What makes vibrant and innovative research? Patrick Prosser ACRG & APES and Friends (ACRG, APES, NASA, LIRMM, IBM, CSIRO)
What IS vibrant and …? I couldnt ask that, however … –What MAKES …? innovative –can we have research that is not …? I can give you an answer, but... –I asked my friends
What I would like to know is what you consider the ingredients that allow you to be productive, and also some of the things that most definitely get in the way of your progress? I asked friends, people I work with, that I know, and know the quality of their work
Ian Gent APES St. Andrews, Strathclyde, Edinburgh (DAI), Warwick, Cambridge … our series of footnotes … (stolen from Alan Bundy) I would emphasise enjoying yourself. … create an atmosphere where you enjoy doing research … I try to do only research Im going to enjoy doing. … it is a very personal thing for me. It is such a great joy to do a job you actually enjoy, and pretty much the only reason to do an academic job. Did you count how often Ian used enjoy?
Ken Brown Constraints Group, Aberdeen Aberdeen, CMU, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow … you have to enjoy doing research. … environment … where people are encouraged to talk about their research and share their enthusiasm … presenting their research or chatting about it informally Procedures need to be geared to make this happen. –… invited speakers, informal seminars, discussion sessions, coffee breaks, meeting rooms … … physical layouts in which researchers are intermingled with teaching staff.
Ken Brown Constraints Group, Aberdeen Hindrance to progress –increasing admin and teaching load –short term targets employ more people to help do admin & teaching Be exposed to people with different backgrounds, problems, solutions, etc Be encouraged to think wild thoughts without having them dismissed I still remember being surprised a number of years ago when a colleague called a meeting of the (already productive) research group and demanded we all came up with new problem areas so that we could break out of what we were doing
EPSRC Advanced Fellowship (YORK), Strathclyde, Edinburgh (DAI), Marie-Curie Post Doc Fellow (Trento & Nancy), Cambridge EPSRC and others are starting to realize you invest in people. Given them space, get a critical mass … and wait for the results to come pouring in. I definitely learnt a lot from Alan Bundy. … footnotes … It is important to build trust and social relationships. Research retreats are a good idea. … informal weekly meetings … expose results at an early stage … to a supportive (but critical) audience … Toby Walsh APES, DREAM, AIG
… travel! –and that is why he is the apes ambassador Going to conferences exposes you to new ideas, gives a good feel for direction of research, make new contacts … Taking a sabatical, visiting a colleague in a foreign country You are taken outside of your regular environment (and many distractions) so can focus on new topics, … –toby Toby Walsh APES, DREAM, AIG
David Manlove ACRG Glasgow & Oxford What is vibrant research … benefit the community … driven by a real-world application … help us to gain a better understanding of some other problem … … because we find it interesting … The knowledge we have gained is an investment … What facilitates ? Yourself. … only you might hold the key … The team about you. How well you can work together, exchange ideas and communicate with each other. To be able to devote enough time to research. … the ability to know when to move on to another problem …
David Manlove ACRG What facilitates? Ability to present material to others research facilities on tap … equipment, library, finances to travel to conferences and to other institutions, secretarial and technical support support from colleagues … vital for morale and confidence
Jeremy Frank NASA … there are 2 important things about NASA … a wide range of problems that people work on … range of problem solving techniques In the same day I can hear people talking about very theoretical problems, very practical problems, and most everything in between. … you can both find a place for yourself and never fall into a rut I can get several different angles on the same problem NASA has fantastic people working here … people are very happy to talk to you about their work, help you with your problems, and trade experiences … people are happy to be working at NASA There is really nothing like choosing to work among a bunch of motivated happy people like that
Jeremy Frank NASA There is an additional aspect to working at NASA which is very important, but a bit more controversial, and that is the applications. Unarguably, the technology we work on at NASA has some very cool end-uses. One person who came here from Xerox PARC said that while he tried to get excited about copy machines as immobile robots, it was hard to do so. … diagnosing failures in a subway switching system and a deep space probe may be similar … there is something very powerful about knowing that you are working on something really cool … appreciating the end application is also a big part of my motivation …
Barbara Smith Leeds … be able to talk to people who have a different point of view on similar problems … e.g. for constraint programers its good to talk to OR people. … a different perspective can spark off new ideas … … having a range of real applications to work on is valuable. it gives you a handle on what is important and what might not be it motivates you because youre doing something useful it stretches you because you have to tackle things that you wouldnt choose to do otherwise because they are too difficult
Patrick Prosser Glasgow Strathclyde, Alcan Plate, Britoil/BNOC, NEL, ILOG,BT,Burroughs Im not very good at doing research on my own. –working with new people in new areas stimulates my research –conference travel helps me meet people I work with To work well with them I have to feel at ease with them –… to do research you expose your ignorance, and it is easier to do that with people you trust Research is like play –I prefer to play with my friends I do not feel that I need an application to drive my research –it is fun and a pleasure, the same as building and flying a kite –I dont need a reason to fly a kite So why did you work for BT, Britoil, Burroughs, Alcan, ILOG, Pirelli, Sintef, TollPoste Globe?
