Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wishes of 55 at 25

This is a belated post from Rejab; it is now already past mid-Shaaban. The month before, I "celebrated" my birthday according to Hijri calendar i.e. on 25 Rejab. I am 55 (instead of 54 using Gregorian calendar). Yes, I am that old. Since the Hijri year is shorter (354 or 355 days), one tends to be older in this calendar. Every (approximately) 19 years, the solar and lunar calendars will coincide in what is known to be the Metonic cycle. When I mention how old I am to Prof. Rondoni and others, some were surprised. It was a good time for me to reflect on things. The last few weeks have been challenging enough to see me visibly tense, easily angered and physically weaker (added by the age factor). Thus I thought I list what we have done (for explanation sake) and what we wish for.
  • Making things work
    My involvement in many of the institute's activities are sometimes my own initiatives but many more are initiated by others. In both cases, I have always tried to make them successful as much as possibly could. In the latter, I do expect others to own up the activity at least as much as I do. Never I have the intent to make things fail but what usually happens are that there are many matters which are beyond our control. Currently, I see three main matters I have taken up (initiated by others) that I wish will be successful.
    i) Collaboration with University of Auckland
    This was initiated by my Uzbekistan colleagues and the idea for an international lab for "Algorithms, Logic and Complexity". I took the opportunity to push this with the intent of including my interest in quantum logic and quantum foundations in this initiative. With my colleagues having left the university and the absence of funding, this initiative has been stalled. Nevertheless, I do wish our Numerical Analysis group (who have connections there) will take up where we left and pursue some form of collaboration with Auckland. I will also be happy to rejuvenate my interest in quantum logic etc., when things are more conducive.
    ii) Collaboration with Politecnico di Torino (Polito) and MICEMS
    This was initiated by the Laboratory of Cryptography, Analysis and Structures who had close connection with researchers in Polito. MICEMS was launched last March and we are in the midst of realising some programmes. My own interest here would probably in some fundamental and quantum aspects of nonequilibrium issues and statistical mechanics and we are still exploring. Another interest that can be pursued is on complexity and complex networks. These are still much in the exploratory stage which I hope will solidify soon.
    iii) Collaboration with a regulatory body
    This was initiated by a research fellow in the Laboratory of Computational Statistics and Operations Research. Since the other party is interested in complex networks applied to their problem, naturally I join this initiative and push for an MoA which has yet to be signed. In a way, this will be my first experience working with an 'industry' and I certainly like to see further progress.
    There are also many other things (initiated by others) which I had muddled with, including the studentship program under EMS. By saying all these, I am not staking claims of success (failure?) or what-nots but merely expressing I am doing what I can to make things work and hopefully are appreciated. My hope is that I will still be motivated enough to contribute wherever I can.
  • The institute is bigger than any of us
    Like any other organizations, there will always be problems and office politics. But whatever the problems are, I have always maintained the view that the institute should be bigger than any of our personal power play, grumbles or even grudges. In a way, while attending these problems and burning our brain cells to solve them, the bigger focus should be on the science we develop at the institute. The institute has progressed, received recognition and has contributed significantly to the university and the country, sometimes to the envy of others. The institute should always be framed in the bigger view of future generations of mathematical scientists and the scientific progress that we can bring, not from small personal and territorial views. It is thus sad indeed to see if there are views and efforts to undermine the institute. We need good visionary, selfless leaders and workers for us to move on and progress.
  • Thriving research environment
    One of the things that we do in the institute is to organize (frequently) events that will promote research. To do this is not easy since it really use up our resources (energy, time, money) and what more if we invited over established and internationally renowned research scientists. Doing these events are not just to make us look busy or fulfilling the KPIs but the purpose of enhancing and stimulating research is real. The urgency is real. Try and look at the well-known institutes in the west e.g. Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, UK and Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, how they are replete with scientific activities. Certainly we would like to emulate them to a certain degree within all the constraints that we have. It is too bad that the current financial situation has sort of reduce the intensity of activities that we would like to do. Not only this, our library subscription of journals are badly affected that we are no longer subscribing journals from American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, Institute of Physics, Springer collection etc. (at least for now). Now we are very much dependent on arXiv repository. Constrained as we are, we will nevertheless proceed to do the necessary things to make our research environment better. I look forward to the day when major part of our conversation are scientific ones and not ones on trying to solve mundane problems.
  • Academia and creativity
    Now, the academia in the country has changed much and most of us have been adapting to the changes rather reactively. Many has succumbed to an industry-like view of doing things, playing to the rules of market forces instead of being a society-shaping institution. In our own little ways, we try to do the latter as much as we can, intellectually shaping young researchers through the research environment we try to build as mentioned above. We try to celebrate creativity and constructive differences of opinions. Administrativewise, some avenues of creativity (and differences) must be made available, rather than algorithmic nature of procedures that we tend to follow. I subscribe to the idea that humanity are much too rich and complex to be algorithmic in form. Hope we have enough wisdom to lead for our academic future.
  • The next life
    Being a Muslim at this age, my preparations fro the next life have been very little. I look forward to the upcoming Ramadhan to train me to be a better person, hopefully enough for me to depart.
These are my wishes.

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