[Todos CMAT] IMU-Net 48

Dr. Roberto Markarian - IMERL roma en fing.edu.uy
Jue Ago 4 19:07:41 UYT 2011

(Lydia, por favor páselo a quienes no figuran en
todos imerl y cmat. Gracias), rm


As a newly elected member-at-large of the IMU executive committee, I
have been asked to write a few editorial words in this IMU newsletter,
and I am honoured to have the opportunity to express the following few
thoughts to this audience.

Our time as mathematicians is spent teaching (for most of us) or
tutoring, in personal research, including reviewing colleagues' papers
as referees or editors, and working for the community (university
administration, editorial work, committees etc.). Most of the latter
can properly be done only by mathematicians themselves, since it is
essential in such activity to really understand what is going on. We
all need to participate in a significant way in this kind of work if
we want our community to function on a sound basis.

Reading in some depth our colleagues' papers is an essential way to
fuel our own research. Personally I often found it more efficient than
attending talks or conferences. Many of us remember that when we grew
up as scientists, preparing our Master or PhD theses, the effort of
fighting our way through a tough paper (the author of which we often
met for the first time only some years later) turned out later to be
one of the key moments of our early scientific careers.

Tension between our academic world and its funding bodies is certainly
not new. But in the past few years a more and more widespread
"rational" managerial approach to academic science, based on
short-term «efficiency», «impact» or «delivery», has also tendedto
drag us away from the rigor that is at the cores of our scientific
identities. Nowadays funding bodies function with a multiplicity of
evaluation committees (I was once asked to sit on a committee that
evaluates evaluation agencies!); we have to write (and then read and
evaluate) grant-proposals with pre-formatted, imposed, superficial
frames that seem so badly adapted to mathematics.

This trend is complemented by the serious lack of recognition by our
own academic world of the difficult, time-consuming, anonymous
refereeing of papers (editors can testify how difficult it sometimes
is to find a good referee for a paper). Is there any longer enough
time, will and incentive to spend carefully reading other
mathematicians' works?

In general, I believe that it is important that our community stays
firm and united across geographic and thematic (applied vs.
non-applied) borders, to defend the specific aspects of our discipline
that we cherish. Acting together we have a hope of persuading
technocratic or political structures (that claim they only want to
help us to improve and that they are of good will) to change how they
treat mathematics and mathematicians and to avoid setting up the
numerous, rigid frames and rules that significantly harm the freedom,
originality and creativity which have been characteristic of so many
of the great mathematical ideas in the past, including those that have
had lasting positive "impact" inside and outside of our discipline.

Wendelin Werner
Member of IMU Executive Committee


2. IMU ON THE WEB: Short Synopsis - WG-JRP at ICIAM 2011

The Working Group on Journal Rankings (WG-JRP) held a workshop at
ICIAM 2011, Vancouver on 21 July 2011 5:10-6:50pm to inform the
applied mathematics community about the issues it is charged with
considering, the evidence it has gathered on these matters and to seek
feedback on its recommendation. The report that the Working Group
provided to IMU and ICIAM was circulated to all ICIAM registered
delegates on the prior evening through a PDF link in the daily
bulletin and in hard-copy at the workshop. The workshop heard short
presentations from Nalini Joshi, Doug Arnold, Peter J. Olver
(replacing Stefan Mueller) and Tao Tang, followed by open discussion
from the floor. At the conclusion of the discussion, the President and
Secretary of the IMU and President and Incoming President of ICIAM
made some comments.

Many of the responses expressed concerns:
(i) How journals within the same field could be ranked when experts
within the field were in dispute about their relative value;
(ii) Possible changed behaviour in the mathematical community, which
may lead to an inundation of submissions for journals at the top of
the ranking;
(iii) The degree of commitment of time and resources to the activity;
(iv) Whether or not a rating system may lead to barriers for
younger mathematicians (a younger commentator at the session thought it
wouldn't) or possible obstructions for journals in languages other
than English.
Preferences were also stated for a simpler system of endorsement or
non-endorsement of journals.

Positive statements were also made:
(i) An expert rating system could help the situation in a small country;
(ii) The need for the mathematical community to take the leadership on
journals because the current alternative was untenable.

ICIAM is the International Council of Industrial and Applied Mathematics. It
has applied to become a member of ICSU, the International Council of
Science, which groups all international scientific unions. Its
application was successful and ICIAM is now a scientific associate
member of ICSU. IMU welcomes future collaboration with ICIAM on ICSU
dossiers, in particular all those that concern the preparations for
the coming United Conference on Sustainability in Rio in June 2012.
ICIAM holds an international congress every four year. ICIAM 2011, the
International Congress of Industrial and Applied Mathematics took
place in Vancouver on July 18-22 2011 with 2700 participants, 27
plenary speakers, 4 prize speakers, 2 public lectures, 17 thematic
minisymposia, 460 contributed minisymposia, three industrial
minisymposia, a memorial symposium for Jerrold Marsden and an embedded
meeting celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Association for Women
in Mathematics. Ingrid Daubechies, President of the IMU gave the SIAM
John von Neumann Lecture.

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