Patrick Prosser Glasgow StrathAPES has been the best environment yet footnotes have encouraged us to communicate openly weekly meetings (with doughnuts, cakes, home baking) we reached critical mass early on and have kept it we have an ambassador the group is dynamic (it grows and shrinks and grows and …) physical layout of the lab we enjoy each others company
Christian Bessiere LIRMM (once) The fastest man in France … as said by Toby: travel, travel, and travel again go to conferences, take your dinners and drink beers with other people all my collaborations started in a conference banquet or coffee break … working in a pleasant group with at least 4 or 5 people having a place to exchange informal ideas is something French people have difficulty to do … because they are too proud of themselves and miss this Scottish humour that would permit them to have fun when speaking of research. … the importance of helping young researchers to feel quickly members of the community they have plenty of original things to bring to us
Evgeny Selensky Glasgow New member of acrg & apes, from Moscow The ability to share experiences … and ask questions in a friendly setting To produce results I think I have to have time to swing the pendulum to the maximum amplitude gathering knowledge. I like to study all the surrounding issues relevant to a topic This is just a beginning of my scientific career. I think having my family here is a necessary thing for emotional support.
Andrew Davenport John Watson Labs, IBM I think it is important to work with people who have different skills … I am working with experts in integer programming, operations research and economics. … do cross-disciplinary research, or work in a cross-disciplinary environment. … bring a wide range of skills to bear on a particular problem … and access to research problems in other fields than your own. … it is important to situate my work in the real world. The real world has a complexity which gives rise to interesting research questions. … Nobody would ever dream of inventing such problems. … I learn a great deal from solving them. … usually complex and pathological enough that one has to be creative … new techniques
Andrew Davenport John Watson Labs, IBM I have often seen theoreticians propose new and interesting approaches to solve problems, which they never implement or test. People … are unlikely to use these ideas … unlikely that researchers will implement … little glory in confirming … someone elses idea … … much great research, or art, comes out of people living in adverse conditions e.g. totalitarian regimes, wars, New York city. People in such conditions either need to innovate to survive, or innovate to escape from the horror of their daily lives. … Hope all is going well in Glasgow.
Phil Kilby CSIRO (Oz) Appropriate pressure. It is good to have time, but too much time can be a problem too - one just keeps digging deeper and deeper without tieing anything up. … an external deadline … is good Good problems … I find this spurs on good work. Sport. An environment that allows time for me to get out 2 or three times a week and have a run around (without feeling like Im cheating the company of precious time) really keeps me in a positive frame of mind, and keeps me keen.
Summary (of what they thought important) procedures such as footnotes and arranged meetings but these are informal, and can be encouraged by procedure Physical layout, intermingling of staff & researchers Variety of people with different ideas and backgrounds Know when to quit and move on Appropriate pressure Leadership? Toby mentioned learning from Alan Bundy Trust, social relationships Travel, to sense direction, broaden horizon, meet people Applications, complex, the cooler the better, wide range Support from colleagues People, invest in people enjoyment, fun, chill out without guilt
INFORMAL procedures such as footnotes and arranged meetings Physical layout, intermingle staff & researchers People with varied backgrounds, different ideas, skills, … Know when to quit … and move on Appropriate pressure Leadership? (Toby learning from Alan Bundy) Social relationships, trust Applications: complex, cool (no mention of size Malcolm) Travel: to sense direction, broaden horizons, meet people Support: from colleagues, technical, admin, … People: invest in them enjoyment, fun, chill out without guilt Summary (but no conclusion!)