SIAM Growth Area: International Activities

November 16, 2010

Talk of the Society
James Crowley

SIAM has a rich tradition of regional sections, reaching all the way back to the years immediately after its founding. While the sections in the early years tended to be fairly local, those created more recently have been outside North America. It is in this new tradition that the Board of Trustees, at its July 2010 meeting, approved the creation of a new SIAM section in Colombia. The second SIAM section in South America, it complements the active section created in Argentina in 2006. Quiz question: What was SIAM's first international section? (The Colombia section plans to conduct regular regional conferences within the country. SIAM welcomes its newest section and thanks Gerard Olivar Tost for his efforts in organizing it!

The trend toward increasing numbers of sections outside North America demonstrates the globalization of applied mathematics research. Of course, research in applied mathematics was never confined to North America---many countries around the world, especially Japan and western European countries---have long-established programs in applied and computational mathematics. But in recent years we have seen worldwide growth in research in our discipline. One interesting bit of evidence can be found in the changing distribution of papers in SIAM journals by country or region (classified by corresponding author).

In 1999, the U.S. accounted for about 44% of all SIAM journal papers. While the number of papers from the U.S. grew in the course of the subsequent decade, the percentage fell to 33% in 2009. (These figures do not include TVP, the Russian applied probability journal we publish in translation, or SIAM Review.) During the same period, the percentage of papers from western Europe increased, from 35% to 42%. Other countries, most notably China, while still relatively small in terms of total numbers of SIAM journal papers, show tremendous growth rates and will undoubtedly become major contributors in future years.

SIAM conferences haven't been left out of this trend toward globalization. A glance at the SIAM conference calendar reveals that our activity groups increasingly opt to hold conferences outside North America. The major international conference in our discipline, of course, is the quadrennial International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics; the next one will be held in Vancouver, BC, Canada, July 18-22, 2011. The program is taking shape, and we encourage the community to participate. (Keep in mind that in favor of ICIAM, we will not have a SIAM Annual Meeting in 2011. On a sad note, I mention the recent death of Jerry Marsden, co-chair (with Ivar Ekeland) of the ICIAM 2011 Scientific Program Committee. His unflagging efforts, along with those of Ekeland and the rest of the committee, have produced an outstanding scientific program.

I draw your attention to one further item from the July meetings of the SIAM Council and Board: The governing bodies approved the creation of a new activity group in uncertainty quantification, or UQ. The group is now in the process of putting together documents describing how it will operate. Briefly, the intention is that activities of SIAG/UQ will complement those of the American Statistical Association and will bring together computational scientists, modelers, and statisticians interested in UQ. SAMSI, the NSF-sponsored Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, also plans a program in this area in 2011. Readers interested in the subject will want to read the insightful article on UQ, V and V, and prediction science in general by Tinsley Oden, Robert Moser, and Omar Ghattas in this issue.

One final item: The Board on Mathematical Sciences and Their Applications has initiated a study, "Math 2025," in preparation for a report on research opportunities and trends in the mathematical sciences that could prove influential for those making decisions about our field.

Answer to quiz question: The first international section of SIAM, formed in 1974, was the now-inactive Pacific Northwest Section, which included two Canadian provinces---Alberta and British Columbia---along with the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. In recent years, all the new SIAM sections have been located outside the U.S., beginning with the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland SIAM Section, which was followed by the East Asia Section and, most recently, the Bulgaria Section and the South American sections in Argentina and Colombia.

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