Sep 1, 2012

World Congress: a view from Nigeria

Dr. Ezra Gayawan is a Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria. In this article, he shares some of his personal experience of attending the World Congress in Probability and Statistics (and the pre-meeting immediately before it, for young researchers). He writes:

It was an enriching outing for me being in Istanbul from 6–14 July, 2012. To some, going to such a tourist city would mean
an opportunity to visit places and see ancient things. But to me, it was a time to meet people in my chosen career from
all over the world and to learn from their experiences. Thanks to the full sponsorship from the organizers, courtesy of the various sponsors: without this, I would definitely not have made it to the congress.

First, it was the Pre-World Congress Meeting of Young Researchers in Probability and Statistics, held at the beautiful campus of Koç University. This was a gathering of young researchers, with the majority coming from developing countries. During the weekend, invited speakers who were masters of their areas of speciality, took turn to present papers on their work. Some of the speakers were also interviewed, sharing with us their past and present experiences in their chosen careers, so that we could learn from them. Among the speak- ers, editors of some high-ranked journals in probability and statistics shared with us “what, where and how” to publish. Selected participants from developing countries were invited to make a round-table discussion on their experience of being a young researcher in a developing country. I was privileged to speak for my country, Nigeria. Apart from the rare opportunity the meeting offered us to interact one-on-one with some of the speakers, who were also key figures in the main congress, we had opportunity of mingling and sharing experiences with one another, which I believe will have long-lasting effects.

Next was the main congress that started on Monday, 8th July. It was my first time in a conference of such magnitude and hence, I was determined to get the best it had to offer. I had carefully gone through the program book the night before as our kits were given to us at the end of the Pre-World Congress Meeting, to choose which of the presentations to attend. I saw some of the big names whose work I had read, in the program book. I was surprised, most of them were scheduled for presentations, signifying that their age and achievements notwithstanding, they were still researching. This was a great challenge and lesson to me. In fact, I had to attend the presentation of one of them whose great profile I have seen on the internet before. I just wanted to hear her speak.

I attended most of the invited and contributory sessions that appealed to me and which were in my area of research interest.
I was amazed at some of the new findings presented by some of the speakers. On a few occasions, I got to meet the presenters after their presentations for interaction while I took the contacts details of others. I was exposed to some new ideas from the many presentations I listened to both at the Pre-Congress Meeting and at the main Congress. I left with a determination that new ideas gained during this period would be vigorously pursued.

Another area of the congress that appealed to me was the books displayed by the publishers that came around. We
often find it difficult in Nigeria to get hold of some of those books. I therefore used the opportunity to purchase those I could afford. I will never forget the gesture by a representative of one of the publishers who upon discovering I was from Nigeria, simply handed me a book I was negotiating to buy.

Despite the large crowd of scholars that gathered from all over the world to discuss their recent findings in all areas of statistics, I was not so happy to be the only one, to the best of my knowledge, from the world’s most populous black nation. Maybe many were not aware of the congress as such meetings are not announced by the umbrella body of statistics in the country which I believe should be a forum where issues of this nature are communicated through their website. I share some responsibility: for I didn’t inform all those I could, when I got to hear of it through one of the editions of this Bulletin. I will also not rule out the fact that there might have been those willing to attend but who were financially handicapped.

However, by 2016 when the Ninth World Congress will be held, I believe that, unlike the Istanbul experience, my country will be well represented.

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