Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Algorithms in the Field: The PI Meeting

Algorithms in the Field is a program of Algorithms + Other CS researchers working jointly "in the field" of problems. Here is a history of development of this program. Recently I attended the PI meeting for this NSF program:
  • Nearly all the talks were interesting, genuinely targeting the middle ground. They didnt go into the rabbit holes of describing the minute technical improvements in approximation ratios or the 6 different data sets they had to cull to compare 4 different algorithms. Each speaker made an effort to cover the field area (special hardware like memristors, SDNs, wireless receivers etc) and also provide an overview of the algorithmic challenges. This was refreshing. 
  • There were some very interesting examples of the joint research: Ashish Goel spoke about societal decision making and examples such as budget decisions, viewed as collaborative convex programs; Piotr Indyk, ever-wise with his choices, spoke about the wireless transmitter/receiver setting for most part of his talk, really communicating the nature of the "field" before quickly connecting it to sparse Fourier estimation problems; Vyas Sekar spoke about formulating SDN routing policies using path constraints and posed some open problems, which Bobby Kleinberg who went just after, proceeded to solve at least partially, with his work. This shows (a) Algorithms in the Field research can happen in real time and (b) Dont speak before Bobby and pose open problems. 
ps: Sucheta Soundarajan and Martin Farach-Colton organized the meeting and did an excellent call to include graduate students/postdocs in the invite, graduate students/postdocs being the glue between professors and conduits for communication. 

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