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IMU-Net 26: November 2007

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union 
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, Universit&eacute René Descartes, Paris, France


The IMU aims to promote and represent Mathematics at the global scale, in a world where mathematicians move and collaborate freely across national borders.
In the past, substantial work and diplomatic skill were employed to try and bring to the Union's fold countries separated by world political tensions, and establish IMU as the truly international body it now is. In retrospect, progress has been remarkable, particularly dealing with the most developed countries.

But much has yet to be done for the IMU to achieve comparable presence in the developing world. The 2006 General Assembly (GA), held at Santiago de Compostela, recommended that the role of IMU in support of Mathematics in the developing world be enhanced and expanded. This is a different kind of challenge, and one that is very much on the mind of the Executive Committee. A number of initiatives are currently under way to address it.

In line with the report presented at the GA 2006 by the Developing Countries Strategy Group (DCSG), a Committee for Developing Countries (CDC) has been created with the mission to devise new initiatives of the IMU in developing and economically disadvantaged countries, to search for funding to support the corresponding activities, and to establish institutional partnerships with scientific organizations with common goals. The CDC is to continue and further develop the programs that have been previously run by the Commission for Development and Exchange and by DCSG.

The EC is actively promoting applications for membership of new countries, from all regions of the globe. An important new instrument has been created by the GA to ease adherence of economically disadvantaged countries: countries that have never been members of the Union may now join as Associate Members, without financial dues nor voting rights, for up to 8 years, after which they are expected to become full members. A few countries have applied under this instruments, and several others are being encouraged to do it.

The EC is also strongly committed to continued improvement of geographical balance in the Union's activities, aiming for a more correct representation of mathematicians working in developing countries in all the Union's activities, both from the organizational and the academic point of view.

Marcelo Viana
Executive Committee Member

Stable IMU infrastructure

The 15th IMU General Assembly recommended that the 2007-2010 IMU Executive Committee (EC) "studies the establishment of a stable administrative structure and funding mechanisms, including possible fund raising, for the support of the expanding IMU activities, and reports to the 2010 General Assembly with concrete proposals."

The IMU EC has now started the search process for a sustainable location with associated suitable infrastructure at which the IMU secretarial staff could reside for a (long) period of time, and at which the costs of running the IMU operations is either low or covered by some long term grant/subsidy or the like.

The IMU EC solicits initial proposals and recommendations from interested institutions and organizations for the location of such an office. Suggestions and declarations of interes are requested by the end of January 2008 to the IMU Secretary (

IMU on the Web: Digital Downside

It's hard to argue against having more access to scholarship. On the other hand, it can be bad if it causes us to ignore the real problems we face, and it can be tragic if new enticing technology combines with an irresistible fad to mislead us into acting against our own interests. Open access has had both affects on scholarly publishing. When planning for our digital future, we spend most of our time talking about access (already greatly improved) and almost no time talking about the integrity of scholarship, copyright issues, foolish bureaucrats who use faulty statistics, or (worst of all!) avaricious publishers who have created a crisis in scholarly publishing. Instead, we talk about access.

almost always involves multi-year contracts that don't allow cancellations or changes. The extra titles are often only of marginal value to scholars. Decisions about what is purchased are made at a high level, far removed from scholars themselves, and most importantly far removed from the individual disciplines. In the end, big deals make it more difficult for scholars to make sensible decisions about journals based on price and need. Of course, big deals give the big publishers a substantial advantage over little publishers ...

In the subscription model, users and librarians make decisions; in the author-pay model, authors and publishers make them. To succeed in the subscription model, a journal must secure enough subscriptions by convincing users and librarians that it has intellectual value. To succeed in the author-pay model, a journal must convince enough authors to submit papers and then it must accept enough of them to make money. Price will vie with prestige. The most prestigious journals will charge more and will attract authors who can pay the cost (grants will help). The less prestigious journals will discount their price in order to attract more authors and will increase their acceptance rate. Some institutions may demand that scholars use less expensive journals; others will demand that their faculty publish only in expensive ones. The result will be a distorted and ugly market, driven by some of the same forces that drive vanity publishing. This is what happens when a market is driven by producers instead of consumers.

If you receive an invitation to be involved in a journal or conference whose organiser's reputability you do not already know, and agree to let your name be used in what might be a purely money making scheme or fail to check out the integrity of what is proposed before sending any money then your bad and misleading example may make you a fraudster ...

... find relevant URLs and more on these matters at

Alf van der Poorten, member of the CEIC

Associate members of IMU

At its 15th General Assembly in August 2006 at Santiago de Compostela, Spain the IMU introduced Associate Members as new type of IMU membership. In contrast to ordinary membership an Associate Member does not need independent scientific activity. It is assumed that an Associate Member is determined to develop its mathematical landscape and has the will to become an IMU Member after four to eight years of associate membership.

Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan have just become associate members of IMU.

Schools of Mathematics in Latin America

UMALCA, the Mathematical Union for Latin America and the Caribbean organizes two cycles of schools, as part of its efforts for promoting the development and dissemination of Mathematics across the entire region.

The ELAMs (Escuelas Latino Americanas de Matematicas) are doctoral/research level meetings with a long and very fruitful tradition. They usually focus on one or two grand topics, and include both mini-courses and seminar type talks.

The ELAMs are attended by students from most latin american countries, as well as researchers from the region and abroad. The lastest editions took place in Lima, Peru (1999), Cartagena, Colombia (2002), and Montevideo, Uruguay (2005). Preparations for the ELAM 2008 are currently under way.

The EMALCAs (Escuelas de Matematicas de America Latina y Caribe) are targeted at students at the end of their undergraduate studies, aiming to attract the most talented to join graduate studies and a research career. They have particularly strong impact in the least developed countries in the region.

EMALCAs are organized in Mexico and Venezuela, in alternate years, as well as in many other countries in Central and South America, attaining a currently steady flux of 3 schools every year. So far, EMALCAs have been held in Bolivia (2), Cuba, Paraguay (2), Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Peru. As this iniative becomes better known, an increasing percentage of students come from neighboring countries (support is provided for land transportation and local expenses of the students).

In all cases, UMALCA provides academic and partial financial support, while the organizational burden lies on the local committee, that also provides a good part of the funding. The EMALCAs are generously supported by CIMPA-Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Apliquées through an agreement with UMALCA. Other international oganizations, including ICTP, IMU-CDE, PROSUL (Brazil), and UNESCO have also been contributing to the Union's initiatives.

UMALCA is currently presided by J. A. de la Peña (Mexico) and its Secretary General is R. Labarca (Chile). R. Markarian (Uruguay) coordinates the EMALCAs committee. More information on the Union and its activities can be found at

Marcelo Viana
Scientific Coordinator - UMALCA


Appointment of the post of Director of CIMPA:
Call for candidates

Ramanujan Prize

The Ramanujan Prize was established at International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, to honour young mathematicians who have conducted outstanding research in developing countries.
The Ramanujan Prize is supported by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters through the Abel Fund, with the cooperation of the International Mathematical Union.

Jorge Lauret (38) of the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina is the winner of the 2007 Srinivasa Ramanujan Prize.

Bolyai Prize

On 30 September 2007, László Lovász, current president of the International Mathematical Union, received the Bolyai Prize which is given by a private foundation, founded by five Hungarian enterpreneurs who wanted to honor scientific achivements of Hungarian scholars, scientists, and - through the example of the awardees - to encourage young people to pursue a career in research.

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Previous issues can be seen here.