Milner Symposium 2012

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Informatics


The purpose of this research grant is to support a unique event where leading computer scientists from around the world come together at a memorial symposium held in Edinburgh in honour of one of the world's leading computer scientists, Robin Milner, who died in 2010. The speakers at the symposium have strong connections to Robin Milner's work and his legacy. They cross a broad spectrum of specialisms across artificial intelligence and computer science from automatic theorem proving to programming language design to the theory of concurrent and communicating systems to modelling and understanding complex pervasive and ubiquitous systems.

Many of the speakers are themselves very distinguished and highly regarded researchers in their own right but they are united in having been inspired and influenced by Robin Milner's ideas, his methods, and his work. Because it is highly unusual to have such a distinguished programme of speakers, the symposium provides a unique opportunity for students, early career researchers, or more senior researchers to learn from, and benefit from, pioneering work of huge significance and impact.

In addition to speakers from research labs and universities, the symposium will also feature industrial participants who have followed a path which has been shaped by Robin Milner's lifelong belief that work in theoretical computer science should provide strong foundations for computing practice, software engineering, and applied practical work in the design, development and maintenance of computer and communication systems. The industrial speakers at the Milner symposium are leading examples of how theory can be applied in practice and bring unexpected and surprising benefits.

Events such as these are a melting pot for ideas and they both inform and inspire. Progress in science is made at events such as these where participants come together and discuss and exchange ideas. Collaborations between previously unrelated researchers can be started at events such as these, leading to new research projects, new discoveries and new breakthroughs. Different from a conventional conference, where the participants are members of one community and are focused on a particular approach to a particular problem, the Milner symposium crosses many boundaries between communities, as Robin Milner's work did. In such a setting, serendipitous meetings can take place leading to fresh ideas and remarkable insights.

Planned Impact

The Milner Symposium has the potential to deliver both economic and societal benefits. Through its programme of presentations the Milner symposium is raising awareness of state-of-the-art techniques in program verification and design of concurrent and distributed systems, and bringing this to the attention of both academic and industrial participates.

Well-founded software development methods and high-quality software are vital to the British economy, especially in the difficult areas of concurrent and distributed systems. A recent analysis conducted by the British Computer Society suggests that the contribution of "own account software" (software developed in-house) to the UK economy in 2014 will be £18bn (1.5% of expected GDP). The Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK reports that the value added to the EU economy directly from IT products and services is around £480bn each year. Robin Milner's ideas on programming languages, program correctness and concurrent systems are some of the best thinking about these topics and need to be promoted, understood and celebrated.

In addition to hoped-for benefits to the economy, the Milner Symposium will bring direct economic benefits to the city of Edinburgh through increased hotel and accommodation bookings and other expenditure from delegates attending the symposium. The previous festschrift for Robin Milner on the occasion of his 60th birthday attracted delegates from across Europe, the USA, Japan and further afield. We believe that the memorial symposium for Robin will have similar broad appeal.


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Description This grant was to help fund the three-day 2012 Milner Symposium, an event to celebrate Robin Milner's impact of Robin Milner's ideas, and how they might influence future research. The three main themes were: proof assistants for program correctness, functional programming languages, and concurrency. The speakers had 40 minutes (rather than the usual conference 25 minute allowance) to discuss their work, other relevant work, and future perspectives. In addition there were two panels, one entitled "the future of functional programming languages" (and funded by BCS), the other entitled "The future of concurrency: which solutions to which problems." Both panels involved world-leading figures in their areas. Both presentations and panels included generous time for audience participation. Contributors included both academics and industrialists.

In order to maximise attendance the meeting registration fee was kept low, partly with the aid of generous University support. Special provision was made for PhD students, including a yet lower registration fee. Students are the future, and we wanted to ensure they could benefit from Milner's ideas and their development; this included SICSA funding for Scottish students.
Exploitation Route Not applicable - grant funded an event.
Sectors Other

Description This was a symposium, so impact was immediate on the many participants. Videos of the talks were made available online, and remain there.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Societal