Workshop: Random Dynamics and Other Recent Developments

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Mathematics and Statistics


This is an application for partial funding for a 5-day research workshop in probability entitled Random Dynamics and Other Recent Developments, to be held at the University of Sheffield in April 2018. The meeting will benefit UK mathematics by stimulating interactions between UK and international experts on the latest developments and future research directions within probability. Particular emphases is placed on the participation of female academics and early career researchers.

The UK is recognized globally as a leading center for research in probability, but there is a constant need to keep abreast of international developments. Our workshop focuses on the inter-related themes of random geometry, random reinforced processes and stochastic dynamical systems. All three of these areas have seen intense recent activity within the international probability community, both for their theoretical significance and for their importance in applications such as data science, social networks and machine learning.

The workshop is centered around three mini-courses, given by internationally distinguished researchers, corresponding to the three themes mentioned above. The mini-courses will be complemented by invited individual talks from leading researchers, alongside opportunities for PhD students and early career researchers to give contributed talks or present at a poster session. Additionally, the proposed schedule of the workshop contains time set aside on each day for break-out sessions and discussion groups, to facilitate exploration of new research directions and to support the formation of new collaborations.

Planned Impact

The impacts of a workshop such as this are numerous and diverse, extending beyond the control and time-frame of the workshop itself. A major impact of this workshop will be to strengthen the UK probability community across the spectrum from theoretical to applied probability. Probability is one of the fundamental methodologies underlying statistics and data science. As well as providing the language and roots of these disciplines, recent and direct examples of impact, directly connected to the themes of this workshop, include the statistical modelling of social networks and the use of reinforced learning algorithms in data science. Maintaining a strong research community across the spectrum of probability and its applications is thus a crucial component of the UKs ability to innovate and lead within the data-driven global economy.

Our three mini-courses focus on areas of current importance, and participants of the workshop will benefit directly from opportunities to form new connections and build collaborations on these hot topics. The mini-course themes have been chosen for their inter-disciplinary character, as well as for intrinsic theoretical significance; they find impact through a diverse range of applications across statistics, social science, population genetics, physics, and computer science. These areas, and related industries, benefit from probability research through the ability to better model, understand, and manipulate the environments they work within.

We place particular emphasis on the development of PhD students and early career researchers; we see this group of people as having great potential to produce impactful research in the future. Whilst we do not presume to direct influence over the ways in which the future impacts of our workshop will be realized, we have designed the workshop with impact in mind.


10 25 50
Description The meeting was based around three mini-courses given, as planned, by Christina Goldschmidt (Around the Brownian continuum random tree), Robin Pemantle (Stochastic perturbations of dynamical systems and other topics) and Pierre Tarrès (Self-interacting random walks and statistical physics). There were 14 talks given by additional invited speakers, 9 of whom were among those proposed in our original application. In addition there were 6 contributed talks given by early career researchers and PhD students, and there was a poster session where 6 more PhD students presented their work. The talks from the invited speakers were generally related to the topics of the mini-courses, while the contributed talks and posters ranged more widely.

59 people attended the conference, close to our estimate of 60, of whom 42 were UK participants and 24 were research students.

After the meeting, we requested feedback via a web form; we had 20 responses, of whom 11 said they spent time working with collaborators and 12 said that some of their activities during the meeting could potentially lead to a new collaboration or research project. The free text comments were positive about the meeting, especially the mini-courses; examples included
"Very nice facilities, superb planning and amazingly no technical problems. Was a really nice experience over all."
"Very enjoyable conference with excellent choice of speakers. Timetable was well thought out, combining plenty of high quality talks with time in between to spend in discussions."
"It was a nice meeting. Everything well organised. The topics and talks were interesting."
"Thank you for organizing the UK Easter Probability Meeting! I especially liked the mini-courses.
"I found this to be a very well-organised meeting with diverse topics and excellent speakers. Thanks!"
"I thought this was a very well organised meeting with excellent speakers."

Overall, we feel the conference went pretty much as planned. The talks went well, including the mini-courses, and the meeting attracted a good number of participants from the UK probability community, especially early career researchers and PhD students. Giving early career researchers an opportunity to present their research via contributed talks and posters went well; the quality of the contributed talks was high and the poster session attracted a lot of interest.
Exploitation Route The workshop brought together the UK research community in probability, especially early career researchers, and, through the mini-courses, introduced the community to a number of currently very active areas in the field with both theoretical and practical applications as described in the Pathways to Impact statement. As such we expect the impacts of the workshop to be long term and to involve impactful research in probability, in particular that being carried out by people who are currently early career researchers who attended the workshop.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)