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March 3, 2020

Applied Category Theory 2020 (Part 1)

Posted by John Baez

Here’s the big annual conference on applied category theory:

  • ACT2020, 2020 July 6-10, online worldwide. Organized by Brendan Fong and David Spivak.

This happens right after the applied category theory school, which will be held June 29 – July 3. There will also be a tutorial day on Sunday July 5, with talks by Paolo Perrone, Emily Riehl, David Spivak and others.

To give a talk at ACT2020, you have to submit a paper. You can submit either original research papers or extended abstracts of work submitted/accepted/published elsewhere. Accepted original research papers will be invited for publication in a proceedings volume. Some contributions will be invited to become keynote addresses, and best paper awards may also be given. The conference will also include a business showcase.

Here’s how to submit papers. Two types of submissions are accepted, which will be reviewed to the same standards:

Proceedings Track. Original contributions of high quality work consisting of a 5–12 page extended abstract that provides evidence for results of genuine interest, and with enough detail to allow the program committee to assess the merits of the work. Submissions of works in progress are encouraged, but must be more substantial than a research proposal.

Non-Proceedings Track. Descriptions of high-quality work submitted or published elsewhere will also be considered, provided the work is recent and relevant to the conference. The work may be of any length, but the program committee members may only look at the first 3 pages of the submission, so you should ensure these pages contain sufficient evidence of the quality and rigor of your work.

Submissions should be prepared using LaTeX, and must be submitted in PDF format. Submission is currently open, and can be perfomed at the following web page:

Here are some important dates, all in 2020:

  • Submission of contributed papers: April 26
  • Acceptance/rejection notification: May 17
  • Early bird registration deadline: May 20
  • Final registration deadline: June 26
  • Tutorial day: July 5
  • Main conference: July 6–10

Here is the program committee:

  • Mathieu Anel, CMU
  • John Baez, University of California, Riverside
  • Richard Blute, University of Ottawa
  • Tai-Danae Bradley, City University of New York
  • Andrea Censi, ETC Zurich
  • Bob Coecke, University of Oxford
  • Valeria de Paiva, Samsung Research America and University of Birmingham
  • Ross Duncan, University of Strathclyde
  • Eric Finster, University of Birmingham
  • Brendan Fong, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tobias Fritz, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
  • Richard Garner, Macquarie University
  • Fabrizio Romano Genovese, Statebox
  • Amar Hadzihasanovic, IRIF, Université de Paris
  • Helle Hvid Hansen, Delft University of Technology
  • Jules Hedges, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
  • Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Chris Heunen, The University of Edinburgh
  • Joachim Kock, UAB
  • Tom Leinster, The University of Edinburgh
  • Martha Lewis, University of Amsterdam
  • Daniel R. Licata, Wesleyan University
  • David Jaz Myers, Johns Hopkins University
  • Paolo Perrone, MIT
  • Vaughan Pratt, Stanford University
  • Peter Selinger, Dalhousie University
  • Michael Shulman, University of San Diego
  • David I. Spivak, MIT (co-chair)
  • Walter Tholen, York University
  • Todd Trimble, Western Connecticut State University
  • Jamie Vicary, University of Birmingham (co-chair)
  • Maaike Zwart, University of Oxford

Here is the steering committee:

  • John Baez
  • Bob Coecke
  • David Spivak
  • Christina Vasilakopoulou

Here is the committee running the school:

  • Carmen Constantin
  • Eliana Lorch
  • Paolo Perrone

And here are the local organizers:

  • Destiny Chen (administration)
  • Brendan Fong
  • David Jaz Myers (logistics)
  • Paolo Perrone (publicity)
  • David Spivak

More news will follow!

Posted at March 3, 2020 1:06 AM UTC

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Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

This comment is a bit tangential, but I’d be interested to know: what’s the current thinking among the conference organizers about coronavirus? Obviously this is something for all conferences everywhere, not just ACT2020.

The question’s on my mind right now for a whole bunch of reasons, including the fact that I’d normally be starting to book my summer conference flights about now. (Or at least, I’d be starting to tell myself that I should be starting to book them.) But I’m wondering whether, in fact, they’ll all be going ahead. There are a couple of spring conferences whose organizers I know, and they’re already having to take account of the coronavirus problem.

Obviously no one knows what’s going to happen with the virus, especially as far ahead as June/July. I guess I’m just interested to know what other people are doing, both organizers and conference-goers. E.g. are others going ahead and booking their flights to CT2020 in Genova, or holding off?

Posted by: Tom Leinster on March 3, 2020 2:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Indeed, as many of the readers of this blog have probably heard, the American Physical Society canceled its big annual meeting this week on very short notice due to coronavirus concerns.

For my part, I already have plane tickets for an unrelated conference (in France; I’m in the US) in June, so I’m just watching to see how things develop. Sometime soon I need to think about booking travel for a sabbatical in the UK starting in early August, but for now I’ll wait and see. But so far those destinations are less affected than Italy.

Posted by: Mark Meckes on March 3, 2020 4:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

It’s really hard to guess what COVID-19 will do this summer. The common cold is also a coronavirus, and that tends to die down during the summer. SARS-CoV, which is also a coronavirus, fizzled out in June:

So we can hope that COVID-19 will follow suit. But I don’t think anyone knows. (I think we should follow how it behaves in Singapore, which is a warm place.)

Anyway, this summer I plan to visit Jamie Vicary in Cambridge. To avoid flying around too much I will not attend ACT2020. Soon I will buy tickets to England… but they will be refundable tickets.

