Saarland in the focus of theoretical computer science

Prof. Holger Hermanns

Professor Holger Hermanns, Chair of both conferences. ©Oliver Dietze

Two world renowned computer science conferences were to take place in Saarland in July: the “ACM/IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science” and the “International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming”. Due to the Corona Pandemic, however, the events were moved to a digital format. Nonetheless, about 1200 scientists from all over the world have registered to attend. The virtual conferences were hosted by the Saarland Informatics Campus at Saarland University.

The thematic focus of both conferences, which took place simultaneously between July 8th and 11th, was on theoretical computer science. Fundamental questions of logic, algorithms, programming theory, automata theory, but also network basics, computer security and much more were discussed.

Originally, the symposia were to take place in China, but have been moved to Saarbrücken due to the corona situation. When Covid-19 turned into a pandemic, the conferences were restructured into fully digital events with the support of the computer science institutes on the Saarbrücken campus. The innovative concept was well received: Around 1200 scientists from the global research community in theoretical computer science registered and submitted over 200 papers with accompanying explanatory videos. More than 100 hours of scientific video material have thus been collected.

“Our goal was despite the physical separation, to create something like a conference atmosphere and to enable personal exchange through live events such as lectures, award ceremonies or open video meetings ” says Holger Hermanns, Professor of Computer Science at Saarland University and this year’s chairman of both conferences. “The online format posed great challenges for us, because there was no previous experience or established structures for it”, the computer scientist Hermanns continues. Sifting through the numerous entries and preparing them for various online platforms such as YouTube took up a lot of time for purely technical reasons, says Kristina Scherbaum, Managing Director of the Saarland Competence Center for Computer Science. In addition, unusual aspects such as the Internet connection or the different time zones of the participants had to be taken into account – researchers from New Zealand and Australia to Chile and Canada were connected via video conference.

Prestigious IT prizes were also awarded at the conferences, namely the EATCS Award (Mihalis Yannakakis), the Presburger Award (Dmitriy Zhuk), the Gödel Prize (Robin A. Moser and Gábor Tardos), and the LICS Test-of-Time Award (Thomas Henzinger, Luca De Alfaro, Hiroshi Nakano). Among the previous prize winners are already a number of Saarbrücken computer scientists: Kurt Mehlhorn (2010, EATCS Award), Karl Bringmann (2019, Presburger Award) and Uwe Waldmann together with the former director of the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, Harald Ganzinger (the latter post mortem, 2013, LICS Test-of-Time Award).

Background to the LICS and ICALP conferences:
The “ACM/IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science” (LICS) is the world’s flagship conference on logic in computer science. It is supported by the two largest associations in the field of computer science, the “Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers” and the “Association for Computing Machinery”. The conference was organized with the support of the “Institute of Software” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Their Professor Lijun Zhang is an alumnus of Saarland University and currently back in Saarbrücken for a longer period of time.

The “International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming” (ICALP) is the largest European conference of theoretical computer science. It is supported by the “European Association for Theoretical Computer Science”. The conference has already taken place once before in 1974 in Saarbrücken.

Further Information:

Question can be directed at:
Prof. Dr. Holger Hermanns
Tel.: +49 (0)681-302-5630

Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
800 scientists and about 2000 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Five world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for “Multimodal Computing and Interaction” as well as Saarland University with three departments and 21 degree programs cover the entire spectrum of computer science.

Philipp Zapf-Schramm
Competence Center Computer Science
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: +49 681 302-70741

Die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit am Saarland Informatics Campus wird unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert aus Mitteln des Europäischen Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) und Mitteln der Staatskanzlei Saarland.

Nachwuchsgewinnung, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und Technologietransfer am Saarland Informatics Campus werden unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert durch

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Das Projekt Tandem an der Universität des Saarlandes verfolgt das Ziel, die für eine wirtschaftliche oder industrielle Verwertung interessanten Forschungsergebnisse der saarländischen Informatik und der Max-Planck Institute durch einen Inkubationsprozess soweit weiterzuentwickeln, dass entweder Investoren die Produkte kaufen oder lizenzieren, oder neue Unternehmen im Saarland gegründet werden. Begleitende Aktivitäten im Projekt umfassen nationale und internationale Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Maßnahmen zur Förderung des Technologietransfers im Allgemeinen sowie Formate zur Nachwuchsakquise im Bereich der Informatik. Das Projekt Tandem trägt dazu bei, die saarländische Informatik und den Wirtschaftsstandort Saarland zu stärken.