Friday, December 31, 2021

As 2021 Ends

Another difficult year ends, this time beginning and ending under the shadow of the COVID pandemic, with no end in sight. Vaccine and booster requirements are only intensifying, masks mandates are still in effect, and many institutions, including my own university, are even starting 2022 online. We won’t return to normal until we decide it's time to start treating COVID less as a pandemic and more as an endemic virus that is here to stay, like the flu (whose dangers have lessened with exposure and time).

In the meantime, here are some other thoughts on this last year.
  • Over the summer, I got promoted to the rank of Full Professor. I’ve said the main things I wanted to say in a Twitter thread. You can read it here.
  • The ISAIM 2020 special issue of the journal AMAI, which I guest-edited, will come out in January. Despite the pandemic slowing things down, we completed the submission process, the reviews, gathering revisions, and finalizing publication of this issue in less than 2 years -- my issue foreword is already online.  On a related note, you can still register to attend ISAIM 2022 virtually January 3rd through 5th.
  • I taught my courses in 2021 in “hybrid” mode. For me, teaching in a mask (as required by UIC) was difficult and frustrating, especially when trying to cater to an in-person and online audience simultaneously.
  • I co-organized a machine learning theory workshop at the Chicago-based ISMI institute.  The talks were awesome and are available online. Also, I started dabbling in drawing and decided to sketch a portrait of each of our organizers and invited speakers, but fearing causing unintended slight, I kept these private since the event. I have now changed my mind and am posting them below. But please attribute anything you may unflattering in your portrait to my lack of drawing ability and not to ill intent.
my hand drawing of the IMSI ML Workshop organizers and attendees
  • My employer, UIC, has intensified its misguided policies with respect to basic faculty rights. Not unrelatedly, I have suspended donating money to various UIC funds and have instead begun donating to FIRE. I am also pleased to say that I have joined the AFA by invitation. I am thankful for the existence of these organizations and want to do what I can to help the cause of academic freedom.
  • About a year ago, fifty established researchers (including a Turing award winner and other very famous people) sent an open letter to the CACM. After acknowledging the letter’s receipt, the CACM went on to ignore it, neither publishing it nor rejecting it, and not even replying to our inquiries about its status. I can only surmise the magazine could not publish it without risking a woke backlash or reject it without embarrassing themselves. After waiting what I think is an appropriate amount of time, I decided it best to make it known what course of inaction the CACM has chosen. (Also see my 2020 end-of-year post.)
  • My former Ph.D. student Ben Fish started a tenure-track position at the University of Michigan this fall. Not to put any pressure on him or anything, but I am now eagerly awaiting academic grandchildren. (Is this how some parents feel after their children get married?)

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2022!

No comments:

Post a Comment