Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SciPy India 2009 update

Today is the fourth day of the 2009 SciPy India conference.  Although the first SciPy conference in the US was held in 2002, 2008 was the first time the conference was held in Europe and this year is the first time the conference was held in India.  It is a sign of the growing interest in using Python for scientific computing that there are now three annual conferences.

During the SciPy 2009 conference in August, Prabhu Ramachandran spoke about the Free and Open source Software for Science and Engineering Education (FOSSEE) project he was running at IIT Bombay.  The FOSSEE project is an ambitious project to promote the use of Python in numerical computing in college curriculum.  Prabhu has an interesting post on the contributions the scientific Python community has made to the larger Python community.  FOSSEE is actually just one part of an even more ambitious $1 billion dollar (US) government program called the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology.

Starting at the end of May 2009, Prabhu very quickly gathered together an amazing team that immediately created a significant amount of documentation and training materials including tutorials, audio/video demonstrations, written material, and lectures.  They've created a great two-day hands-on introductory tutorial to scientific programming with Python and have all ready conducted several of these tutorials all across India.  Now they are working on creating a couple of semester long college courses and will be offering the first one next semester at IIT Bombay. 

At the end of the SciPy 2009 conference in August, Prabhu proposed that we put together a SciPy conference in India and I immediately agreed.  Not wanting to delay, we decided to have the conference before the end of the year.  After all putting together an international scientific conference in less than four months was keeping with the overall ambition of the FOSSEE project.  As soon as Prabhu returned to Mumbai, he contacted Vimal Josef at SPACE Kerala about hosting the conference in Thiruvananthapuram.  Shortly after that we announced the first international on Scientific Computing with Python (Scipy.in 09) from December 12th to the 17th at Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram sponsored by FOSSEE, IIT Bombay and SPACE Kerala.

Once we finalized the dates for the conference, I called Travis Oliphant, the president of Enthought, and asked him to deliver the keynote address, which he quickly agreed to do.  Among his many accomplishments, Travis is one of the original authors of SciPy and the primary developer of NumPy.  David Cournapeau (one of the core NumPy and SciPy developers) and Chris Burns (one of the core developers of the neuroimaging in Python project) also agreed to deliver invited talks.

The FOSSEE and SPACE teams were invaluable in organizing the conference.  In particular, Madhusudan.C.S from the FOSSEE team worked very closely with me on the conference website and putting together the conference program.  I will write another blog post in the next day or so with a description of the actual conference.  For now, you can read a short write-up from one of the local newspapers.