will have the ability to teach across a range of Computer Science subjects, and will also have a proven research record of high quality at international level in the area of Algorithms and Complexity Theory, and experience of research collaborations at both national and international level.

The closing date for applications is 12.00 noon on 5 January 2018. Interviews will be held on 13 February 2018 – please allow a full day for these.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WINE 2017 : Conference on Web and Internet Economics

A reminder about the 13th WINE conference:

Link to conference web site
Link to Call for Papers (deadline is 2nd August 2017)

Over the past decade, research in theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence, and microeconomics has joined forces to tackle problems involving incentives and computation. These problems are of particular importance in application areas like the Web and the Internet that involve large and diverse populations. The Conference on Web and Internet Economics (WINE) is an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of ideas and results on incentives and computation arising from these various fields. WINE 2017 builds on the success of the Conference on Web and Internet Economics (named Workshop on Internet & Network Economics until 2013), which was held annually from 2005 to 2016.

The program will feature invited talks, tutorials, paper presentations, and a poster session. All paper submissions will be peer-reviewed and evaluated on the basis of the quality of their contribution, originality, soundness, and significance. Industrial applications and position papers presenting novel ideas, issues, challenges and directions are also welcome. Submissions are invited in, but not limited to, the following topics:

Algorithmic Game Theory
Algorithmic Mechanism Design
Auction Algorithms and Analysis
Computational Advertising
Computational Aspects of Equilibria
Computational Social Choice
Convergence and Learning in Games
Coalitions, Coordination and Collective Action
Economic Aspects of Security and Privacy
Economic Aspects of Distributed Computing
Network Games
Price Differentiation and Price Dynamics
Social Networks

More details are at the conference web site.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

new idea for TEF

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) attempts to measure teaching quality by looking at a collection of metrics obtained from universities, and universities recently received (provisional) gold/silver/bronze ratings. Metrics include NSS scores, dropout rates, and employment destinations. An article in the Times Higher on “what makes a gold university”, notes that TEF scores correlate poorly with REF scores but well with NSS scores. An article in the Guardian noted “critics argue that none of the indicators directly measure teaching quality”. Here, I suggest as a new metric, the salaries of people doing the teaching.

I thought of this metric from reading the Guardian article, which quotes Universities minister Jo Johnson as saying that TEF is supposed to give teaching the same status as research. Salary is a good measure of status. As a measure of quality, the general principle (of judging the value of something in terms of what you put in rather than what you get out) is widespread elsewhere: institutions measure research in terms of research funding received, and similarly, buildings, other infrastructure projects, and company bosses are commonly described in terms of their cost (treating cost as a proxy for value, or quality).

Specifically, I recommend using the median salary of members of staff involved with teaching. (Note, I suggest the median, not the mean.) Concerning what it should mean to be involved with teaching, there are various options, since the median is fairly robust to tampering with the data. One option is to just let every member of staff assess the extent of his/her own level of teaching as a fraction of their work.

Overall, the effect of this metric would be to encourage universities to save money on central administration and other expenses. Talking of which, this Guardian article on the high profit margins in academic publishing is well worth reading. It does a good job of explaining the historic background to the problem, and the bad incentives that cause so much to be spent on academic journals.