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IMU-Net 28: March 2008

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

Editorial: The year of mathematics in Germany

In the year 2000, the German federal government started a campaign to better inform the general public about the sciences and humanities, focusing each year on one particular area. In 2008 Germany celebrates the "year of mathematics".

This is a joint initiative of all German mathematics related scientific societies and teacher organizations (coordinated by Guenter M. Ziegler, the current President of DMV, the German Mathematical Society), together with various other associations, industrial and governmental partners. The main financial sponsors are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Deutsche Telekom Foundation.

The year of mathematics has found overwhelming support not only by research mathematicians who are concerned about a possible decrease of interest by future students. About one thousand newspaper and journal articles have already appeared since January. Some newspapers have a full page on mathematics each weak. The topics covered range from mathematics and the modern society, mathemtics in other sciences, recreational mathematics, education, applications, to pure math. The presence of mathematics topics and mathematicians on radio and TV has multiplied by a large factor. Universities and scientific institutions throughout the country focus on mathematics in their annual festive events, schools invite research mathematicians to outline the role mathematics plays today and to explain study and job perspectives. More than a thousand "mathematical events" are expected to happen throughout this year.

The whole activity has several goals. The general public needs to be informed that mathematics is inside of almost everything employed in everyday life. Many examples demonstrate where and how mathematics supports technology, medical care, decision making, etc. A drive is initiated to modernize math education in schools. Teachers may become "Mathemacher". 500 have done so in the meantime. They will receive supporting teaching and information material and are offered special training courses. A particular aim here is to make the educational initiative sustainable.

Among the various publications in progress, one will focus on mathematics as an important production factor in industry. The book will be launched in November and is sponsored by acatech, the National Academy of Engineering. Several large companies have agreed to show how they utilize mathematics either via publications or "mathematics days" in the companies. Needless to say that the German chancellor Angela Merkel (who has a physics PhD) supports the year by public appearances, see her podcast at http://www.jahr-der-mathematik.de/coremedia/generator/wj2008/de/01__Das_20Wissenschaftsjahr/03c__Podcast.html

Various popular public figures have agreed to act (and they do so very successfully) as "ambassadors of mathematics". This includes "Germany's next top model" who is a (very good looking) mathematics student and the coach of one of the most popular German football teams who once was a mathematics teacher.

The drive that has already been generated in the first weeks of this year has turned out to be extremely positive for mathematics. That is why I am reporting about this initiative in this editorial. Those who fear a decline of interest in mathematics, report about a bad public image of our field, claim that journalists are not interested in mathematics, or complain about shrinking student enrolments may consider the experience made in Germany and think of launching similar activities. It is, no doubt, a lot of work but may result in very beneficial long term effects.
The year of mathematics Webpage (in German only) is at http://www.jahr-der-mathematik.de/

Martin Groetschel, Secretary of IMU

News from IMU

The IMU member countries have voted positively on Norway's application for an upgrade of its membership status from Group II to Group III. The upgrade became effective on February 1, 2008.

IMU on the Web

The CEIC is turning 10 this year, and it seems appropriate to take stock of the changes, both good and the bad, that have taken place over this decade.

Ten years ago perhaps 10% of the mathematical literature was digitized, while now perhaps 65% is. The growth of the infrastructure of the internet has made physical/virtual access to this literature easy, but in practice there are impediments caused by individual knowledge and IT arrangements, licensing agreements, cost to the end-user, and much else.

Ten years ago searching on the web was still rudimentary. Today, while still not perfect, a mathematician may use a combination of MathSciNet and Zentralblatt MATH, Library tools, Google Scholar, Amazon, Wikipedia, Planet Math among others, and this has enormously improved ability to find known material or to discover the existence of valuable but not readily available material.

Ten years ago, the freely available electronic publishing tools offered hopes that academic presses and individually operated journals would increase their presence in and share of the academic publishing market. In fact, just the opposite has happened as market consolidation has taken place and the remaining large academic publishers have increased their share of mathematical publishing from under 40% to over 60%. Journal prices remain at least as vexing an issue as a decade ago, while the purchasing decisions have become further removed from the academic user.

Some fine projects are coming to fruition within the IMU. These include: the soon to be complete digitization of the ICM Proceedings; excellent Registries of electronic material (www.ceic.math.ca/WDML/registries/index.shtml), and a Federated search engine (http://projects.cs.dal.ca/ddrive/fwdm/) for mathematicians (soon to add many new features). On balance, the (digital) world of mathematics is much richer but no-less complex than a decade ago.

Jonathan Borwein, Chair CEIC

ICM 2010: Nomination of invited speakers

After the IMU Executive Committee has selected the Program Committee (PC) for ICM 2010 and its Chair, the PC has meanwhile chosen the core panels for the ICM Sections. The core panels are currently selecting further panel members. The PC is now seeking suggestions for invited plenary and section speakers. Further information and the list of ICM-sections can be found here

All speaker nominations are supposed to be directed to the PC Chair Hendrik W. Lenstra. Please use the following e-mail address: hwlicm@math.leidenuniv.nl

ICM 2014: Invitation of Bids

 

The Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union invites the Adhering Organizations (and the mathematical societies in IMU member countries) to place bids for hosting the International Congress of Mathematicians in the year 2014 and the IMU General Assembly prior to this Congress. To be considered by the Site Committee, these bids must be received by the IMU Secretary (secretary@mathunion.org) by November 30, 2008. Detailed information about items that need to be considered for a bid are here

Abel Prize 2008

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2008 to John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida and Jacques Tits, Collège de France. Thompson and Tits receives the Abel Prize "for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory".

The Abel Award ceremony will take place in Oslo on the 20th of May. HM King Harald will present the Abel Prize.

Petition for a mathematician who has disappeared in Chad

IMU receives, fortunately not too often, reports about mathematicians who have been abducted (to demand ransom) or imprisoned (for political reasons) or have "simply disappeared". Such letters usually include a request to IMU to help in some way. These are dreadful incidences, terrible for the victims, their family and friends. They are also politically very delicate matters since whether or not "IMU pressure" positively or negatively influences such a case strongly depends on the circumstances. For that reason IMU seeks advice from various person or authorities who have good "local knowledge" and sometimes IMU is advised not to call international attention. IMU recently received a report and a request from Marie-Francoise Roy (France) informing about the disappearance of mathematician Ibni Oumar Mahamet Saleh, a Chadian politician and former minister. He has been abducted from his home on February 3, 2008 and there are no news from him since then.
On behalf of SMF (Société Mathématique de France) and SMAI (Société de mathématiques appliquées et industrielles), Marie-Francoise has set up a Web page (http://smf.emath.fr/en/PetitionSaleh/) where there are documents describing the person and the case and asking to sign a petition. IMU recommends that the readers of IMU-Net consider her request.

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Previous issues can be seen here.