Word of Welcome
by Gintaras Steponavičius
Minister of Education and Science
of the Republic of Lithuania

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be able to welcome the participants in this international meeting and to be with you.

Let me begin with a quotation from academic Jonas Kubilius, one of the most brilliant scientific minds of Lithuania whose works laid the foundations for subsequent generations of Lithuanian mathematicians as well as this conference. The academic once said that mathematics is the most accessible science in Lithuania. Research does not require expensive materials, sophisticated laboratories or technologies – all you need is a good head and a pencil. I will not evaluate the impact of this idea on the development of probability theory and mathematical statistics in Lithuania. It is clear that owing to Jonas Kubilius’ standing and the achievements of his student, the late academic Vytautas Statulevičius, and scientists educated by them, Vilnius has the honour to host a meeting of the most prominent specialists in this area of science for the tenth time already.

The 10th Vilnius International Conference on Probability Theory and Mathematical Statistics is very important to us for two reasons. It shows that the continuity of high-level scientific work is retained from generation to generation in Lithuania and that Vilnius has been put on the map of mathematics as a venue for meetings of the best scientists in this area as well as exchange of new insights. Your presence here is important recognition of Lithuanian science.

In addition to the fundamental science, which is a prerequisite for the existence of science in general, the development of applied sciences is extremely relevant to Lithuania. We have allocated millions received from the Structural Funds of the European Union for these objectives and projects, hoping for a breakthrough in the area of new technologies, which we relate with the growing pace of Lithuania’s progress. Mathematics plays an important role in these projects as well. Grants of significant financial value that the Research Council of Lithuania has started allocating to scientists this year enable prominent researchers and heads of scientific schools to plan research programmes independently, organise teams and admit doctoral students. Our science and studies development programme provides for support for professional associations of scientists, which are formed on the basis of scientific interests and scientific schools rather than institutional dependence of researchers.

Being responsible for general education and higher education, I should mention another expectation I would link with your community. This is encouragement of youth to choose the profession of a scientist. Nowadays, young people’s attention is often attracted by professions promising quick benefits and success. Gifted young people often see an academic career as less attractive. However, if publicised appropriately, success stories – and the development of probability theory in Lithuania is an obvious success story – are an invaluable argument for those choosing their path of life.

In addition, I often hear complaints that a growing number of schoolchildren consider mathematics to be the most difficult and boring subject, and that they turn their back on the exact sciences at school and tend to choose social studies. Our common concern is to think how we could restore schoolchildren’s admiration for the subject justly called the queen of sciences. Force and compulsion will hardly help. You should share the zest and inspiration you have turned into the most important milestone in your life. I see fellow scientists as the key source of imagination and a force that can contribute to positive changes in this area. I do not want to distract your thoughts from academic problems to the pragmatics of education, but the higher number of schoolchildren considers mathematics to be interesting, the more of them will choose the exact sciences. This will also increase the likelihood of expanding your circle with young colleagues.

I wish you a meaningful and enjoyable time during the conference in Vilnius. Find some time for discussions and socialisation.