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IMU-Net 70: March 2015

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


Many mathematicians will be surprised to know how much planning is needed to prepare an ICM. In the case of Seoul congress, it took seven years after the launching of a bidding committee in June, 2007. The bidding proposal was submitted in late 2008 followed by an IMU site committee’s visit and IMU executive committee’s considerations. After the proposal was finally approved at the Bangalore General Assembly in 2010, the congress actually took place in Seoul during Aug 13~21, 2014. Among the many things that happened during the preparation of the congress, one thing worth mentioning is that, in 2013, the National Assembly (i.e. Korean parliament) of Korea adopted a resolution in support of SEOUL ICM. This helped to expose the congress to the general public, and will be an asset for future communications between mathematical community and the society.

Of course, no events occur without small problems here and there. A major problem during the last days of preparations was public fear related to Ebola epidemic. And then there was a Fields medal issue. Nothing academic, but literally physical. Because the medals were made of gold, they could not be just taken in because of import tax complications. Oh, well, big or small, these problems had to be addressed in one way or another.

An unprecedented scene was presented during the awarding ceremony when the host (the President of IMU), the awarder (the President of Korea) and the awardee were all females. We made special efforts to promptly make all the lectures viewable on the internet during and after the congress. I know of a well-known mathematician who could not come to Seoul but watched the UTUBE videos and wrote on his well-followed blogs about some of the lectures.

With a total of 5,217 registrants from 122 countries, Seoul ICM set a new record. An important feature of Seoul ICM was that it not only served as an academic event for scholars but that an extended participation of the general public was realized through cultural programs. The Opening Ceremony was broadcasted live by a TV station, and more than 1,500 domestic media coverages were made during the Congress, reflecting the excitement and heated interest of the general public. Various public programs, held with an aim of popularizing mathematics, attracted 21,227 people during the congress. The record of a total of 27,359 participants at Seoul ICM will be remembered for many years ahead. Korean government issued Seoul ICM commemorative stamps featuring “the Pythagorean theorem,” “Euler’s theorem giving necessary and sufficient conditions for a graph to have an Eulerian tour,” and “Pascal’s Triangle”.

A very important component of the congress was its corps of volunteers. We considered them as future supporters of mathematics, and designed the volunteer program as an educational process rather than a source of laborers. We selected 280 volunteers among more than 700 applications. The mandatory volunteer training program not only consisted of logistic matters but also included lectures by renowned mathematicians on modern mathematics. All volunteers served until the end of the congress without dropouts, and some of them are already discussing how to save money to attend the Rio congress. We believe that this enthusiasm is no less than any success we may have accomplished.

Hyungju Park
Ordinary member of the Executive Committee of IMU

IMU Media Platform

The IMU is now providing a Media Platform, see here This project is aimed at setting up a collection of photographs relevant for IMU and the mathematics community at large. The IMU is providing the platform for use by members who all have free access to upload, search and download photographs. Registration is free and open to all. Uploaded photos are screened prior to publication. The regulations governing the use of the platform and the instructions on how to use it are contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use for the Platform:
as well as the Licence Agreement between Right Holders and Users:

You are invited to contribute to this photo collection. Become a member of the IMU Media Platform and share photos that you think are of interest to the mathematical community.
Please advertise the IMU Media Platform to your colleagues.

CEIC Notes and Comments: Changing the guard

Like other Committees of the International Mathematical Union, the Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC) entered a new life in 2015. We bade farewell to Laszlo Lovasz, who had been our link to the IMU Executive for the past four years, and to Peter Olver, who had been our chair for the past four years.

Peter's chairmanship culminated in the organising of no less than three panels at the 2014 International Congress: "Mathematical Massive Open Online Courses", "The Future of Mathematical Publishing" and "The World Digital Mathematics Library" (WDML). All three were packed (in a 200-seater meeting) and were expertly captured on video by the local team - many thanks. All have posted various resources, and two have formal proceedings and have started blogs. For information on all of these, see here.

As new members, we welcomed Ingrid Daubechies, who will be our link to the IMU Executive. The ordinary new members are Patrick Ion of Mathematical Reviews, Victoria Stodden of the University of Illinois and Masakazu Suzuki of Kyushu University and the Infty Reader project. The new CEIC met at the IMU Headquarters in Berlin 21-22 March 2015, and all three were excellent contributors.

Patrick is chairing the "Group of 8", known as the GDML Working Group, who are taking forward the WDML activities described in the panel/blog mentioned above. The CEIC meeting in Berlin heard a heartening update on the progress on three fronts: structure, content and tools, and doubtless more will be appearing in this column over the next months and years.

Victoria is leading our efforts to update our (excellent and influential) document "Copyright Recommendations", see
which dates from 2001. Much has apparently changed since then, notably as funders, led by the NSF and followed by many others, have started to insiston Open Access copies of works coming out from research they fund, and publishers practices have changed to match. However, publishers practices have changed less than the casual reader might think, and the "right to comply with funders' obligations" is not the same as the "right to do what one likes with the text one has laboriously worked on for ages". The need for care and vigilance isas great now as it was in 2001, but the details have changed significantly.

Masakazu is an expert on accessibility, particularly via his famous Infty Reader for PDF documents. Having had blind students myself, I see this as an area where a great deal more work needs to be done, both in terms of tools and in terms of general awareness, and I look forward to his contributions.

