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IMU-Net 44: November 2010

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France


Starting my last month as the President of the IMU, it is time to make an inventory (short and superficial perhaps) of the successes and frustrations of the last four years. Where is the IMU heading?

The main task of the Executive Committee was, of course, to organize the Congress (including awarding the main Prizes). Thanks to a large degree to the devoted and unrelenting work of the Indian local organizers, the Congress has been a great success. Among the other achievements of the last four years, I would mention establishing the permanent Secretariat of the IMU, launching the Chern Medal Award, and setting up the Friends of IMU, a not-for-profit organization registered in the US, which can receive and handle donations for awards, supporting activities in developing countries, and other causes in line with the goals of the IMU.

Together with ICIAM and IMS, we produced a very well-received report on "Citation Statistics", which (we believe) provides a balanced and detailed analysis of citation statistics and impact factors. But this also brings me to one of the unfinished businesses, which we have to leave to the next EC: the community expects more specific recommendations, and perhaps an ongoing monitoring of the quality of journals, how it is measured, and how these measurements should be used. There are many related issues that worry our community: copyrights, open access journals, retro-digitalization, bulk subscriptions (and I am sure the reader can name more of these). Clearly the IMU cannot solve these, but we do have an obligation to monitor the developments, and recommend best practices whenever possible.

I believe that the IMU should be concerned with all aspects of mathematics: research, applications, education, popularization. On some of these issues, our work goes well. We have excellent relations with ICIAM, we improved our relations with ICMI. We paid special attention to developing countries; it is another issue that due to our limited resources and the enormity of the problems, the results of these efforts are not (yet) too visible. We have to find the ways of cooperating with other (non-mathematical) scientific unions; general problems on which many of them collaborate (like global warming and sustainable development) cannot be solved without mathematical methods, but there are no mechanisms in place to involve the IMU. We have made efforts to improve our connections, but the real breakthrough will have to be achieved by the next EC.

Finally, on a more personal note, I found the Presidency of the IMU very challanging, demanding, and rewarding. It was a great opportunity to learn the many aspects of our science and to serve a vibrant and very friendly community. I was very furtunate to be able to work with an excellent Executive Committee, committed and cooperative, and we worked in a very friendly athmosphere. Two people I want to thank in particular: John Ball, who, as Past President, would have had all the right to lean back and enjoy the role of giving wise advice. He did give wise advice, but in addition, he accepted a number of very difficult tasks, and performed them with great devotion and success. Martin Grötschel, our Secretary, worked extremely hard, and kept his eye on all the complex issues that we were facing.

I am not saying good bye, since as Past President, I will be an ex-officio member the EC for four more years. I do hope that we can achieve progress on the old and new issues facing the IMU. Happy New Year to all of you!

Laszlo Lovasz,
President of IMU

Inauguration of the new permanent office of IMU

The IMU General Assembly in Bangalore decided in August 2010 to establish a permanent IMU secretariat in Berlin, Germany. This new IMU office will be hosted at the Weierstrass Institute.

The formal opening of the new IMU Secretariat will be on February 1, 2011. In addition to the current IMU President Laszlo Lovasz, IMU's next President Ingrid Daubechies, ICMI President Bill Barton, many members of the new CDC, and several other representatives of IMU and the mathematicians in Berlin and Germany, the Deputy of the Federal Minister of Germany for Education and Research, the Minister of Education, Science and Research of the State of Berlin and various other celebrities will participate in this event.

IMU on the Web


Few authors can look at their list of publications and see their name represented one and only one way. The variability of author names, especially now as data from different disciplinary databases comes together at the scale of the web, presents opportunities and challenges. Various traditional literature index and abstract services, as well as most major publishers have found it necessary to create internal individual author identifying numbers as they offer search by author. A short overview of this problem is "Author Identification Systems" by A. Ben Wagner (Wagner1).

ORCID ( is a recently formed non-profit organization dedicated to solving the name ambiguity problem in scholarly research. ORCID plans to establish a registry that would be adopted and embraced as the de facto standard for author identification by the entire academic community. The value of such identifiers has been widely recognized: to allow authors due credit for their work, to assist researchers in navigating the vast universe of bibliographic data, and to facilitate collaborations between authors with similar or complimentary interests. The 14 directors of ORCID include representatives from major universities and library organizations, as well as scholarly societies and commercial publishers (Cornell, Harvard, MIT, OCLC, ACM, J Wiley Inc), the Wellcome Trust (a funding organization with a strong commitment to open access), and representatives of both commercial and non-commercial publishers.

For mathematicians, the major disciplinary services, Math Reviews and ZMATH have strong traditions of bibliographic data management, including establishment of author names.
The work of such subscription services would undoubtedly be enhanced through interaction with ORCID. At the same time, as library budgets continue to come under pressure, librarians have noticed and begun to wonder generally about subscription costs associated with these services (Chen1 and Chen2). Some of us find many users satisfied with the "good enough" nature of searching Google Scholar.

Mathematicians should give attention to discussion at their own institutions about cost-benefit of the various bibliographic services. Prior CEIC recommendations concerning posting of author versions of one's individual works remain highly relevant. Is your own web page up to date with your most recent work?

These are early days for the ORCID initiative. There are a number of technical, financial, and legal issues which need to be addressed. More announcements should be available soon on the project web page; and we look forward to wider discussion among mathematicians across the research spectrum of questions arising around the interplay of subscription services and open bibliographic data. According to Tim Berners-Lee, the web is on its way to becoming a web of "linked data" -- data from pages of individuals as well as pools of other sorts of data, such as bibliographic elements.

Carol Hutchins,
Librarian Courant Institute of Mathematical Science
New York University


Jim Pitman, Director, Bibliographic Knowledge Network Project Professor of Statistics and Mathematics, University of California Berkeley

(Wagner 1) A. Ben Wagner, “Article Identification Systems", Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship???, Fall, 2009

(Chen 1) Xiaotian Chen, "Google Scholar's Dramatic Coverage Improvement Five Years after Debut", Serials Review", vol. 36, n°4, p. 221-226, 2010,

(Chen 2) Xiaotian Chen, "The Declining Value of Subscription-based Abstracting and Indexing Services in the New Knowledge Dissemination Era, Serials Review, vol. 36, n°2, p.79-85, 2010,

(ii) Passing away of Alf Van der Poorten

We note with sadness the passing of Alf van der Poorten, on October 9, 2010. Alf was a number theorist and emeritus professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He was part of the Australian delegation to the IMU GA during 1998, 2002, and 2006. He was a member of CEIC since its inception in 1998, and for two terms thereafter, during which he offered insightful and lively comments on the developing digital library and publishing scene as related to mathematics.
I regret not knowing him personally, but his remarks in this newsletter always resonated with me. Alf suggested in IMU-Net Number 12, referring to the idea that older material should be systematically made freely available , “Although this ‘moving wall’ principle has only been sporadically embraced it presents our best hope for building the citation web.??? I feel similarly chagrined that so much older literature remains unavailable. I also imagine that Alf would appreciate a current essay by Robert Darnton, historian and University Librarian at Harvard on the state of things: “The Library: Three Jeremiads???, New York Review of Books, December 23, 2010.

Carol Hutchins,
Librarian Courant Library of Mathematical Sciences
New York University

ICIAM 2011

ICIAM 2011 will be held in Vancouver, BC, Canada from July 18-22, 2011. Registration is now live on

Early bird rates will be available until February 28, 2011.

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