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IMU Awards, Prizes, and Special Lecture

The International Mathematical Union grants four prizes for mathematical achievement which are awarded every four years at the Opening Ceremony of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM):

  • Fields Medal - recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement, it was first awarded in 1936.
  • Abacus Medal - honors distinguished achievements in mathematical aspects of information science, it will be awarded for the first time in 2022. It replaces the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize which was awarded from 1982 to 2018.
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize - is awarded for outstanding mathematical contributions that have found significant applications outside of mathematics, it was awarded first in 2006.
  • Chern Medal Award - is awarded to an individual whose accomplishments warrant the highest level of recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of mathematics, it was awarded for the first time in 2010.

In addition, the IMU awards the following prize for mathematical outreach:

  • Leelavati Prize - recognizes outstanding public outreach work for mathematics. The IMU awards the Prize since 2010. Since 2014 this Prize is sponsored by Infosys.

Finally, the IMU also coordinates the following special lecture:

  • ICM Emmy Noether Lecture - honors women who have made fundamental and sustained contributions to the mathematical sciences, it was presented for the first time in 1994.

Selection Committees for IMU Prizes and Awards

The IMU Executive Committee appoints - for each of its prizes and awards - a selection committee in accordance with the individual prize or award statutes, and the IMU By-Laws. The names of the selection committee members remain confidential until the ICM at which the awards are made, only the names of the chairs are made public. An overview of previous selection committees can be found on the individual prize or award webpage.

The IMU will shortly send a call for nominations to its members for all prizes and awards to be bestowed at ICM 2026. The name and contact email of the selection committee chairs will be provided below once the call has been issued.

Guidelines for handling conflicts of interest

Because the activities of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) are many and complex, involving large numbers of individuals, potential conflicts of interest inevitably arise in innocent and unexpected ways. The IMU must be vigilant, and be seen to be vigilant, by having in place effective and transparent measures to ensure fairness of its processes and minimize the risk of harm to its reputation. In particular, this applies to prize selection committees, the activities of which must always be beyond reproach. The IMU is aware that conflicts of interest may result from one’s life’s path, and they may or may not influence one’s ability to make impartial assessment. However, it is essential that the IMU processes would be deemed fair by any reasonable third person who is aware of the circumstances.

Unconscious bias

The potential impact of unconscious bias on the selection process is a concern for the International Mathematical Union. As humans, many of the decisions that we make are subject to unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are simply our unintentional preferences that come from our gender, education, culture, etc. Psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that our unconscious mind automatically, rapidly, intuitively and effortlessly categorizes people. This ability enables us to make rapid decisions about people. We do this without having to engage the limited resources of the conscious mind, which are required for most cognitive tasks, such as problem solving and planning. These cognitive shortcuts that reduce the load created by complex information lead to intuitive, but error-prone, decisions.

The Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science

The IMU is a member of the International Science Council (ISC), see Article 2(a) in the IMU Statutes. As such, we subscribe to Article 7 of the ISC Statutes, namely The Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science.