In addition to these initiatives, Olga Caprotti continues to maintain our links to the ICSU World Data System, whose goals are to preserve quality assured scientific data and information, to facilitate open access, and promote the adoption of standards. In those areas of mathematics where publications can be underpinned by computations and data, it is important to preserve these and make them accessible, and this liaison helps do that, and prevents the mathematical community from re-inventing the wheel.

James Davenport
Incoming CEIC Chair.

Breakout Graduate fellowships

Simon Donaldson, Maxim Kontsevich, Jacob Lurie, Terence Tao and Richard Taylor are the five inaugural Mathematics Breakthrough Prize winners in 2014. They have donated each USD 100,000 to the IMU/CDC to endow a fund that will award "Breakout Graduate fellowships" to mathematics graduate students from and in the developing world. The "Breakout Graduate Fellowships” program was announced by the IMU President, Ingrid Daubechies, on August 12 in Seoul, Korea, at the symposium titled, “Mathematics in Emerging Nations: Achievements and Opportunities (MENAO).”
More information here.

Call for suggestions for an IMU application to ICSU

IMU is calling for suggestions for applications to the ICSU 2016 grant program. Grants are up to 30,000 Euros. It is recommended that projects meet some of the following criteria:

  1. The project fits within one of ICSU's priorities:
    a) Science and Technology for Sustainable Development
    b) Capacity Building and Science Education
    c) Dissemination of Data and/or Information from Science and Technology
    d) Emerging Science -- Creation of New Knowledge.
    (see for ICSU Strategic Plan)
    The proposed activity should take place between January 1st 2016 and September 30 2017.
  2. The project involves at least one other scientific union inside ICSU.
  3. The project has some capacity building objective in one of the ICSU regional offices: ROLAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), ROA (Africa), ROAP (Asia Pacific).

A one page letter of intention should be sent by June 15 2015 to
Christiane Rousseau:

News from ICSU

FUTURE EARTH is the flagship program of the International Council of Science (ICSU) together with the International Social Science Council (ISSC): it is a global research platform providing the knowledge and support to accelerate our transformations to a sustainable world. Bringing together and in partnership with existing programmes on global environmental change, Future Earth will be an international hub to coordinate new, interdisciplinary approaches to research on three themes: Dynamic Planet, Global Sustainable Development and Transformations towards Sustainability. Mathematics has an essential role to play in each of these themes as highlighted by the international year "Mathematics of planet Earth 2013". It is not new that mathematicians are interested in these subjects. But coordinating with Future Earth could lead to enlarging the research directions. Global change is accelerating, with potential increase of extreme events and consequences on agriculture production; meanwhile, mankind is already using the resources of the planet in an unsustainable way, and the still increasing world population may pass the threshold where the resources of the planet can no more suffice. Future Earth programmes are focused on mitigation of global change and adaptation of the population to the changing environment. In particular, ICSU and Future Earth are committed that science interacts effectively with policy-making processes, and mathematical sciences should be part of the needed expertise for decision making.

IMU application to the ICSU grant program 2015 has been successful, and IMU will co-organize a "Workshop on Global change impact on diseases and alien species" that will take place in AIMS (Cape Town, South Africa) in beginning of May 2016. One partner in this program is the research program ecoHEALTH of Future Earth. More information on this workshop in a coming issue of IMU-Net.

Abel Prize 2015

The Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2015 to the American mathematicians John F. Nash Jr. and Louis Nirenberg “for striking and seminal contributions to the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis.” The President of the Academy, Kirsti Strøm Bull, announced the new laureates on 25 March. They will receive the Abel Prize from His Majesty King Harald at a ceremony in Oslo on 19 May.

John F. Nash Jr., aged 86, spent his career at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Louis Nirenberg, aged 90, worked at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Even though they did not formally collaborate on any papers, they influenced each other greatly during the 1950s. The results of their work are felt more strongly today than ever before.

For more information please consult the Abel Prize website (English).

The IMU congratulates John Nash and Louis Nirenberg on receiving this well-deserved award!

Wolf Prize in Mathematics 2015

James G. Arthur (University of Toronto, Canada) is the winner of Wolf Prize in Mathematics for his monumental work on the trace formula and his fundamental contributions to the theory of automorphic representations of reductive groups.

MCA (Mathematical Congress of the America) 2017

Following the very successful first Mathematical Congress of the Americas, MCA-2013 in Guanajuato, the second such Congress, MCA-2017, will take place in Montreal (Canada) on July 23-28, 2017. The confirmed plenary speakers are

  • Shafrira Goldwasser (MIT, USA)
  • Manuel del Pino (Universidad de Chile)
  • Andrew Granville (Université de Montréal, Canada)
  • Peter Ozsvath (Princeton University, USA)
  • Yuval Peres (Microsoft Research, USA)

The Congress is organized under the auspices of the Mathematical Council of the Americas where more details are to be seen at

Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh Prize for 2014

The Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh Prize for 2014 is awarded to David Jaurès Fotsa Mbogne (Cameroon). It will enable him to visit INRIA at Grenoble, France, in the framework of his PhD.
The Prize "Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh" is awarded to a student of an institution of Central Africa or West Africa, in mathematics or statistics, at the graduate or post-graduate level, to benefit from a scientific training in a country other than his/her own. For more information

Nomination to the Scientific Board of the International Basic Sciences Programme of UNESCO

Professor Christiane Rousseau (Montréal, Canada), member of the IMU Executive Committee, has been nominated at the Scientific Board of the International Basic Sciences Programme of UNESCO for 2015-2017.

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Previous issues can be seen here.