Friday, July 12, 2013

ICALP 2013 (Part 1)

ICALP 2013 has just finished. It has been an action packed conference and there has been next to no breathing space. I think that the conference was a great success and the organizers deserve our most heartfelt thanks for all their work.

In case you do not know, the conference has being held in Riga at the University of Latvia. This has been the first time that ICALP has been organized in a country of the former Soviet Union and this was the 40th edition of the ICALP conference. First of all, kudos to the local organizers, who did their very best to make the conference a festive occasion and a very pleasant experience for all the attendees. The city of Riga is very pretty and all ICALP participants had a very warm welcome. The University of Latvia was also enrolling a new batch of students during ICALP and this meant that there was a continuous flow of young and happy-looking people on the university premises. This made the main hall of the university a very lively place to be. We were also blessed with sunny and warm weather, which also helped (especially coming from rainy Iceland).

According to the data presented by Agnis Škuškovniks, on behalf of the organizing committee, to the EATCS council and to the EATCS general assembly, there were 193 registered participants in ICALP 2013, of which 67 are students. Including the local participants, the six invited speakers and the two recipients of the honorary doctorates awarded on Tuesday (Josef Gruska and Juris Hartmanis), 217 people attended ICALP 2013. The pre-conference workshops were attended by 102 participants, which is a very healthy number.

The honorary doctorates were an excellent addition to the standard session devoted to the EATCS Awards. Gruska and Hartmanis delivered lucid and inspirational presentations. It was truly awesome to see Juris Hartmanis deliver an off-the-cuff speech on how he left Latvia and ended up at Cornell as chair of the newly-funded CS department. At 85, he is very articulate and sharp. I had the pleasure of discussing several subjects with him during a very pleasant dinner arranged by the organizers. He is still a truly inspirational figure.

Here are some quick EATCS- and ICALP-related news.
  • ICALP 2014 will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, immediately after SWAT 2013. It will be a four-day ICALP and the general chair for the conference is Thore Husfeldt.
  • ICALP 2015 will be held in Kyoto, Japan, and will be co-located with LICS 2015. Kazuo Iwama is the ICALP 2015 general chair. This will be the first ever ICALP outside Europe. 
  • The EATCS will soon announce and EATCS Fellows programme. The first deadline for nominations will be at the end of this year and we plan to make the first announcement of fellows at ICALP 2014 in Copenhagen.
  • The EATCS will begin a new EATCS Young Researcher School Series from 2014. The first school in the series will be organized by Tony Kucera in a beautiful location in Moravia in late July/early August. The theme of the school will be "Automata, Logic and Games". 
  • Orna Kupferman gave a thought-provoking talk on "The Gender Challenge in TCS" at the EATCS General Assembly. It really got the audience thinking about this important matter.
In case you are interested in having a look, the slides I used for the EATCS general assembly, where the above decisions where made or communicated, are here

In a subsequent post, which I will write when I get home, I will try to discuss some of the many scientific highlights at ICALP 2013.  

To conclude, at the conference I heard that Paul Spirakis is moving to the University of Liverpool. Good luck to Paul!


Chandra said...

The attendance seems low, especially if one considers the number of papers in the conference.

Luca Aceto said...


The attendance was roughly on a par with the one in Warwick last year, and comparable to that in the last few years. The notable exception was ICALP 2008 in Reykjavik, which broke all records (as far as I know).

It would be great to have a larger number of participants, but travel money is very limited these days. I hope that ICALP 2014 in Copenhagen will compete with ICALP 2008 in terms of number of participants.

Anonymous said...

This was my first conference in Europe and i must say the organization was exceptional, compared with STOC/FOCS/SODA. Even though the attendance is low, the number of people attending talks is quite high. Two mysteries for me are: the number of students is rather low, i would have expected a 1-1 ratio between full registrations and students, and the complete absence of computational geometry. There are a lot of computational geometers in Europe but no one seems to submit or go to ICALP (looking at previous couple of years also confirms this).

Luca Aceto said...

I am happy to hear that you found the event well organized. I passed on your appreciative remark to the organizers.

Regarding the mysteries, I would really like to see more students at ICALP. I will do my best to achieve a 1-1 ratio, but this might require some more travel support for students. I will do my best.

You raise an interesting issue regarding computational geometry. I think that these days computational geometers send their work to SoCG and ESA. However, it would be good to see some papers from that field presented at ICALP Track A. The PC for Track A did include at least one computational geometer, but I do not know whether there were any submissions related to computational geometry. I will ask the PC chair for track A.

Luca Aceto said...

Regarding CG, Fedor Fomin (the PC chair for Track A) told me that there were 19 CG papers submitted to ICALP Track A, of which four were selected for the conference programme. While around 20% is below the average ICALP acceptance rate, the sample is not big enough to draw any conclusions.

Perhaps ICALP is not one of the most important conferences for the CG community, resulting in a relatively small number of submissions. Even though ICALP is a broad-spectrum TCS conference, IMO, it would be great to see more submissions to ICALP in CG.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the followup. Indeed there was a session on geometry, somehow I missed it when looking at the program before. 4 is actually a very healthy number given how many a typical STOC/FOCS would have. I am quite impressed by the scope of ICALP, all areas in algorithm that I can think of seem to be represented.

Anonymous said...

FYI: From what I can see from EATCS Bulletin, ICALP 2009-2012 all have around 280-300 participants, including workshop participants. Warwick had 276+locals (so total about 300), Zurich 290, Bordeaux 283, Rhodes 291.

Unfortunately, since Manfred Kudlek passed away, it will be more difficult to collect this information in the future.

Luca Aceto said...

Thanks for the information. It seems to me that 217 ICALP participants plus the 102 workshop attendees is in line with previous years, albeit perhaps slightly lower than at the ICALP conferences after the 2008 edition in Reykjavik. I do not know how many of the workshop participants also attended the main conference. I will ask the organizers.

Indeed, Manfred's loss is huge for ICALP and the EATCS. He was our historian and institutional memory. All that wealth of information has now been lost.

I will write the report on ICALP 2013 for the October issue of the BEATCS. This is also the reason why I am trying to pen down some of my recollections in this series of blog posts before they disappear from my memory.