ITA Workshop : general comments

The ITA Workshop was last week at UCSD, and as opposed to last year I decided to go down and attend. I had a good time, but it was a bit weird to be at a conference without presenting anything. It was worth it to get a snapshot of some of the things going on in information theory, and I got a few new ideas for problems that I should work on instead of blogging. But I find the exercise of blogging about the conference useful, and at least a few people have said some positive things about it. This time around I’m going to separate posts out by subject area, loosely. My attention and drive to attend talks decreased exponentially as the week progressed, more due to fatigue than anything else, so these posts may be short (a blessing for my friends who don’t care about information theory!) and more impressionistic at times.

One general gripe I had was that sessions were very de-synced from each other. Most session chairs were unable or unwilling to curtail speakers who went over, to the point where one session I attended finished after the break between sessions. I ended up missing a few talks I wanted to see because of this. I regard it as more of a failing on the part of the speaker — an experienced researcher with many conference talks under their belt should be know how to make a coherent 20 minute talk and not plan to run over. Dry runs can only tell you so much about timing, but one should be considerate towards the other speakers in the session and at the conference, no? I know this makes me sound a bit like a school-marm, but it bothers me to leave a talk before the theorem is presented so that I can make it to another talk.

I’ll write separately about the panel on publication issues, which raised some interesting points while dodging others. There was also a presentation by Dr. Sirin Tekinay, who is in charge of the NSF area under which information theory sits. I am woefully ignorant of the grant-writing process right now so I wasn’t sure how to take her comments, but it looks like a lot of emphasis is going to be on networks and cross-discipline work, as is the trend. Unfortunately, not all research can be said to have applications to networks, so that seems a bit unfortunate…


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