Opening: The meeting opened at 17:10.
Quorum: The meeting was recognised as quorate, there being present the President and Secretary of the BCTCS, a local organiser for BCTCS 28, and at least ten other members of the BCTCS.
Apologies: Apologies for absence were received from Daniël Paulusma (University of Durham).
Previous minutes: The minutes of the Open General Meeting held at BCTCS 27 in Birmingham were approved.
Matters arising: The President had discussed the issue of financial support for BCTCS with colleagues from EPSRC, but there was no change in policy from their side. Following this discussion it was decided that it would not be worthwhile writing to EPSRC along similar lines as per the action from last year’s minutes.
President's statement: The President reported that BCTCS is continuing to suffer from a funding gap in respect of supported student places. Although the future for Fundamentals of Computing was looking rather bleak around the time of last year’s OGM, the overall picture seems to be a little brighter now.
One reason for this is that EPSRC have now published all decisions relating to their Shaping Capability exercise. The areas of Verification and Correctness, and Programming Languages and Compilers, have been identified as areas for growth, whilst the areas of Theory of Computation, and Maths of Computing, have been identified as areas to be maintained. In response to a question from Julian Bradfield (University of Edinburgh), the President confirmed that budgetary changes arising from the grow / maintain decisions will be proportional to the size of the area and to the overall ICT budget. Thus a “maintain” decision could in effect be a budget cut in real terms.
The President was pleased to note a healthy attendance at this year’s BCTCS, with 51 registrations in addition to the 4 invited speakers. This is 3 higher than the previous year. The President thanked Ian Pratt-Hartmann, this year’s local organiser, for all of his work in organising this year’s colloquium. He also thanked Renate Schmidt and the rest of the organising committee of the Automated Reasoning Workshop for agreeing to co-locate with BCTCS, an initiative which appeared to work well and should be considered again in future.
The President acknowledged that the London Mathematical Society is a strong supporter of BCTCS and generously supported the travel costs of Rod Downey, who delivered the LMS invited lecture (which in fact consisted of two separate lectures). The President was optimistic that the LMS would continue to support BCTCS in this way. He was also hopeful that we may be able to enter into discussions with the BCS Academy of Computing in respect of financial support for BCTCS.
Treasurer's report: The Treasurer reported that the University of Birmingham expect to return a profit in the region of £500 for BCTCS 27. This year BCTCS decided to fund assisted student places from BCTCS capital reserves. It is expected that the financial commitment in respect of this will be in the region of £5000. The current bank account balance is £15220.20 pending receipt of the surplus from Birmingham and the final accounts from Manchester.
Report on arrangements for BCTCS 29: Guy McCusker (University of Bath) reported on arrangements for BCTCS 29, to be held at the University of Bath between 25 – 28 March 2013. He began by listing the academic staff in the Theoretical Computer Science research group (James Davenport, Russell Bradford and Nicolai Vorobjov) and those in the Logic and Semantics research group (Alessio Guglielmi, Jim Laird, Guy McCusker and John Power). The colloquium will be held in the East Building, which opened in Spring 2011. This is the home of the Department of Computer Science. BCTCS will be using its Lecture Theatre 1.1, which has a capacity of around 350. The foyer outside and nearby breakout rooms with capacities 48 and 64 will also be available.
Accommodation will be available on campus at Woodland Court, which has 30 en-suite double rooms – these will be available on a first-come first-served basis until the block is filled. For each room, the single occupancy rate is £41.67 + VAT, and the double occupancy rate is £50.00 + VAT. Breakfast will be £5 + VAT.
Guy McCusker reported that there are many hotels and hostels in Bath offering accommodation at a range of prices. He resolved to identify a reasonably cheap hotel that could be offered as an alternative to Woodland Court, given that demand is expected to exceed supply there, in an effort to ensure that delegates not staying at Woodland Court will be located together as far as possible.
He also report that the University of Bath has a small, compact campus, and the city of Bath, with its World Heritage Site, has much to offer. James Davenport is hopeful of gaining additional funding for assisted student places.
The President extended his thanks to Guy McCusker for travelling to Manchester to make his presentation.
Choice of host for BCTCS 30: The President solicited offers to host BCTCS 30 and none were received. The meeting agreed to allow the President to explore possible hosts for BCTCS 30 subsequently to the meeting.
Any other business: Any other business: Ian Pratt-Hartmann raised the issue of the mandatory one-year subscription to the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS), which has traditionally been part of the BCTCS registration fee. This year, EATCS registration accounted for £25 of the overall BCTCS registration fee. Doubts were expressed as to the value for money that BCTCS delegates are obtaining for this outlay. Some delegates were unaware that their registration fee included the one-year EATCS membership, and at least one had never heard of EATCS. It was suggested that the meeting consider abolishing the mandatory one-year EATCS subscription as part of the BCTCS registration fee.
The Treasurer confirmed that the £25 charge levied to delegates for EATCS membership is transferred in full to the EATCS. Looking back over the past few years, about 10% of the overall budget for a given colloquium goes to EATCS. The President explained that EATCS membership was particularly aimed at helping PhD students, who are new to the Theoretical Computer Science, feel part of the wider European TCS community. Currently the EATCS publish abstracts of all BCTCS contributed talks in the Bulletin of the EATCS. Although the EATCS resolved recently that all conference reports in the Bulletin should be at most two pages in length, this restriction was lifted for BCTCS given that it provides an annual block membership to EATCS. Consideration was given to a “tick box” on future BCTCS registration web forms, allowing delegates to opt in to EATCS membership. The President sounded a note of caution relating to breaking up the overall BCTCS “package” into smaller constituent parts through the use of “tick boxes”. It was felt that there should be a single BCTCS registration package as far as possible. After some discussion it was agreed that membership of the EATCS would be on an “opt out” basis. That is, EATCS membership would continue to be part of the standard BCTCS registration package, but BCTCS participants could choose to opt out of this when registering for the colloquium, receiving an appropriate discount in return. Including such an opt-out facility should be facilitated by future local organisers. Action: future local organisers.
On a more general note the President reminded the meeting that the overall BCTCS ethos should be one of delegates staying in the same accommodation with full board, so that people are eating and going to the pub together. It was noted that this is not always possible given the geographic layout of some University campuses. This year assisted student places had not included the conference banquet, and only around half of the students with assisted places had bought banquet tickets. It was resolved that in future local organisers should try to include students in the conference banquet regardless of whether they obtain assisted places.
Closing: The meeting closed at 17.43.