Friday, April 14, 2017

Public service announcement for LICS (workshop) participants

This is a public service announcement. If you plan to attend a LICS 2017 workshop and/or the main conference, and you have not booked your flight and accommodation yet, I strongly suggest that you do so ASAP. Iceland is a very hot holiday destination these days and it becomes fully booked soon, especially during the summer months. We already have about 160 registered participants for the conference and accommodation is disappearing at a rate of knots.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Ten PhD positions in CS at the Gran Sasso Science Institute

The Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI -, a recently established international PhD school and a Centre for advanced studies in L'Aquila (ITALY), offers 10 PhD positions in Computer Science (CS).

The PhD program in CS is mainly concerned with heterogeneous distributed systems and their interactions. Different perspectives are offered to provide students with the necessary tools for the design, the implementation, the management and the use of distributed systems. The main research areas of interest are:
- Efficient algorithms for communication networks and social networks;
- Formal methods for systems correctness and analysis;
- Software engineering for efficient and resilient applications.

Apart from pursuing their own research studies, the successful candidates will have the opportunity to cooperate with members of the research group and of the Scientific Board, as well as with the frequent guests of the Institute. Detailed information about the CS research group and about the activities for the PhD program in CS can be found at

The fellowships are awarded for three years and their yearly amount is € 16.159,91 gross. Moreover all PhD students:
- will have free accommodation at the GSSI facilities and luncheon vouchers;
- will have tuition fees waived;
- will be covered by insurance against accident and/or injury.

The application must be submitted through the online form available at and must be accompanied by the curriculum vitae of the applicant, and by a letter of motivation describing expertise and general research interests together with future plans and reasons for having chosen GSSI for PhD studies.

The deadline for application is: 31st May 2017 at 18.00 (Italian time).

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

18 postdoctoral positions at the Gran Sasso Science Institute

The Gran Sasso Science Institute offers 18 postdoctoral positions for research activity in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Social Sciences.
Applicants must hold a PhD degree or an equivalent qualification. 

The research grants are awarded for two years and their yearly amount is € 36.000,00 gross. 

The application must be submitted through the online form available at by May 15, 2017 at 6 p.m. (Italian time zone).

For more information, please consult the Call for Applications at or write an email to

A description of research in computer science at GSSI is available here

Feel free to share this announcement as you see fit.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The faculty is the university: The case of IMT Lucca

The physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi famously told President Eisenhower that "the faculty is the university." This is a quote I like to use when discussing with university administrators and I was reminded of it these days while reading opinions aired by several Italian academics on IMT Lucca, an Italian centre of advanced study and an international PhD school.

IMHO, a recent case of possible plagiarism involving an IMT graduate hasn't been handled well at all by the top management of that institution. However, to my mind, this event should not be used to debase the excellent work that our colleagues have done and are doing at that institute, which attracts to Italy and trains a good number of high-quality PhD students from abroad, and conducts cutting-edge research in its areas of interest. In fact, I do believe that schools of advanced study such as IMT can play an important role in the academic environment in Italy by attracting talent from abroad and nurturing Italian young researchers within an international research environment. IMHO, the variety those schools add to higher education in my native country is beneficial.

I would definitely encourage my (former) students to take up a PhD or a postdoctoral position within the SysMA group, to work with Rocco De Nicola, Mirco Tribastone and the young researchers in that group, five of whom are from outside Italy. I would also point people interested in control and dynamical systems to the DYSCO group, led by Alberto Bemporad.

These are just two examples from areas that are close to my own research interests. However, the quality of the faculty and of the postdocs and students at IMT is consistently high. I have had the pleasure of giving lectures on basic research skills to IMT students of a varied background, including students in cultural heritage, and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with them.

Summing up, my message to the colleagues who are currently forming an opinion on IMT Lucca based on the actions of its management is simple: "The faculty is the university." Look carefully at the (IMHO, excellent) work done by our colleagues working at that institute and form an opinion based on it, not on mediatic noise.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Accepted papers at LICS 2017

The list of accepted papers for LICS 2017 is now available at Thanks to Joel Ouaknine and his PC for their work in selecting such a mouth-watering list of papers!

If you have not done so already, go ahead and register for the conference now. We strongly encourage prospective participants to register, and to make their travel and accommodation plans ASAP. Iceland gets literally fully booked early during the summer months.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Opinions on the ERC after ten years

I am collecting some opinions about the European Research Council (ERC) from researchers who have received funding from it, and from some who have not.

What is your overall opinion on the ERC? Do you think that it is good for European research?

My interest in this matter started because the ERC is ten (and so it might be a good time to draw a preliminary assessment of its impact on the European research environment) and was piqued by the opinions aired by the Italian physicist Sylos Labini who claimed that the ERC has become the main problem in European research funding. He says that there are three main problems with the ERC.
  1. The first is that it uses "research excellence" to mask political choices.
  2. The second is that rewarding today's excellence does nothing to support the excellence of tomorrow. Moreover, one does not reward excellent research by giving money to the top 5% of those who apply. 
  3. The third is that the ERC gives a bad example to national funding agencies in Europe, who also reward excellence. 
See also, where Sylos Labini makes a cameo appearance in this paragraph:

But some chafe at the singular focus on excellence. Countries in southern Europe have cut their research budgets during the economic crisis, and now ERC is further weakening these countries by essentially redistributing their EU contributions to the research powerhouses in the north, says Francesco Sylos Labini, a physicist at the Enrico Fermi Center in Rome. And it’s not just the money: “The few Italian researchers that get an ERC grant go to Germany or another country to do their research,” he says.

I do not a long piece of text. Just a few lines would do. I'd be grateful if you could contribute to this discussion by posting your comments.

You might also wish to read Helga Nowotny's short piece entitled ERC---the next ten years.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rogers Hollingsworth on Major Discoveries of the American System of Science

Recently, I have been reading a fairly long study by historian Rogers Hollingsworth on what makes research organizations produce major discoveries. This talk he gave at the NSF summarizes some of the findings in that article. From around minute 50 in the presentation, the speaker presents some thoughtful closing comments on the current state of funding for basic science and on the effects that the involvement of politicians in making decisions on how to allocate that funding, and in monitoring and auditing the work of scientists, can have on science. For the little that it is worth, I found those thoughts worth mulling over.