IMU-Net 29: May 2008
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IMU-Net 29: May 2008

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France


1. Editorial
2. IMU Prizes: Chairs and Nomination
3. International Congresses of Mathematicians: Database of ICM speakers-Missing names
4. IMU on the Web
5. ICMI Awards
6. Abel Prize 2008
7. Towards Digital Mathematics Library (DML 2008)
8. Wolf Prize
9. Subscribing to IMU-Net



Dear Reader,

Last week here in Oslo, Norway, we celebrated this year's Abel Prize
Laureates, John Griggs Thompson and Jacques Tits, who were awarded the
Prize "for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular
for shaping modern group theory". The mathematical high point of the
celebrations were the four Abel lectures given by the prize winners
and by Michel Broué and Alex Lubotzky.

Another, smaller, event that took place in Oslo, in February, was a
conference on Higher education and research in developing countries.
Among the presenters were mathematicians from Africa, the Middle East,
Latin America, and Asia. For example, we heard from Cambodia about the
project initiated by CIMPA, supported by IMU and others, to rebuild
mathematical research and education in that country. Such projects
depend heavily on the support and participation of mathematicians from
around the world. Indeed, IMU's Developing Countries Strategy Group is
currently working on establishing a database of mathematician who are
willing to volunteer to give short courses as invited by developing

The Executive Committee met in Budapest, Hungary, in April. A couple
of the items on the agenda are mentioned in this newsletter, others
will follow in later newsletters.

Finally, I would like to repeat a plea from my editorial in IMU-Net 8,
2004: if you have a suggestion for an item or a piece of news from
your part of the world that you think might be of interest to the
international mathematical community, please let the editor of IMU-Net
know! You can also help us increase the distribution of the newsletter
by forwarding this issue to colleagues and encouraging them to

Ragni Piene
Member of the Executive Committee



The International Mathematical Union will award the following prizes during
the Opening Ceremony of the International Congress of Mathematicians
on 19 August 2010. The IMU Executive Committee has now appointed the
selection committees for these prizes. The Prize Committee Chairs are

- Fields Medals:
    László Lovász <>

- Rolf Nevanlinna Prize:
    Ravindran Kannan <>

- Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize:
    Wolfgang Dahmen <>

The names of the other committee members will be made public at ICM 2010.

Information about the prizes is at
Nomination guidelines can be found at

Nominations should ideally be sent by 15 December 2008 to the Prize
Committee Chairs.



A database of ICM plenary and invited speakers since 1950 can be found
on the IMU web site.

This list, which now consists of 2084 entries, has been a work in
progress and has been compiled from the proceedings volumes of the ICMs.
It is searchable by name, section, and year of the congress. However,
this database does not include those invitees who, for whatever reason,
did not participate in ICM and consequently were not included in the
table of contents of ICM proceedings. It has been pointed out to the IMU
Executive Committee (EC) that a number of mathematicians were invited
speakers but were prevented by their local governments from attending
ICM and giving their talks.  Most of these mathematicians were from the
former Soviet Union.

The IMU has consistently supported the freedom of circulation of
scientists around the world and has continued to endorse the principle
of universality expressed by the International Council for Science.  In
particular, the 15th IMU General Assembly (Santiago de Compostela, 2006)
reaffirmed this position  and passed a resolution (Resolution 10) in
this regard.

In its meeting in Budapest in April 2008, the EC approved a proposal by
A. Vershik, Russia, to include on its web site a list of mathematicians
who were invited to speak at one of the previous ICMs and who, for
political reasons, were unable to participate in the congress.  (This
list will not include those invitees who either declined the invitation
or were unable to attend for personal reasons.) The names of these
mathematicians will not be added to the already existing database
mentioned above, but will rather be posted as a separate list. It is not
an easy task to compile such a list from IMU records spanning several
ICMs. Therefore this will be a work in progress, and it is hoped that
inaccuracies and omissions are reported to IMU and can be corrected
accordingly. If you can help with this, please send your information to
sbaouendi at or ragnip at



For that matter, what is the price of a car or a novel or a loaf of bread?
All these things are frequently discounted, but we don't say they have no
real price. Yet on several occasions recently, I've heard people say that we
can't tell the price of journals because they are often discounted.

When the editorial board of the journal Topology resigned and began a
competing journal, Elsevier wrote: "Because the majority of our subscribers
purchase this journal in a larger set of journals, most are paying a
fraction of the institutional subscription price." I've heard similar
arguments from other publishers, who like to compute the "price" of a
journal by dividing the total revenue by the number of subscribers. But
that's not the price! It's the average revenue per subscriber.

