IMU-Net 45: January 2011
A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France
2. Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC)
3. Commission for Developing Countries (IMU/CDC)
4. 2011: An important year for ICSU
5. Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE 2013)
6. Subscribing to IMU-Net
This is the start of a new 4-year cycle in the life of IMU. As
always, it will culminate with the next ICM, to be held in 2014 in
Seoul, Korea. It is with great pleasure that I can announce here that
the Chair of the Program Committee for ICM-2014 has been appointed:
Carlos Kenig, of the University of Chicago, has accepted to serve the
IMU in this function. Together with the EC, he will now put together
the rest of the Program Committee, so that they can start their work
on the next ICM.
In a few days, several members of the EC, including myself, will
travel to Berlin, to witness the official opening of the permanent IMU
Secretariat. We will also hold a meeting of the CDC, the Commission
for Developing Countries, which is a very important component of IMU's
activities. As part of a sabbatical leave during which I wanted to be
of service to the community, I spent the last 3 months of 2010 in
Madagascar, and this brought home to me how much support from the IMU
can mean to the mathematical communities in developing countries. Now
is an especially important time: as the use of wide-band internet is
becoming possible in more and more geographic regions, mathematical
communities that found themselves isolated from the rest of the
mathematical world suddenly can access all the resources and knowledge
available on the internet, and it can make a world of difference.
The following story illustrates this very well. During my stay in
Madagascar, two students at the university in Antananarivo, the
capital, defended their Ph.D. thesis, and I was invited to be part of
their committee. Their advisor had done his research work in France,
but had found it virtually impossible, in the absence of journals, to
keep up with the developments in his field, and had gradually
abandoned research after his return to Madagascar. Until, just a few
years ago, two young students came to see him, asking to work with
him. He tried sending them away -- "It was not possible to be sure
certain problems were still open," he told them; "in isolation, as
they were, they couldn't find out what the present state was of the
field; their only hope was in obtaining a fellowship to go abroad".
But they found that they could download many papers from internet; as
their advisor enthusiastically told me, their sheer persistence in
showing him recent work, and questions raised in recent papers, made
him realize that internet access could break through their isolation,
and contact with a vibrant research community found on the internet
re-ignited his enthusiasm for research, leading ultimately to several
papers and the successful completion of two Ph.D. theses.
There is no reason why this should remain an isolated story. More than
many other research communities, mathematicians make a large portion
of their work freely accessible through the internet. Once small
nuclei of motivated and eager young mathematicians form, who study
these materials and carry them further, there is no limit to how far
they can carry their mathematical development, regardless of how few
books or journals their libraries hold, because, unlike researchers in
many other sciences or in engineering, they do not require equipment
or facilities that their country or their region may not
yet be able to afford. IMU can play a vital role in helping ensure that young
mathematicians everywhere can access the mathematical research world,
in helping set up forums where they can be in touch with each other
and with researchers in developed countries, in helping them develop
their talents. The practical problems are formidable, of course, and
the means of IMU are very limited. But the potential pay-off is huge,
for the mathematics community as well as for the developing countries.
Like the previous IMU president, I believe IMU should be concerned
with many other matters as well, including mathematics education.
Another part of my sabbatical was devoted to helping develop materials
for a campaign in Belgium, my home country, to make school children
understand that mathematics is so much more than the formulaic aspects
that they believe is its essence. Good mathematics teachers are a
precious resource to the whole world, and educating, fostering and
supporting them is incredibly important. I have been glad to learn of
the fruitful collaboration between IMU and ICMI in recent years, and I
look forward to working with ICMI on the many important issues
concerning mathematics education that we are facing.
I am sure that the next 4 years will be challenging, but fortunately I
will not have to face them alone. Even in the few weeks in which I
have been in function, I have already amply witnessed the dedication
and energy of my colleagues on the EC. I look forward to working with
them all, on all the issues facing the IMU.
President of the IMU
2. From the Chair of the Committee on Electronic Information and
It is an honor to have been asked by the IMU to serve as the next
chair the CEIC. I should begin by thanking my predecessors,
particularly John Ball, who first introduced me to the Committee's
mission and convinced me to accept an invitation to join. I also must
thank the members of past incarnations of CEIC for their dedication
and hard work over the past decade plus. The revolution in electronic
information and communication fomented by the internet continues to
accelerate, making it an almost impossible challenge to formulate
policies and initiatives that have any degree of permanence.
