New Applications Abound, Federal Funding Falters

October 1, 1999

From the SIAM President
Gilbert Strang

The happy part of this column is about activities within SIAM. The society is taking strong steps forward and I think you will approve. The not so happy part is about the funding bill for the National Science Foundation. It is having a rough passage. The Senate may do better than the House, and then there would be further negotiations. So the outcome could be much better than the situation at this moment.

May I report first on the planning for SIAM's special conference for 2000, on Computational Science and Engineering? It is a year away (September 21-23 and possibly 24). This is the time to propose and organize a minisymposium (four speakers in two hours). We are looking for new ideas and algorithms and applications. Proposals can be sent to Linda Petzold, Steve Ashby, or to me. The plenary speakers are leaders in computational biology and chemistry and mechanics (and reliability and visualization). Most are new to SIAM, and everyone we asked has said "yes." We are expecting a large audience for this conference in Washington.

An important step for SIAM is good progress on two new activity groups---Life Sciences and Imaging Science. Many members work in (or close to) these growing areas of applied mathematics. When you renew your SIAM membership for 2000, you can join any of the established activity groups. They are central to the work of SIAM, and Life Sciences is now included. I am delighted that John Guckenheimer will be its first chair; that is a terrific start.

The group in imaging science (including inverse problems, signal processing, and visualization) is just now being formed. Petitions for approval will soon go to the SIAM Board. An open discussion is planned for October 10 at the Regional Workshop on Mathematics in Industry in Raleigh, North Carolina. (The workshop program can be found at

On funding for NSF, I want to write as positively and constructively as I can. The situation is serious. The bill that the House passed certainly doesn't do justice to American science. Members of Congress need to hear that scientific research is making a crucial contribution to the country's economic success. To slow the research effort now would be so short-sighted.

You could begin a letter with thanks for past support, and possibly add a paragraph about the applications of your research. There could hardly be a better investment than mathematics---like the chip in the computer, it makes the rest of science and engineering work. The mathematics societies together speak for almost 60,000 members, but I suspect that letters from individual mathematicians, received one at a time, are more effective. I would be sorry to see something that the U.S. has done so well, and that has brought so much good, be lost for want of trying.

Could I end with this thought? Membership renewal is the best way to say that you approve of SIAM's efforts in all areas of applied mathematics. I very much hope that you do approve. You have a good society.

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