Opening: The meeting opened at 17.40.
Quorum: The meeting was recognised as quorate, there being present the President and Secretary of the BCTCS, a local organiser for BCTCS 24, and at least ten other members of the BCTCS.
Previous minutes: The minutes of the Open General Meeting held at BCTCS 23 in Oxford were approved.
President's statement: Faron Moller stated that he was pleased with the number of participants (85), and thanks were conveyed to Hajo Broersma, Tom Friedetzky and Daniel Paulusma for their work as local organisers. The President also reported that the LMS had once again generously provided support for the meeting, in the form of a sponsored international invited speaker (Gerhard Woeginger, Eindhoven University of Technology). It is hoped that the LMS will continue this support in the future.
EPSRC application for BCTCS: The EPSRC application for BCTCS 2008-2010 submitted by Faron Moller, Graham Hutton and Stephan Reiff-Marganiec was successful. However, a significant problem arose with the issue of Full Economic Costing (FEC), under which only 80% of the total cost for the grant is provided by EPSRC, leaving a 20% deficit in the funds provided for student participation.
In order to address this issue, Faron Moller was advised by Claire Hinchcliffe at EPSRC to include all costs on the grant application, in particular his own time. We thus included funding for a sufficient amount of his time to cover the 20% deficit, and stated in the proposal that this amount was being applied for on the advise of EPSRC in order to account for the 20% deficit; it would never otherwise be our intention to seek EPSRC funding for our own efforts on behalf of BCTCS.
Upon submission, the initial reaction from EPSRC (after a lengthy delay) was to reject the proposal on the basis that the use of an investigator's time to cover an FEC deficit was not acceptable. Faron Moller discussed this with EPSRC, and also wrote to a large number of senior members of the UK Theory community, many of whom then contacted EPSRC to express their concern about the potential loss of financial support for BCTCS.
In a response to a letter from Prof Davenport at the University of Bath to Dave Delpy (CEO of EPSRC), Alan Thomas (head of the ICT programme at EPSRC) proposed a number of possible solutions to the issue of the FEC deficit for the BCTCS proposal, one of which was that "Professor Moller might choose to fund each student in full but fund fewer in number". This is the approach that has been adopted for the Durham meeting, with the result that 38 funded places for students (80% of the 48 applied for) were awarded.
Faron Moller also sought funds to cover the 20% deficit from the Learned Society and Knowledge Services Board (LS&KSB) of the BCS, via its Chair Mike Rodd, in the form of 10K over the next three years. The response was that no funds could be provided at this time, and it was stated that "Of course, we will naturally give precedence to activities which are strongly identified with BCS". It subsequently transpired from discussions with Ursula Martin (who is a member of the LS&KSB committee and would have been supportive) that this application had not in fact been taken by Mike Rodd to the LS&KSB committee
ACTION: Submit another application for funding from the BCS LS&KSB, via Ursula Martin. (Faron Moller)
Learned Society for Theoretical Computer Science: Faron Moller explained the background to this issue again, the details of which are contained in previous years' minutes.
The status of Theoretical Computer Science at EPSRC was also discussed, prompted by a First Grant application in this area from Swansea University that had been sent by EPSRC to a Maths Panel, and subsequently rejected despite receiving positive reviews. Prof John Tucker from Swansea wrote a letter to EPSRC to query the referral of the proposal to a Maths Panel. The response from EPSRC was that this decision was valid, as only a minor component was considered by their programme managers to fall under "Fundamentals of Computing"; as a project based on extracting programs for security protocols from logical proofs, EPSRC determined it would be most appropriate for a Maths panel, as Logic and Proof Theory are not recognised as falling under Computer Science.
Following on from this response, Faron Moller again wrote to senior members of the UK Theory community, a number of whom then voiced their concern to EPSRC about the referral of a Theoretical Computer Science proposal to a Maths panel. Some reported EPSRC's assurances that this was a one-off decision, and not a change in policy.
It was felt by the meeting that greater clarity and recognition for the field of Theoretical Computer Science was required from EPSRC, which currently only provides the single classification of "Foundations of Computing" for this large and diverse field. In particular, there is no finer discrimination into areas such as algorithms, complexity, program semantics, program logics, etc. It was noted that many other fields, such as Chemistry, have a long list of specialised subdivisions provided by EPSRC.
Chris Tofts made a formal proposal that the President should write to EPSRC on behalf of BCTCS to express concern about the lack of subject classifications in Theoretical Computer Science, making some suggestions of finer distinctions that they should consider incorporating within the banner of "Fundamentals of Computing". A show of hands showed that this proposal was given unanimous support.
ACTION: Faron Moller to write to EPSRC with a proposal of widening the list of subject classifications to include within "Fundamentals of Computing". (Faron Moller)
It was also suggested that a representative from EPSRC be invited to next year's OGM.
Faron Moller also noted that the BCS is organising a new academic conference, "Visions of Computer Science", to be held in London on 22-24 September 2008, with seven Turing award winners as invited speakers. This event has not been well advertised to date (currently it only appears to have been sent to the CPHC mailing list), but BCTCS members were encouraged to participate.
Treasurer's Report: Stephan Reiff-Marganiec reported that the balance on the BCTCS bank account stands at 5756 pounds. Oxford have not yet submitted their accounts for BCTCS 23; they have thus not returned any surplus to central BCTCS funds, but have assured the Treasurer that they have not made a loss.
Durham has also stated that they do not expect to make a loss on BCTCS 24.
Report on Arrangements for BCTCS 25: Sara Kalvala reported on the arrangements for BCTCS 25, which will be held on 6-9 April 2009 at the University of Warwick, organised by Artur Czumaj, Sara Kalvala and Steve Matthews. The University is located in Coventry, which has excellent road, rail, and air connections (via Birmingham international).
The meeting will be located on University campus, with en-suite accommodation, free internet access, and free use of the campus sports facilities including a swimming pool. The anticipated registration fee for full delegates will be around 350-360 pounds (10-20 pounds more expensive than this year). A web page for the meeting has been produced, which will be updated as further information becomes available.
Invitations to invited speakers would be sent out as soon as possible, in consultation with the BCTCS committee. The importance of maintaining a good balance of topics was noted.
Choice of Host for BCTCS 26: Julian Bradfield confirmed the offer for the University of Edinburgh to host BCTCS 26, which was accepted at last year's meeting for the purposes of the EPSRC application. The meeting thanked him for this confirmation and commitment.
Any Other Business: None.
Closing: The meeting closed at 18.35.