Careful what you wish for…

So around two months ago, as the novel coronavirus was just breaking in the Western media, I wrote apostbemoaning the culture of carbon-intensive academic travel. Funny — here we are, barely a quarter of the way into the year, and every conference in sight (including those I had planned to attend) is either cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. Let me say for the record: this is not what I had in mind. Sorry, everyone. Still, it’s hard not to feel some awe about the fact that air pollution over China has been大幅减少过去几周,那个canals of Venice由于缺乏船只交通,它会闪烁晶体亚得里亚特蓝色。我的善良,当我们都停下来时会发生什么?

But more importantly, what are the consequences for mathematics? ; ) While some are predicting that all of the at-home time we have in store will lead to another baby boom, knowing this audience I am going to predict… A MATH BOOM! Let’s face it, there is perhaps no sector of the population more suited to social distancing than mathematicians. Avoidance of public gathering is basically our lifeblood. There’s a reason some of our most renowned and productive research stations are isolateddeep within the Black Forest, or in themiddle of the Canadian Rockies。与阿里尔不同,我们don’twant to be where the people are, because people have a well-known habit of messing with my concentration. This lockdown, we will be getting busy at home reading the papers in that special pile on our desk that only seems to grow in an ordinary semester, finishing proofs of tricky technical lemmas, and polishing up our pre-prints. I would bet on an observable uptick in arXiv uploads resulting from this whole situation, at least for us, the tribe of the portable research lab, pencil and notebook.

免责声明#1:Contrary to popular stereotype, mathematics is very much a social and collaborative activity, and there is no reason to believe that isolation is a beneficial precondition for its pursuit.

另一方面,我们中的许多人忙着面对我们坚决避免多年来的错误才能努力 - 在线教学。在参加一些关于(插入商业视频会议服务)的培训后,我不得不说真的比我想象的要好,甚至甚至该部门的恐龙似乎都在拍照。它似乎至少是沟通课程材料对学生的基本任务将以合理的水平实现,尽管我对评估和反馈的替代系统仍然有点持怀疑态度。我担心额外的距离和技术障碍将阻止学生带着他们与他们的教练交谈一对一的机会,以及指导员可能落入降低其可用水平的模式。然后,可能有一些学生发现电子通信模式不太令人生畏,比如说出来的办公时间。加上,布拉拉千禧一代布拉拉数字本地人是不是?

Disclaimer #2:I know there are many people out there (workers of many stations that do not have the luxury of working remotely, and healthcare workers in particular) for whom this pandemic is no frivolous affair. I wish them health and safety, and I hope my levity does not offend them.


Think of having on your webpage not just a vague one or two paragraph description of your research plus links to papers, but also a 20-minute accessible video presentation on your work. This could take forms much more creative than your typical recording of a chalk talk at a conference, and really open up the world of math research — both amongst ourselves and to outsiders. I realize this is not a radically new idea: the promise of The Internet 2.0 was basically that we were all supposed to become content creators. As is often the case, academicians lag behind culture; but the video conference is a great excuse to think hard about how to produce good expository media about one’s own research.

I imagine this not as a way to supplant conference talks or research papers, but to supplement. The culture of academic publishing is such that research papers read dry and obscure to those outside the subfield, and (as a senior researcher and journal editor recently told me) there are (some) good reasons for this. But very often this style is a tool for exclusion. I am sure I am not alone in having had the experience of a professor handing me a paper or telling me to go read one as a way to make me buzz off. They don’t expect you to come back, and often they are right.

Lucid,非正式和大图解释通常是为了谈判而被保留,但在一方面,我们不能总是将其谈判到其他人的会谈中(如Andrés指出了), it’s a lot of work to put together a well timed and executed talk, only to do it once. It would be nice to be able to capture all of the thought and effort that goes in for posterity. I mean, your own work is the math that you should care the most about presenting — there’s no reason that the online calculus and algebra cartels should have a monopoly on well-produced, expository math videos.

Disclaimer #3:我不知道如何在目前制作任何这样的媒体,但如果我弄清楚任何酷,我会很乐意分享。有一个提示Mahrud最近的帖子,也许Mohamed Omar knows a thing or twoas well.

可能是如何这是在线教育ion’s big opportunity, but this might also be a kick in the pants to the channels of research dissemination. I expect it’ll be rough at first, but when this dry-run is over, we may have some hard questions to face about how we’ve been doing things. At my university, (at time of writing) we are currently on pause to regroup with classes resuming on-line next week, and the virtual conference is next weekend, so I can’t yet really make any judgements on the tenability of these digital alternatives. In the meantime, I would be interested to hear how it’s going for graduate students in other places. Is your institution handling this pandemic very differently? Did anyone’s semester/quarter just get postponed or cancelled entirely? Is anybody being forced to move? What about plans to take quals/graduate/find a job? Are international students’ visas or applications being affected? Is your advisor taking advantage of the situation toghost you now?

我相信真正了解还为时过早what this will all mean, so in the interim I wish everyone peace and safety, and that we can all treat one another with compassion. I hope to see you at the next virtual conference.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this blog are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the American Mathematical Society.

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关于Aram Bingham.

I'm a fifth year Ph.D. student at a university in New Orleans which is problematically named for Paul Tulane, and where I work in something like algebraic combinatorics. I drink plenty of coffee, though I'm working on a new method of turning kombucha into theorems.
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