Nevertheless, CEIC's charge to advise the IMU, and, by extension, the
worldwide mathematics community as they navigate the electronic
landscape is more critical than ever. Let me outline some of the key
issues that will occupy the attention of the CEIC in the near term:
Best practices: the signal accomplishment of the last term is the
"Best Practices for Journals" document
that was approved by the General Assembly at its Bangalore meeting in
2010. The committee will continue to actively promote this document,
both within the mathematical community and its learned societies and
publishers, as well as the broader scientific world.
Access to mathematics: a long running goal of the IMU is to make sure
access to the latest mathematical research is available and affordable
throughout the world. The CEIC must continue to develop new means of
expanding access to electronic publications and preprints, software
repositories, etc., particularly in countries with less developed
Web innovations: there has been a proliferation of new internet-based
approaches to mathematics and research, including blogs, wikis,
polymath collaborative projects, and so on. The CEIC needs to stay
abreast of these developments, informing the IMU and the broader
community. In this spirit, it will be worth revisiting of the current
format of IMU-Net.
Use and abuse of metrics: the increasing reliance of administrators
and funding agencies on impersonal metrics such as impact factors is a
cause of great concern. Not only are all such metrics unreliable,
there is increasing evidence of unscrupulous publishers, editors and
authors actively manipulating metrics to their own advantage. See D.
Arnold and K. Fowler, Nefarious Numbers, to appear in Notices Amer.
Math. Soc., 58(3), 2011,
The IMU General Assembly has approved the creation of a joint
IMU/ICIAM Working Group to consider "whether or not a joint ICIAM/IMU
method of ranking mathematical journals should be instituted, and what
other possible options there may be for protecting against the
inappropriate use of impact factors and similar manipulable indices
for evaluating research".
Plagiarism: professional pressures have led to increasing incidents
of plagiarism — of papers, material from books, and scientific ideas.
The mathematical community (including its publishers) are only just
waking up to how prevalent this has become. See D. Arnold, Integrity
Under Attack: The State of Scholarly Publishing, SIAM News, 42 (10)
One of my own direct experiences with plagiarism is documented on my web site:
Preventing such misconduct will require a combination of widespread
publicity, software, and, if necessary, legal remedies.
Predatory journals and conferences: new models of publication (open
access, pay to publish, etc.) and dissemination have unfortunately
spawned the appearance of predatory journals and conferences that are
motivated by money and status, with science only serving as a facade.
While most established researchers can distinguish between legitimate
science and scam, neophytes and those not well connected to the
scientific mainstream may well be led astray. Again, increased
publicity will go a long ways to curbing such abuses.
Archives: an ongoing charge of the CEIC, which will now enter a new
phase with the permanent head quartering of the IMU in Berlin, is to
locate, preserve, and archive past material, including minutes,
proceedings, videos, etc. Developing a secure system that makes
public material readily available while ensuring that embargoed and
confidential material is properly secured and preserved will require
careful thought. Moreover, there is a pressing need to revamp and
update the committee's own web pages.
Peter J. Olver
University of Minnesota
3. COMMISSION FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (IMU/CDC)
January 1 2011 marked the installation of IMU's newest commission, the
Commission for Developing Countries (IMU/CDC). The commission will
take over the work previously performed during the last three decades
by the Commission for Development and Exchanges, as well as the work
of the more recently formed Developing Countries Strategy Group.
IMU/CDC holds its first meeting in Berlin on January 30 in conjunction
with the official opening of the IMU permanent office, which takes
place on February 1. After this first face-to-face meeting, IMU/CDC
will conduct most of it business electronically.
Among the first tasks of IMU/CDC will be the convening of a one-day
workshop on the implementation of the 'donors conference' resolution
of the IMU General Assembly in Hyderabad last August. This resolution
asks the IMU Executive Committee to explore the feasibility of
convening a major Donors Conference with the purpose of dramatically
increasing support for mathematics development among the emerging
countries of the world. The feasibility study will be conducted by
IMU/CDC, beginning with the aforementioned one-day workshop, which
will be held on January 31. If the Donors Conference is decided to be
feasible, then it will most likely be held as a satellite activity to
ICM2014 in Seoul, Korea.
