Personal Homepages and the World Directory of Mathematicians
The International Mathematical Union (IMU) has decided to discontinue publication of the World Directory of Mathematicians (WDM), and suggests to set up a distributed electronic version, to be called Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians (EWDM). The EWDM has become operational on December 1, 2003. The IMU combines this proposal with a call to every mathematician to offer a structured homepage on the Web.
The Personal Homepage Call
IMU asks every mathematician to set up and maintain a personal homepage. IMU requests to offer the homepage in a user-friendly way. IMU suggests to structure the homepage along the lines of the Mathematician's Professional Homepage (MPH).
The Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians Call
IMU plans to set up and maintain an Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians (EWDM). Every mathematician who has a homepage is asked to register the homepage through the EWDM registration mechanism.
Details about the MPH structure and the EWDM registration procedure can be found below.
- Recall: The Institutional Math-Net Page
- Offer your Professional Homepage
- The Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians
1. Recall: The Institutional Math-Net Page
IMU believes that it is most desirable to have as much information about mathematics and mathematicians available on the Internet as possible. IMU has created Math-Net, and encourages every mathematical institution to offer a Web page, see www.math-net.org/Math-Net-Recommendation.html. More precisely, IMU asks to offer the information not only by a nicely designed institutional Web page but also via a standardized Math-Net page, see www.math-net.org/launching-Math-Net.html in order to facilitate search and enable special services.
2. Offer your Professional Homepage
IMU encourages every mathematician to maintain a personal homepage on the Web. IMU presumes that the majority of all active mathematicians has some kind of homepage. Since it is an aim of IMU to foster international contact, cooperation, and communication IMU asks every mathematician to offer his or her homepage in such a way that
- it can be found
- it provides information that is useful for colleagues.
Due to the inherent limits of print editions the WDM was very restricted in terms of amount and range of information published. The "electronic world" opens up means to go far beyond these limits. IMU encourages all mathematicians to utilize these possibilities.
What should be done?
2.1 Your first homepage
The WDM contains just names, postal and e-mail addresses. Let us not go beneath this low end standard. Make your coordinates electronically available to your colleagues. The minimum information should be
- affiliation (institution you work at)
- postal address (to where letters can be sent)
- phone and fax numbers (also of a secretary if there is one)
- e-mail address
- and (optional, of course) your private coordinates.
This is information typically contained on your business card, your stationary, or in e-mail appendices such as "signature" or "vCard". And such material is often generated by institutions as the "personal homepage" of an employee. Here are two examples of what one might call a "basic personal homepage":
If you have no idea how to produce such a homepage and how to make it "visible" on the Web (e.g., via your institution) one of the more technically oriented colleagues in your neighborhood or some person in your technical support or administrative department will certainly be able to help.
2.2 What is a "good personal homepage"?
The IMU Committee of Information and Communication (CEIC) has designed and recommended the Math-Net Page as a standard for institutional homepages for mathematical departments. It has also spent quite some time on a recommendation for what it would like to call "standard professional homepage" of a mathematician. No consensus has been reached so far. The reason simply is that, while the range of activities of a mathematical department is quite well defined and rather similar throughout the world, the range of activities, interests, and material that individual mathematicians want or should display on a Web page varies considerably. Moreover, individuals tend to exhibit their individuality by maintaining a Web page that fits their taste, style, and interests best.
Here are examples of useful homepages of members of the IMU EC and CEIC. The design varies
- from plain to baroque,
- from textual to graphical orientation.
Just click, look, and judge for yourself:
John M Ball
Jonathan M. Borwein
Peter W. Michor
David R. Morrison
Alf van der Poorten
Here is the homepage of a specialist in Information Visualization and Human-Computer Interaction
Clearly, which of these homepages one prefers highly depends on personal taste. One criterion for those who search for some information might be to check how fast one can find particular items one is interested in.
2.3 What should a good personal homepage contain, and how should the material be arranged?
Sure, homepages are often made for the fun of the designers, but - in CEICs opinion - their primary purpose is to display information for others. Moreover, they should be designed "for easy use" by others. Some homepages may be graphically beautiful; but if you search for a paper of the homepage owner or information about a project he or she is involved in and you need a long time to "click around" before you can find it, you may actually prefer a less fancy design that offers more structure.
The CEIC has, thus, collected topics that might be of interest for a potential reader of a personal homepage of a mathematician and classified these topics into the following six groups:
- General Information
- Collaborations and Cooperations
- News and Miscellaneous
- Professional Activities
These six headings may serve as a general guideline for the contents of a professional personal homepage.
2.4 Details of the Mathematician's Professional Homepage (MPH)
CEIC proposes to subdivide the above six groups and to provide, thus, particular information as follows:
Information for Visitors
Academic Positions/Professional History
Awards & Distinctions
Collaborations and Cooperations
Co-Authors and Collaborators
News and Miscellaneous
Future Conferences and Meetings
Research Areas and Applications
Other Scientific Interests
Research Projects / Grants
Talks / Presentations
Information for Students
Current and Future Teaching
Teaching and Course Materials
Editorial Responsibilities / Refereeing
Professional Societies /Administrative Service
Congress and Workshop Organization
Other Services, Duties, and Functions
It is clear that not everybody has entries in each of the subgroups above; this is particulary true for mathematicians in earlier stages of their career. Moreover, not every mathematician may be willing to make all this information public or may not have the time to search for the material and put it together.