The (list) price of a journal is set by the publisher, and it's plainly
visible to anyone who examines annual price lists. Just as for cars or
novels or bread, journals may be sold at a discount. But it's important to
remember that publishers discount journals for business reasons, not
because, in a sudden fit of remorse, they want to lower the price. Journals
are sometimes discounted to agents, who consolidate them to help libraries
purchase from multiple publishers. They are discounted to institutional
members of scholarly societies as a member benefit, in return for dues. And
journals are discounted to subscribers who buy bundles of journals, often
making a commitment to buy for several years. In each case, the publisher is
discounting journals in order to gain some advantage -- it's a business

There is nothing wrong with discounting journals or business arrangements in
general. But it doesn't change the price. Indeed, the list price is the
starting point for all such business arrangements, defining the amount of
money "given back" to the customer: I'll return a portion of the price in
return for some action on your part - consolidating, being a member, or
purchasing a bundle. Confusing the discounted price with the actual price
ignores one half of the bargain.

We should pay attention to the list price of a journal because some
subscribers (quite often, most) pay the list price. But there is another
reason not to let publishers substitute the "average revenue per subscriber"
for the price: the average revenue is a quotient, and publishers control
both the numerator and the denominator. We must rely on the publisher to
tell us the numerator, that is, the total revenue for a journal. Calculating
total revenue sounds straightforward until one realizes that when selling
bundles, large publishers apportion revenue among many journals - a
mysterious process that isn't easily discovered. For many publishers, the
total revenue assigned to a particular journal is a very fuzzy number
indeed. The denominator is even more problematic. How many subscribers does
a journal have? If a publisher adds many journals to bundles at no charge,
the number of "subscribers" will quickly rise. But adding unwanted (and
frequently unused) journals to bundles doesn't REALLY change the number of
subscribers to each journal. Allowing publishers to use these arrangements
to calculate either the average price per journal (for an institution) or
the average revenue per subscriber (for the publisher) is like allowing
politicians to count all those people who MIGHT have voted for them (but
didn't vote) in an election.

Scholars face a crisis today caused by high journal prices. If they are
going to make headway in addressing that crisis, they have to get smarter
about journals and more sophisticated about business practices. They can't
allow publishers to redefine the problem by redefining the price. That's
neither smart nor sophisticated.

John Ewing



The 2007 ICMI Felix Klein Medal is awarded to Professor Jeremy
Kilpatrick (USA).
The 2007 ICMI Hans Freudenthal Medal is awarded to Professor Anna
Sfard (Israel).
The official presentation of the 2007 medals will be made during the
opening ceremony at ICME-11 in Monterrey, Mexico, on Monday, 7 July
2008, jointly with the presentation of the two 2005 ICMI Medals.


6. ABEL PRIZE 2008

On 20 May 2008, the King of Norway presented the Abel Prize for 2008
to John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida and Jacques Tits,
Collège de France.
The Abel Laureates gave their prize lectures at the University of Oslo
on 21 May, followed by lectures by Michel Broué and Alex Lubotzky.



The workshop will take place on 7 July 2008 in Birmingham, UK.
The objectives are to formulate the strategy and goals of a global
mathematical digital library and to summarize the current successes
and failures of ongoing technologies and related projects, asking such
questions as:
# What technologies, standards, algorithms and formats should be used
      and what metadata should be shared?
# What business models are suitable for publishers of mathematical
      literature, authors and funders of their projects and institutions?
# Is there a model of sustainable, interoperable, and extensible
      mathematical library that mathematicians can use in their everyday work?
# What is the best practice for
        * retrodigitized mathematics (from images via OCR to MathML
and/or TeX);
        * retro-born-digital mathematics (from existing electronic copy in
          DVI, PS or PDF to MathML and/or TeX);
        * born-digital mathematics (how to make needed metadata and
file formats
          available as a side effect of publishing workflow [CEDRAM model])?
More on



the 2008 Wolf Prize in Mathematics has been jointly awarded to:

Pierre R. Deligne (IAS, Princeton, New Jersey, USA)
for his work on mixed Hodge theory; the Weil conjectures; the
Riemann-Hilbert correspondence; and for his contributions to arithmetic.

Phillip A. Griffiths (IAS, Princeton, New Jersey, USA)
for his work on variations of Hodge structures; the theory of periods
of abelian integrals; and for his contributions to complex
differential geometry.

David B. Mumford (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA)
for his work on algebraic surfaces; on geometric invariant theory; and
for laying the foundations of the modern algebraic theory of moduli of
curves and theta functions.

The prizes were presented by the President of the State of
Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, at a special ceremony, at the Knesset
in Jerusalem, on 25 May 2008.



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last updated: 2012-07-31