Posted by: John Baez on March 3, 2020 5:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Unfortunately, the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 might be suppressed by higher temperatures isn’t looking too promising. Here’s a letter in The Lancet published a few days ago. From the first paragraph:

Whether warmer temperatures will slow the spread of [the virus] has been a point of much speculation. This hypothesis has led some European countries to produce initial policies relying on decreased transmission rates during the summer months, and the belief that African countries will face smaller epidemics than their European counterparts. However, no strong evidence base exists for such claims; SARS-CoV-2 might have simply arrived later to warmer countries.

From the last paragraph:

To conclude, early comparisons between the number of confirmed cases in the worst affected European countries and the west African countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases do not support the hypothesis that the virus will spread more slowly in countries with warmer climates.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on April 5, 2020 4:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

One small benefit of the spread of coronavirus may be that we improve our remote conferencing techniques.

In my experience, the current state of the art is that (1) speakers can speak by videolink, but it’s often marred by technical glitches, and (2) we haven’t figured out any kind of substitute for informal mingling.

It’s inevitable that this year, lots of events will be disrupted by COVID-19 and their organizers will want to solve both problems (1) and (2). (I’m mostly imagining conferences that are still running but with significant cancellations.) The optimistic, silver-lining-seeking part of me hopes that with a large number of people simultaneously seeking to solve those problems, real progress will be made.

That would be a permanent gain for both the climate and convenience.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on March 4, 2020 4:20 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

For (2) there are telepresence robots! e.g. here.

Posted by: Sam Staton on March 4, 2020 5:33 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Those robots are cool! Still, they’re obviously an expensive solution and, even putting money aside, one to which rather few conferences have access. Have you used/been one, Sam?

I would start speculating here about cheaper, more accessible alternatives (e.g. about how social media could be harnessed for this purpose), but I’m sure others have already begun developing ideas and experimenting with them. I’m equally sure that those ideas have a long way to go before reaching their ideal form. It’ll be an interesting journey.

I mean, even the simplest thing — a speaker doing a one-way address by videolink — often isn’t quite a smooth experience, and that technology (e.g. Skype) has been in common use for for over a decade.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on March 4, 2020 6:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

I’m one of the organisers of Topics in Category Theory (the organiser known to Tom). The coronavirus outbreak has already meant one of our invited speakers will have to deliver her mini-course via video link. We’re now working with our venue, the ICMS, to move as much of the programme online as we possibly can, so that every participant can choose whether or not to travel to join us in person.

The meeting is coming up in just under a week’s time, so inevitably this will be a bit experimental and most likely not altogether smooth. But I’m sure we’ll learn some stuff!

At the moment our hope is to facilitate some level of informal mingling through a conference chatroom (or rooms), which will also be used to let remote participants ask questions of the speakers. I’d welcome any suggestions or advice from people with experience of making this sort of thing work well. (For one thing, obviously we’d like to use a platform with LaTeX integration, which rules out Twitter. Any recommendations?)

One immediate silver lining for us is that a couple of registered participants who’d had to pull out for reasons unrelated to the virus - visas, finances - will now be able to join us remotely. That does make me feel that for the sake of accessibility (plus climate, plus convenience…) we probably ought to have made remote participation an option from the start.

Posted by: Emily Roff on March 5, 2020 11:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Hi Emily. Would you open up the videos and discussion to the broader internet, or keep it to the registered participants? Either is understandable, I think, esp at this stage.

Tom, I haven’t used the robots myself, but I’ve heard amusing anecdotes! Anyway I agree with you all that more remote conferencing would be great for many reasons (with or without robots).

Posted by: Sam Staton on March 8, 2020 9:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Hi Sam - we did think about opening it up, but at this stage figuring out how to do that in a way that would be fair to the registered participants is more than we have headspace for. There are still a few technical hurdles to be cleared before Wednesday! We do hope to be able to make at least some of the video recordings available online afterwards.

Posted by: Emily Roff on March 9, 2020 5:23 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Mathstodon offers LaTeX support.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on March 7, 2020 10:23 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Thanks, Blake. In the end I think we’re going to use a Matrix room, but Mathstodon looks as though it could have worked well too.

Posted by: Emily Roff on March 9, 2020 5:28 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

Zoom is better than Skype, which is probably why almost 2 million more people started using Zoom in 2019. But over 2 million more people have started using it so far in 2020, thanks in part to the spread of coronavirus.

I think now is the time to get serious about videoconferencing. Jamie Vicary had some good ideas to create videoconferencing freeware specially suited to virtual conferences: e.g., allowing people to list who they do or do not want to talk to, and then matching them in groups who want to talk to each other. We need someone to write this software.

I’m not the right person to organize this, alas! But I’d be happy to advertise any attempts to do this, if it helps get the right people together.

Posted by: John Baez on March 5, 2020 5:43 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020


(2) we haven’t figured out any kind of substitute for informal mingling.

I’m told that Zoom has a feature called breakout rooms, though I haven’t used it yet myself.

Posted by: Mike Shulman on March 9, 2020 6:06 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

We’re going to move this conference, ACT2020, completely online. This will allow people from around the world to give talks, and also to attend the conference! We want to set up a system of chat rooms devoted to different topics. An official announcement will be coming soon.

Posted by: John Baez on March 19, 2020 11:40 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Applied Category Theory 2020

We’re going to try holding our local seminar on twitch today. The talk today is relevant for this blog: Coherence for cartesian closed bicategories. It’s Philip Saville talking about his work with Marcelo Fiore. Feel free to tune in here at 2pm UK time. Here are some more details.

Posted by: Sam Staton on March 20, 2020 12:40 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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