IMU-Net 46: March 2011
A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France
2. A permanent secretariat for IMU
3. IMU on the Web: About The Future of Mathematical Journals
4. ICM 2014
5. Abel Prize 2011
6. Subscribing to IMU-Net
I am writing this as a new Member at Large of the Executive Committee,
elected at the General Assembly in Bangalore, just before the ICM at Hy-
derabad. I'd like to thank Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel for asking me to write
Though my term in the EC officially started in January, 2011, I became
involved in IMU work during the ICM itself, after attending a joint meeting
of the then serving EC, and the new members present. One of the important
decisions at the GA in Bangalore was the vote to establish a Secretariat for
the IMU at WIAS, Berlin. An immediate task before the EC was to prepare
a Memorandum of Understanding between the IMU and the WIAS, which I
helped draft. Since then, I have been involved in several IMU related
matters, mostly through email discussion and (when needed) e-voting,
and most recently through participation in the EC meeting at Perth,
warmly hosted by continuing EC member Cheryl Praeger and the University
of Western Australia, her home university.
The IMU is expected to play an important role in guiding the
mathematical community (for instance, in responding to the
inappropriate use of metrics in the evaluation of research), and I am
glad to be part of that effort, along with other colleagues in the EC
and in the community. As someone who has been living and working in
India since 1983, I hope to bring that experience to the EC, to
provide a suitable perspective, when that is relevant. Diversity is an
important strength of the IMU, in my opinion, and acknowledges the
possibility of pursuing a reasonable mathematical career without
necessarily having to leave one's homeland. In the last Editorial, the
newly elected President articulated a vision for the rapid development
of mathematics in less endowed regions using internet resources, which
I found quite inspiring, and I am pleased to be associated with the
IMU efforts to make this possible.
Preparations for the ICM at Hyderabad began in earnest long ago, but
the real momentum was perhaps in the 18 months or so before the Congress.
I had a role in some of the extensive preparations, including membership
of the Editorial Board for the Proceedings, which I found very fascinating,
with the chance to read in advance copies of the texts of the
lecturers in many different fields, which I may not have come across
in the normal course of events. The ICM was a landmark event in the
modern history of Indian mathematics, and we in India hope to see the
excitement generated at the
ICM carry us forward to a greater flowering of Indian mathematics in the
coming years, as India itself undergoes many changes, moving us closer in
some ways to the developed world. India seems to be shrugging off a colonial
past, and as part of its efforts at upliftment, has started a number of new
Institutions of learning, for which it is seeking qualified faculty.
Thus, India is in the unusual position of having a large number of
vacancies for academics in the mathematical sciences, and is seeking
qualified people to fill them.
One hoped-for benefit of the ICM is to highlight the possible career options
in mathematics to young Indians, and their guardians, so that more young
people are motivated to take up mathematics, and related studies and careers.
By showing the vigour and excitement of mathematics in the world today,
we hope that the pursuit of mathematics as a viable and exciting career, and
also as an important resource for those choosing other careers, is brought to
the notice of more people in India. It is also planned to follow up the ICM
with other activities meant to reinforce these messages.
I look forward to working for the next four years with my new colleagues
on the IMU EC on the issues facing the IMU, and to learn from them, and
others, about ways in which we in India can foster our own mathematical
Member at Large, IMU Executive Committee
2. A PERMANENT SECRETARIAT FOR IMU
According to the decision of the 16th IMU General Assembly, Bangalore,
India on August 16, 2010 the IMU has got a permanent secretariat. This
happens for the first time in IMU's life, so far the secretariat always
moved to the home of the IMU Secretary. The permanent secretariat is
hosted by the Weierstrass Institute, Berlin, Germany. It started
operation in January 2011. The official inauguration of the permanent
IMU Secretariat took place on February 1. The IMU President Ingrid Daubechies
together with the State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of
Education and Research G. Schuette and the State Secretary for Science
and Research at the Berlin Senate K. Nevermann did the ribbon cutting
in the premises of the IMU Secretariat in the presence of national and
international guests and under the eyes of "the Prince of
Mathematicians" C.F. Gauss (from his portrait, of course, that adorned
the place). (See http://www.wias-berlin.de/imu/.) The secretarial
staff is composed of five persons: the manager (S. Markwardt), the
CDC/ICMI administrator (L. Koch), the IT administrator (H. Kalweit),
the accountant (A. Orlowsky), and the archivist (B. Seeliger).
Alexander Mielke from the Weierstrass Institute is the head of the IMU
secretariat and responsible for coordinating issues on the part of the
IMU Secretariat as well as the Weierstrass Institute. The
administrative work of the IMU Secretariat includes supporting the
activities of the IMU Executive Committee and IMU's subcommissions,
maintaining the IMU Web page, administrating the IMU finances, and
establishing and maintaining the IMU archive.
Thanks to the generous provision of resources and to the commitment of all
staff the IMU Secretariat will be able to efficiently contribute to
fostering the international cooperation of the mathematical community.
IMU Secretariat Manager
3. IMU ON THE WEB: About The Future of Mathematical Journals
(CNRS-Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Bures-sur-Yvette, France)
Recently I was invited to take part in a workshop on "The Future of
Mathematical Journals" held at MSRI at the initiative of the American
Mathematical Society and the London Mathematical Society. We all know
that this question is of paramount importance for the development of
our discipline. It has many aspects, some quite technical, some
economical and some political. The point I stressed in my presentation
at the workshop was the need to approach the problem using a systemic
approach, as it is typically a question in which secondary effects can
have, in the long run, the same impact as primary effects.
