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IMU-Net 72: July 2015

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


The IMU is nothing if not international!! My experience on the Executive committee so far has been an adventure in the multicultural and multilingual, with committee members from all over the globe and meeting places to match. Seoul, Berlin, and soon Kyoto, in preparation for an ICM in Rio de Janeiro. One really does feel like a citizen of the world. It is in stark contrast to my upbringing in New Zealand where I never set foot outside the country until I was 21 and moved to Geneva to begin a PhD, and a new global life.
Without a doubt, underlying all this internationalism is the universality of mathematics as a language. The number 27 is 3X3X3 in any country, planet or galaxy. No civilization powerful enough to consider such questions could disagree. The only differences would be those of notation.
This universality was the essential ingredient of a conversation I had recently in Kyoto. I gave an hour long talk to an undergraduate audience on knots and braids. Afterwards some students were keen to understand the exact workings of the algorithm I had given to calculate the Alexander polynomial of a link in 3 space. My Japanese? Non-existent. Their English? Certainly a lot better but still nowhere near adequate to understand my ravings. Nothing was getting across until  I just said ?watch?, and proceeded to draw some pictures and equations on the board. Within a couple of minutes they understood the concept and the method and took off calculating away, just as well as I could have. And this could have happened in any country, with any language.
Mathematics is a component of human understanding of the universe that transcends linguistic and cultural barriers. So it is fitting that the IMU Executive committee be truly international and take global balance into account in all of its decisions.
Vaughan Jones, Vice President of IMU

CEIC Notes and Comments: The story of one journal

Once upon a time, back in 1987 to be specific, a new journal came on the scene called K-Theory. The publisher was D. Reidel, a member of the Kluwer Academic Publishers Group. The managing editor was Anthony Bak, who wrote in the editorial in the first issue, "K-theory is a new discipline of mathematics embracing concepts and problems central to many other major disciplines of mathematics. The aim of this journal is to provide a forum for the presentation, discussion, and critical evaluation of significant advances in the mathematical sciences which are related to K-theory."
The editorial continues over several pages to provide an overview of the progress of this field, and its relations to other subjects. Life was apparently good for this new journal; the subscription price was only about $150/year.  Surely several hundred libraries subscribed in the initial years, even though maintenance of large lists of journal subscriptions was challenging for most.
During the next years, lots of interesting developments took place in mathematical publishing.  New journals started.  New electronic only journals started.  E-mail and web servers for preprints became more common. Bertelsmann acquired Springer. Cinven and Candover bought Bertelsmann Springer and merged it with Kluwer, yielding Springer Science+Business Media.
Then, eventually, life was less good perhaps for some journals. Editorial boards became restive for a variety of reasons. For the K-theory of our story, there was frustration in the relationship with Springer. Eventually, the journal bolted away from Springer.  One account of this period is provided by Wolfgang Lueck for the DMV Mitteillungen.
Enter now, Cambridge U Press, which offered to publish such a journal under the new title Journal of K-theory. The editorial board re-formed at CUP with the content owned by privately held corporation, ISOPP. In the meantime, legal actions cropped up which eventually led Springer to cease serving any of the K-theory content. In one of the very few instances recognizing an emergency (trigger event) for journal access, the archival service Portico began supplying the journal's backfile through libraries who subscribe to Portico service. The backfile would not otherwise be legally available.
Unfortunately, there is repetition in our story. Once again, editorial displeasure has led this journal's board to cut ties with CUP. CUP has announced on its web site that it will no longer publish "JKT" after Volume 14, Issue 3.
The K-theory community is now organizing around a foundation structure.  See for details. And an arrangement with Mathematical Sciences Publishers (MSP) will bring out a new title, Annals of K-theory, owned and governed by the foundation. One might well hope that our story has a happy end in this way. Surely this reminds us that the community should not be divorced from the governance and running of its journals. And it shows how vulnerable we may be when we rely upon electronic versions. Ingrid Daubechies, Past-President of IMU, once stated that she would like to see each journal have its own "society". Quoting her, "I propose that from their present disenfranchised situation, our existing journals be allowed to incorporate, and become independent societies". Perhaps this story underscores her idea.
Carol Hutchins,
Member of the Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC)

News about the next International Congresses of Mathematical Education (ICME)

  • ICME-13 will take place in Hamburg (Germany) on July 24-31 2016.  
    Call for papers, applications to solidarity grants and further information are now available at
  • ICME-14 will take place in Shanghai (China) in 2020.  
    Shanghai has just been announced as the official host city of ICME-14 in 2020.

More information here.

Call for suggestions for applications 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 August 31 2015 to Christiane Rousseau: rousseac(at)

Clay award for Dissemination of Mathematical Knowledge

The first Clay Award for Dissemination of Mathematical Knowledge has been made to Étienne Ghys (France) in recognition of his own important contributions to mathematical research and for his distinguished work in the promotion of mathematics.

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Previous issues can be seen here.