Schloss DagstuhlLast week I was in Germany for a Dagstuhl Seminar on Methods for Modelling Software Systems. It was both quite fun and quite productive. I had the chance to talk to researchers whose work I’ve been studying since I started my Ph.D., and to get feedback from them regarding my own interests.

I guess part of the success of Dagstuhl seminars is that the environment is much more informal and flexible than that of a conference. There’s no official program prior to the start of the seminar. Talks and discussions can be added along the way. At lunch and at dinner, you’re assigned to tables randomly, so you get to hear perspectives from several people instead of joining the same clique all the time. And since Dagstuhl is basically in the middle of nowhere, there’s not much to do at the end of the day other than to visit one of the castle’s rooms and chat with other participants over cheese and wine.

In comparison, the conference format feels somewhat broken: There’s very little time for people to present their stuff, there’s too much going on at once, and the emphasis is on defending and selling your work rather than on exploring it and poking around to improve it. On the other hand, however, a big conference can hold a few thousands of participants, whereas a Dagstuhl seminar, I guess, would break down with over 50 people.

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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4 Responses to Dagstuhl

  1. juan says:

    With the amount of noise going on in the blogosphere around the elitism of certain conferences and the success of lighter “unconferences” such as Foo Camp & Bar Camp, it is good to see that this approach is being put to use in higher academic circles too.

  2. Jorge says:

    Good point -there’s definitely something BarCamp-ish about Dagstuhl.

    I guess each community evolves new ways of gathering, and this is a convergence of their approaches. Dagstuhl seminars pre-date unconferences by more than a decade, but I don’t think they served as an original inspiration for software entrepreneurs.

    By the way, Dagstuhl was conceived as the Computer Science equivalent of another German centre -Oberwolfach- dedicated to Math research. No idea whether they have these centres for other disciplines.

  3. Thomas Kuhn says:

    Good morning Mr. Aranda,

    I am technology editor with WirtschaftsWoche, Germany’s business weekly. Currently I work on a story about Germany’s best hidden think tank for computer science – Schloss Dagstuhl.

    Searching the web I learnt that you (at least once) attended a Dagstuhl conference. Being German I obviously lack the outside view on the centre and its relevance in the worldwide computer science world. You – on the other hand – are obviously in a position to compare this little place in the middle of German nowhere to other great places in the computer science world.

    So may I ask you for some short comments on what you think of the place itself (being a bit off the rest of the world), of the science centre’s relevance for science and the exchange of ideas and know how amongst researchers, and finally about the model of the selection of participants.

    I am aware that this is not really part of you usual job, but I’d appreciate very much if you could send me some comments on Dagstuhl nonetheless.

    Thank you very much. Kind regards

    Thomas Kuhn



    = = = = =

    Thomas M. Kuhn (40) is IT editor with “WirtschaftsWoche”, Germany’s business weekly since 2000. He is responsible for the coverage of the hard- and software industry as well as the IT services sector, parts of the internet and telecommunications business. He also covers the consumer electronics industry in WirtschaftsWoche’s technology department.

    Mr. Kuhn holds a degree in economics at Cologne University and is alumnus with the Cologne institute of economic and political journalism. In 2006, he received the award for best journalism on IT topics from the University of Saarland.

  4. Jorge says:

    Thanks for your note, Thomas. I just sent you an email, but I thought to post here as well that “Germany’s best hidden think tank for computer science” seems an apt description for Dagstuhl!

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