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Conference makes room for dialogue and contemplation

Lecture in the morning, dialogue in the afternoon, and pizza and beer in the evening. This is what’s on the agenda for around 40 participants who participate in CTIC’s workshop on ‘Algebraic complexity theory’ in Aarhus this week.

Participants at the WACT workshop in Aarhus this week

Although the topic of CTIC’s workshop on algebraic complexity theory targets only a limited audience, the way the event is organised may be of inspiration to others. The morning sessions are earmarked for distinguished lectures, as we know them, whereas the afternoon sessions focus on discussions and dialogue among the participants in smaller groups. A concept that Center Leader of CTIC, Peter Bro Miltersen, is looking forward to testing.

- Mathematics is really about standing together at the blackboard to solve a number of challenges. The participants will be given time to do that here, he explains.

Successful concept

On previous occasions, the computer scientists have successfully organised events in this way, which meets the true purpose of a workshop: To make room for dialogue – preferably in smaller groups. The participants will be presented with academic subjects and problems in the morning, and in the afternoon they get together to discuss and work on them.

The inspiration behind this workshop concept comes from Postdoc, Dominik Scheder, who has positive experience of the method from his PhD studies in Switzerland and has tested it at another workshop at Computer Science last summer.  

- People have to know what they sign up for. We divided the participants into groups in advance, and the invited speakers delivered a subject that they were to discuss in smaller groups. It is easier if you have a broad topic and that’s why it has been a challenge to use the same method for this specialized topic, he explains.

The specialized topic of this workshop has made it difficult to use the exact same method but the afternoons are earmarked for dialogue in smaller groups.

Specialised topic

And people seem quite satisfied that CTIC has chosen to organize a workshop on such a specialized and fundamental scientific topic; instead of concentrating on somewhat more popular current topics in the theory of computation like game theory.

- I’m quite happy to take part in a workshop with such a specialized topic as algebraic complexity theory. It is challenging and hard work, and not easy to get into, assistant professor Iddo Tzameret from Tsinghua University at Beijing states.

He likes the form but questions if it would have worked with the strict rules of dialogue. Still he enjoys the atmosphere.

A relaxed atmosphere has high priority. Peter Bro Miltersen speaks warmly of the evening events where the discussions can continue in a more relaxed setting around pizza and beer.

- It is typical of Aarhus that we give high priority to having a relaxed atmosphere where we have time to discuss the topics that we are so dedicated to, Peter Bro Miltersen says.