As we all know, mathematicians developed a usage of mathematical
journals that is, in many respects, specific to them. Journals are
supported by the community in the sense that submitting articles to
journals is free, and referees evaluate articles also for free,
although this work is sometimes extremely time consuming as it
requires thorough checking of content. Also, because of the long term
value of published articles, mathematicians care about the long term
accessibility to mathematical literature.
This model has been recently under great pressure for several reasons,
all connected to the new possibilities offered by internet to access
information. The question of "free access" has become a central issue.
It is not an easy one as it challenges the economical models on which
journals have been based in the last decade. It can actually be a
threat to learned society or academy-based publishers, who do not have
the financial plasticity of larger publishing houses.
My main concern is related to the fact that, in recent years,
mathematicians have been working under an increasing pressure, like
many other members of the academic community, because of the squeeze
of free time, the increasing role of funding coming through projects,
as well as the pressure to publish, their performance being more and
more rated on
the basis of bibliographic data.
In my view this introduces a real threat on content. Indeed,
mathematicians can devote less and less time to it because the
pressure to publish quickly is building up, but also because a lot of
time traditionally dedicated to evaluating the content of articles is
taken away by the demand for evaluating projects, structures, career
development, etc; in the last twenty years, these demands have grown
considerably at the expense of genuinely reading articles. The risk is
that more and more articles are read less carefully.
Another aspect of the threat comes from the mathematical community
itself: in the constrained environment we live in, more and more
published articles tend to be "almost" correct in the sense that the
true experts in the field can determine how some proofs (or some
statements) have to be modified (most often slightly) to make complete
sense, and to achieve what they promise.
The existence of "grey areas" in publications poses a real threat to
the development of the mathematical enterprise, since it may prevent
newcomers, and I think typically of young mathematicians from
communities that are being formed in emerging countries, from
participating in the advancement of mathematics at the right level.
This is both unfair and unhealthy for the discipline. As responsible
members of a scientific community, we should not tolerate that such a
situation develops, and fight against this tendency with determination.
4. ICM 2014
A). PROGRAM STRUCTURE
The next International Congress of Mathematicians will take place in
Seoul, Republic of Korea from August 13-21, 2014. The IMU President
Ingrid Daubechies has appointed Carlos Kenig (Chicago, USA) as chair
of the Program Committee (PC) and the IMU Executive Committee has
chosen all other members of the PC. The Program Committee will meet in
October, 2011 in order to define the program structure of ICM 2014.
According to the PC/OC Guidelines, see
the PC is responsible for the ICM structure but is advised to use the
programs of previous ICMs as rough guidelines. Innovations, of course,
are not ruled out, and some Adhering Organizations and individuals may
have good ideas for changes to the program structure.
If you have suggestions on the program structure for the Program
Committee, please contact
Carlos Kenig via the following e-mail address:
before September 1, 2011 so that your suggestions can be considered by
the ICM 2014 Program Committee.
B). PRE-REGISTRATION IS NOW AVAILABLE
Circular Letter 1
To all mathematicians interested in pre-registering for the ICM 2014:
The next International Congress of Mathematicians, ICM 2014, will be held at
COEX Convention & Exhibition Center, Seoul, Korea, August 13-21, 2014
We stand ready to provide all possible support for a successful
congress and hope you can come and enjoy this event.
It is our pleasure to announce that the ICM 2014 Homepage has
officially opened where you are welcome to pre-register for the
Please visit our website where you will find simple instructions on
how to pre-register.
Once you have pre-registered, you will be included in the ICM 2014
mailing list and will receive periodic ICM E-news for the next
three years. Once you pre-register, you will be able to log into
MyPage and modify your personal information or cancel your
For any questions about ICM 2014, please send an email to
If electronic communication is not available you may also write to
SEOUL ICM 2014 Secretariat
The Korea Science and Technology Center 204
635-4 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu
Seoul, 135-703, Korea
Hoping to see you in Seoul.
Chairman, ICM 2014 Organizing Committee
5. ABEL PRIZE 2011
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel
Prize for 2011 to John Milnor, Institute for Mathematical Sciences,
Stony Brook University, New York "for pioneering discoveries in
topology, geometry and algebra".
The President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Øyvind
Østerud, announced the winner of this year's Abel Prize at the Academy
in Oslo on 23 March.
John Milnor will receive the Abel Prize from His Majesty King Harald at an
award ceremony in Oslo on 24 May.
The Abel Prize recognizes contributions of extraordinary depth and
influence to the mathematical sciences and has been awarded annually
since 2003. It carries a cash award of NOK 6,000,000 (close to EUR
750,000 or USD 1 mill.)
John Milnor's profound ideas and fundamental discoveries have largely shaped
the mathematical landscape of the second half of the 20th century. All of
Milnor's work display features of great research: profound insights, vivid
imagination, striking surprises and supreme beauty. Milnor has also
written tremendously influential books, which are widely considered to
be models of fine mathematical writing.
For more information please go to the Abel prize web site:
Note that the Abel committee's citation and the prize winner's biography
are available in the following languages: English, German, French, Spanish,
Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic.
6. SUBSCRIBING TO IMU-NET
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