Nevertheless, CEIC thought it worthwhile to make a proposal to the "world of mathematicians" so that, whenever someone intends to design or redesign his or her professional homepage there are some guidelines concerning its structure and contents.
Needless to say that setting up a Web page of the above "dimension" requires effort. Some colleagues have met the challenge and collected relevant material (in various degrees of completeness) so that everyone interested gets an idea of the type of contents that CEIC feels should be contained in the subgroups. Here is one examples:
The design of the Web page follows the style (or let us better say: the look and feel) of the institutional homepage mentioned above. CEIC would like to call this Web page design a
Mathematician's Professional Homepage (MPH).
2.6 The MPH Maker
Members of the Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum in Berlin (ZIB) have programmed a tool with which a homepage in the MPH style can be created easily. This program, call MPH Maker, has just been completed, see www.mathunion.org/MPHMaker and the corresponding help pages.
The current MPH Maker has standardized names for the groups and subgroups on the homepage. If there is a sufficient response, the MPH Maker will be extended so that there will be more flexibility in naming the groups and subgroups.
A "lighter" version of the MPH Maker is under development in Osnabrück and will be available soon.
If you have suggestions concerning the MPH please send e-mail to IMU-Net-MPH(at)mathunion.org
2.7 Regular updates and address changes
The following two (small but important) items must be paid attention in order to keep homepage information "alive".
2.7a Regular updates
Whatever homepage you have, make sure that it displays correct information, i.e, update your homepage regularly, in particular, when some of your coordinates (phone, postal or e-mail address) have changed.
2.7b Change of address
Whenever you move to another institution, negotiate with your old institution to keep your old homepage under the old URL alive for some period of time. Make sure to set a link to your new homepage and ask your colleagues who have set a link to your old homepage to change the link. (Institutions are asked to maintain homepages of persons who have moved on for a reasonable grace period so that moves of people can be traced for a while.) And update your URL in the EWDM, see below.
The IMU has particular interest that all mathematical publications are made electronically available on the Web, see http://www.mathunion.org/ceic.
Even if you decide not to join the "MPH move", please put your papers on the Web. You can, for instance, employ your homepage to offer the electronic versions of your publications. There are several ways to do that. Here are three publication lists that can serve as examples of how to present the material:
It might be good to agree on some standards concerning scanning old material, formats of presentation (LATEX, PDF, PS, DjVu, MathML,...) and the like. Technical recommendations have been developed by the Standards Group of the DML Planning Project. CEIC does hope that every mathematician will make some effort to contribute to the "worldwide distributed electronic library of mathematics" (that may result from these efforts) by offering electronic versions of publications
- on the professional homepage and/or
- on the institutional homepage and/or
- on an archival repository such as arXiv.
4. The Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians (EWDM)
4.1 Google and homepages
Google and other search engines have become indispensable tools for finding information on the Web. If you have a personal homepage and a not too common name, it is very likely that, having typed your first and last name into the search field of such a search engine, your homepage will appear among the first 10 hits or so. But it may also be a good idea to maintain something like an electronic world directory of mathematicians.
One of the reasons for discontinuing the WDM paper version was the considerable efforts and costs involved to create this worldwide list every four years anew. IMU has thought of establishing and maintaining an electronic version of the WDM; but when the American Mathematical Society had alerted to the very substantial costs involved in keeping the AMS/MAA/SIAM combined membership list up to date it was clear that the IMU funds are by far not sufficient to cover the necessary expenses.
4.3 CEIC's EWDM proposal
Here is CEIC's proposal for an initial low tech version of an Electronic World Directory of Mathematicians (EWDM):
Every mathematician who has a homepage of her or his own is asked to register the homepage through the EWDM registration mechanism. Instead of just providing
- your e-mail address (as was the case so far)
you will be asked to provide, in addition,
- your name
- the URL of your hompage and
- your country.
If you are pleased to find others on the Web, why not provide some information about yourself?
In the beginning the EWDM will just consist of an alphabetic list of the persons who have registered. If the number of registered mathematicians is significant and the idea has caught on (just as - after a while - the Mathematics Genealogy Project, see genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu has attracted significant attention) all kinds of "services" can be added to make the EWDM a useful tool for searching and "bonding" within the mathematical community.
Let us, thus, try to start with a simple version of EWDM. It will take you almost no time to participate. But adding up many small epsilons may result in a large sum. EWDM may be of significant use for mathematicians in the future. So please register your URL. If you have already registered for IMU-Net please go through the new (extended) registration process again (it takes just a few minutes) to register yourself for EWDM. And if you have good ideas for services based on the EWDM, just send an e-mail to IMU-Net-EWDM(at)mathunion.org