Thursday, April 27, 2006

Conference Recap

I just got back from "across the pond" for a conference. The conference itself was amazing. There were a very small number of participants making networking a little easier. In particular, I really connected with a corporate guy (from a company I previously worked for) who seemed interested in my research and may offer an opportunity for good collaboration.

While at the conference, I actually wrote a blog post in my note book during a talk that I wasn't terribly interested in. I would have posted it directly, but I had no internet, which was quite frustrating as I would have liked to be able to talk to a few people back home during the week but anyway, that besides the point.

After my session in which I gave my presentation, one of the other presenters in the section came up and asked me why I created a formal model of my system. My immediate, and somewhat snide, response was to say "Because my advisor told me too." The conference chair happened to be standing there and looked at me frowning and said "Well, that's a very bad answer." Realizing he had a point, I took a moment a really thought about it.

Why, in Computer Science, do we define formal mathematical models for systems, beyond of course, making the system "publishable"? Why do our advisors insist on this practice?

  1. It makes it easier to repeat your work. This is a fundamental feature of scholarly works in other sciences, but isn't always prominent in computer science.
  2. You can now prove things about your system. This is great fun! Try it sometime
  3. Now comparisons between other systems can be mathematically proven. This is related to the previous point, but focuses on the other system. Most common, you prove equivalences.

I think its because of those 3 reasons (and probably many others) that our papers become more publishable when they have formal models. The formal models increase the academic value of the work. That must be why our advisors keep telling us to make them...

And one last recap of the conference. I hate it when a student gives a presentation and their advisor answers all the questions from the floor instead of letting their student shine. This happened at the conference. I hope it wasn't because this particular student of his was female...


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