Dear Colleagues and Friends
We have been continuing our interest & enthusiasm with this series of "Econophysics Workshops", starting with the Pioneer Initiative of Kondor & Kertesz last year in Budapest. It's clear that this trend would continue and grow in the foreseeable future, as combination of economy and physics offers such fertile grounds for research of "physics of complexity".
I have been talking to a few colleagues (Mantegna, Stauffer, Bak, Sneppen, Cont, Marsili, Serva, Solomon et al) about an Initiative to promote our community to a more recognizable form. So far we have bee far we have been at margin of both communities. In order to promote our own research and visibility, we should organize a web site to actively engage everybody.
This endeavor can take a few steps, hopefully responses from you will get our initiative more creative and rich.
1) An info-rich web page, we have constructed a temporary web-page, pending a official name (www.unifr.ch/econophysics), and Rama Cont also has interesting one, but I think the best is that done by Enrico Scalas group at Genoa (www.ge.infm.it/econophysics). This latter is indeed one of the best managed pages among physicists.
2) We should not limit ourselves to a mere Web-Page, no matter how up-to-date it is and more rich in info. What is more innovative is to ACTIVELY engage members of a community. I have in mind AMAZON's comments section (www.amazon.com), readers com), readers can submit their comments, thoughts suggestions. We can actually do more than that. Since most our preprints are submitted to SISSA web page, then it would be nice to have members of our community to debate, clarify, make suggestions etc to keep the topic alive.
3) What can be realized is more than a web-page, by actively engaging ourselves on-line we shall evolve this future web-site into a "VIRTUAL INSTITUTE" or FORUM. A virtual institute is especially appropriate for our community since we don't have a "physical existence", like buildings and secretaries, and most importantly, we don't have budget, pay-rolls. We are scattered around the world though currently more Europe-based, due to its liberal tradition in thinking.
4) What can a virtual institute do? Members can contribute to publish commentaries, to educate ourselves of the standard economics collectively, to assess the current progress, to let people aware who's who and what's known, and what challenges are. Our field is very young and far from mature & saturated yet, even the most knowledgeable members do not know everything. We pool our common strength and resources to tackle the problem. As a block we shall have more credibility, when engaging real economists for serious discussion. J-P Bouchaud has pioneered in promoting the recent journalting the recent journal IJTAF is a good example.
5) Current situation calls for urgently our action: The Orthodox economics is under attack from within and without. But there is few serious dialogue between the two communities (economics vs physics). A good example is the current ICTP School and Meeting in Sept98, it is organized by economists, even it is primarily for PHYSICISTS, only traditional economists (dozens, for almost a month) speak. Physicists' contribution is totally ignored! This is partly our own fault, the organizers may not be aware of our existence. If we have our own active site so that we can proudly direct interested people to have a look who we are?!
6) Let's be concrete. Since this virtual institute should be in principle "self-organized", it should have contributions from all interested parties, the current web-pages cannot do that yet, but are good starting point to build further on. This doesn't imply it should be an anarchy. We may, for example, compose a board with a small number of core members (say 10?), one representative from each current existing groups. This board should play a more active role in the virtual institute. First of all it should define near term goals and methods, also to contribute short commentaries. Please see recent Web page of ITP (Santa Barbara), view graphs and voice are accessible online for seminars, discussion groups etc. Yahoo and otherups etc. Yahoo and other Internet companies are creating "groups", "communities" and some structures can be useful to us.
7) Technically this is not difficult to realize. The principal page and main structure are only accessible to web-masters, with JAVA we can reserve places for anybody's comments, so the casual wsual writer need not to face technical difficulties. I have two assistants who can help with the system manager part, but I believe that Genoa group have more advanced tools and human resources. We can discuss on this during the coming Palermo meeting. One point I want to repeat here: Genoa has already a superb page, but we need something more than a web-page since the whole community can actively participate.
Please me send your comments & suggestions, currently still through e-mail form, hopefully we can meet in our VIRTUAL INSTITUTE soon!
Yi-Cheng Zhang, 15.09.1998
Institut de Physique Theorique, Fribourg, Suisse
* An Open Letter to George Soros
* NESS Note of Meeting