IMU/CDC membership, elected at the General Assembly in Hyderabad, is
José-Antonio de la Peña (Mexico), President
C. Herbert Clemens (US), Secretary(policy)
Srinivasan Kesavan (India, Secretary (grants)
Hoang Xuan Phu (Vietnam), Member (Asia)
Wandera Ogana (Kenya), Member (Africa)
Carlos Cabrelli (Argentina), Member (Latin America)
Ingrid Daubechies (US), IMU President (ex officio)
Additional, appointed by the IMU/EC, are:
Ragni Piene (Norway), Member-at-large
Angel Ruíz (Costa Rica), Member-at-large
Polly W. Sy (Philippines), Member-at-large
4. 2011: An important year for ICSU
2011 will be an important year for ICSU (International Council for
Science, www.icsu.org) due to the celebration of its 30th ICSU General
Assembly, to be held in Rome (Italy) next September. IMU has increased
its involvement in ICSU in the last years. An IMU delegation attended
the previous ICSU General Assembly in Maputo (Mozambique) in 2008;
another IMU delegation will represent the mathematical community in
Rome this year.
On that occasion (and maybe for the first time) IMU put forward the
nomination of a mathematician for the ICSU Executive Board, and even
if the IMU candidate was not elected, IMU will insist in Rome that
mathematics has a significant role to play in ICSU organization. We
are convinced that IMU has many positive things to share with the ICSU
family. Let me mention only a few but crucial issues.
ICSU is developing a Science Education Report in coordination with their
members (unions and nations). ICMI has prepared (in collaboration with IMU)
a detailed response to the Draft Report of the ICSU Ad Hoc Review Panel on
Science Education, discussing the role of Mathematics in Education and as a
tool for other sciences. The long experience and professionalism of
ICMI (more that one century of history!) should be recognized and
become a source of inspiration for ICSU.
Another relevant issue is the participation of IMU in the new ICSU
project: Earth System Research for Sustainable Development. In
response to ICSU's
invitation, IMU has sent two nominations for its incoming Steering Committee.
At the same time, IMU is increasing its collaboration with other
unions. In particular, IMU has some preliminary contacts with the
International Union of
Crystallography (IUCr) that celebrates in 2013 the International Year
of Crystallography. These contacts will be formalized in the coming
months, especially in relation with the initiative "Mathematics of
Planet Earth 2013", a project first launched by the North American
Institutes and now enlarged to the planet.
IMU has also played an active role in the discussion on the Review of
ICSU Statute 5 “Principle of the Universality of Science??? proposed by
the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science.
IMU sent a detailed report by January 2011.
And, finally, IMU will participate in the Foresight Analysis that ICSU is
conducting to explore the development of international science over the next
20 years, in coincidence with the centenary of ICSU in 2031.
As a conclusion, IMU is continuing and increasing its activities in ICSU,
trying to raise the profile of mathematics and to highlight the key
role of mathematics in science and education.
Manuel de Leon,
Member of the Executive Committee of IMU
Correspondent for ICSU
5. MATHEMATICS ON PLANET EARTH
An invitation is sent to the world mathematical community including
the institutes in mathematical sciences, the learned societies and the
scientific journals to join this initiative and hold activities around
the theme of Mathematics of Planet Earth in 2013 all over the world.
The kind of activities that will take place around Mathematics of
Planet Earth in 2013:
• Thematic programs at research institutes in mathematical sciences
• Summer schools
• Activities for the public and the media
• Activities in schools and for teachers
• Special issues in scientific journals
Several institutes will organize part of their thematic programs on
Mathematics of Planet Earth. It is hoped that many activities will be
joint activities organized in partnership with more than one institute.
A joint North American Scientific Committee has be formed, chaired by
Contact: Christiane Rousseau, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, see Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE 2013):
6. SUBSCRIBING TO IMU-NET
There are two ways of subscribing to IMU-Net:
1. Click on www.mathunion.org/IMU-Net with a Web browser and go
to the "Subscribe" button to subscribe to IMU-Net online.
2. Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the Subject-line:
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