by Tommaso Dorigo

Christmas is coming, and with it a temporary stop of working activities for most of us- but not all, as the world does not stop spinning, nor do electrons in the computers that crunch LHC datasets in search for new physics. As for academics, they leave their offices with piles of articles to review and grant proposals to write, knowing that their mailboxes will not stop filling up during the winter break. But it’s a jolly time nonetheless 😉

This seems as good a time as any to look back to an eventful year for the AMVA4NewPhysics network.  We started 2017 without any scientific results delivered to the European Union who funds our work, and today we are about to deliver the sixth and the seventh product – this in my book talks already of a productive year!

But deliverables, as important as they are as a checkpoint of the work activities, are not everything. To me, what is more important is to observe how all the PhD students we hired are working hard on their projects, are traveling to other nodes for interactions with co-supervisors and fellow ESRs, are attending courses and lectures. Maybe they are not blogging as intensely as I would have liked, but you cannot have it all, it seems!

What I find most encouraging, besides the science and the training, is the fact that the 10 ESRs have really started to work as a team, after getting to know each other at common events. These get-togethers are indeed very useful, as they allow network participants to build personal relations that provide a basis of a future tight collaboration. This is becoming evident with the use of Slack that the ESRs have started making. Slack is a bulletin-board kind of communication platform, which allows organized chats and discussions as well as exchange of information. I see dozens of messages per day there as of late, and these are not discussions about the weather, but rather serious back-and-forths about the intricacies of ML methods and software subtleties. That is great! The ESRs have finally shown they consider they belong to a team and they are showing it very clearly with their networking activities.

This year we had two main network meetings, one in Oviedo in May and one in Louvain-la-Neuve in October. We also organized three network-exclusive events: a soft-skills workshop in February, a Roostats-Roofit tutorial in May, and a set of statistical learning lectures by none less than Trevor Hastie, a Stanford University professor who is universally  recognized as a leading expert on the subject. And these were just the events that we organized independently.

In October we had a mid-term review with our Project Officer and an EU auditor. It went very well if you ask me, and we are now looking forward to the second half of this endeavour with added energy, knowing our science and our training action are positively evaluated.

As for next year, we have a lot in store. A second soft-skills training event will take place in Oxford; a Outreach workshop will be organized at CERN; and a conference or workshop in statistical learning will take place in Padova. In addition, we plan to hold two network meetings, one in Athens and probably one in Padova or Lisbon. And of course, we will likely see the first concrete results popping out, maybe new physics from LHC data analyses!