The 40th Stochastic Processes and their Applications Conference, SPA-2018, took place June 11–15, 2018, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Sergei Zuyev, the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee of SPA-2018, reports:
Conferences on stochastic processes and their applications are organised under patronage of the Bernoulli Society and IMS; they can justifiably be regarded as the most important international meetings on stochastic processes and their applications in various fields, from physics and biology to economics and technology. With the exception of the years when the Bernoulli World Congress is held (last in 2016 in Toronto), they are organised every year. The first SPA conference was held in Rochester in 1971. In 2015 the SPA conference was held in Oxford and in 2017 it was organised in Moscow. Notably, the 14th SPA Conference was held in Gothenburg back in 1984, featuring talks of such famous scientists as Harald Cramér, Joseph Doob and Kiyosi Itô. So, in 2018, the SPA conference returned to Gothenburg to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
The summer of 2018 on the west coast of Sweden was the hottest in over 100 years, and the participants were greeted by warm Scandinavian sun with the daytime temperatures of around 25ºC/77ºF (with some shots of summer rains at times). Gothenburg’s well-deserved status of a Friendly City contributed to the overall pleasant atmosphere of the conference. A half-day of excursions organised around the city and, especially, a dining cruise along the picturesque Västra Götaland coast with thousands of islands was a memorable experience. The conference dinner guests were entertained by Swedish traditional songs presented by an ensemble of local young singers.
SPA-2018 was organised by Chalmers University of Technology and it was one of the largest SPA conferences, with 478 registered participants from 43 countries. The most represented were Sweden, Germany, France, UK and USA. The conference program consisted of 13 plenary talks, 137 invited talks, 213 contributed talks: 363 talks in total. The first half of each day was given to plenary talks, followed after lunch by invited sessions, organised contributed sessions and sessions with contributed talks—up to 13 sessions in parallel, giving participants plenty of choice of topics to follow. Finding one’s own way through the sessions and places was facilitated by a user-friendly online programme with extensive selection capabilities. Two poster sessions were organised in the form of a mingle lunch served with delicious Scandinavian food. A few participants with small children benefited from a professional childcare service provided on site by Chalmers, free of charge.
SPA-2018 opened on Monday with a plenary talk by Olav Kallenberg, and closed on Friday with the Doob lecture delivered by Jeffrey Steif. The Lévy lecture was given by Alison Etheridge. Two IMS medallion lectures were given, by Davar Khoshnevisan and Anna De Masi, and a new named Entropy lecture, sponsored by Entropy journal, was given by François Baccelli. Other plenary talks were given by Mia Deijfen, Patricia Goncalves, Kurt Johansson, Mikhail Menshikov, Annie Millet, Asaf Nachmias and Nike Sun. The slides of the plenary talks, as well as the book of abstracts, can be downloaded from the conference website: spa2018.org. Feel the atmosphere of the conference by browsing the photos taken by the author and watch a short video from SPA-1984 at spa2018.org/conference-images
As an experiment, two talks were given remotely via a web-conferencing system. While connection dropouts experienced in one of the talks made it, at times, difficult to understand, the other talk went very smoothly. We envisage that web-conferencing will soon become an integral part of the meetings, but we hope that face-to-face discussions will still remain the main attraction and benefit of attending conferences.
The organizing committee is happy to have received so much very positive feedback from the participants and thank all the speakers, the Programme Committee, its Head Timo Seppäläinen and the technical organisation company MeetX, who made SPA-2018 so successful and memorable.
Photos by Sergei Zuyev.