Recognizing Talent and Achievement in the SIAM Community

April 12, 2008

Talk of the Society
James Crowley

Should SIAM establish a fellows program? The question---which has engaged the SIAM Council and Board in major discussions over several years---will be the focal point of the town-meeting-style business meeting scheduled for this year's SIAM Annual Meeting (San Diego, July 711). All are encouraged to attend both the Annual Meeting ( and the business meeting.

Information about the proposed fellows program is posted at We all owe a great deal of thanks to Randy LeVeque for setting up this informative Web site.

The proposed program is intended, in part, to extend recognition beyond the relatively small group of members who receive major SIAM awards (several of which will be awarded in San Diego). Meanwhile, as I write (in early March), I have news of the recent election of new members to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

The newly elected class includes some prominent SIAM members: Stephen Robinson, a professor of industrial engineering and computer science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, honored "for fundamental contributions to the theory of nonlinear optimization and military planning"; Vladimir Rokhlin, a professor of computer science and mathematics at Yale University, "for the development of fast multipole algorithms and their application to electro-
magnetic and acoustic scattering"; James Sethian, vice chair for undergraduate affairs and professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, "for the development of efficient methods of tracking moving interfaces"; and Yannis Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California, "for fundamental advances in fluid flow, transport, and reactions in porous media applied to the recovery of subsurface resources."

Also representing the SIAM community are Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University (who is slated to give an invited talk in San Diego), "for contributions to the understanding of the structure and behavior of the World Wide Web and other complex networks"; David Luenberger, a professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, "for contributions to control theory, optimization algorithms, and economic dynamics"; and Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president and head of Yahoo! Research in Santa Clara, California, "for significant contributions to algorithms and the structure of the World Wide Web."


The SIAM Committee on Science Policy meets periodically in Washington, typically spending a day with visitors from agencies that fund research in disciplines related to SIAM, and another day paying visits to policy makers on Capitol Hill. One of the congressional visits during the CSP's late-February meeting was to the House Committee on Science and Technology, where a current concern is the process for coordinating national information technology R&D, or NITRD.

For SIAM, interest in NITRD, and in its National Coordination Office, lies mainly in one of the main components of NITRD: high-end computing. Those familiar with the grand challenges in computing, and the "blue book" documenting those challenges, will recognize the role played by the National Coordination Office in the late 1980s.

The House S&T Committee is seeking comments on a recent report in this area from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, titled "Leadership Under Challenge: Information Technology R&D in a Competitive World; An Assessment of the Federal Networking and Information Technology R&D Program." In a series of recommendations, the report calls for a revitalization of the coordination process for federally funded research in IT. In high-end computing, the report encourages the development of a "strategic plan and roadmap for federal investments in HEC R&D, infrastructure, applications, and education and training."

In March, Dan Reed, one of the co-chairs for the report, gave an invited talk at the SIAM Conference on Parallel Processing. Along with challenges in massively parallel computing, he discussed lessons for parallel computing on large (petascale and beyond) systems to be learned from the distributed-computing model.

Any thoughts that high-performance computing on massively parallel systems is a U.S.-centric issue were thoroughly dispelled by a panel session at the conference, organized by Horst Simon. With representatives from Brazil, China, India, Germany, Japan, South Africa, and the U.S., the panel took a global perspective on parallel processing research for supercomputing. For progress on the large-scale scientific problems now arising, panel members saw a need for international cooperation on the scale of that adopted by the physics community for large projects.

Whether such cooperation will emerge in large-scale scientific computing remains to be seen, but it was abundantly clear that many countries are embarking on major research programs in parallel computing for scientific applications. Panel members described local research programs in scientific computing and the parallel computing infrastructure being developed to support them. Clearly, this area is becoming a major interest worldwide.

A prominent example is King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, where computational science is one of the main pillars of the research program being developed. KAUST has formed a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin in computational earth sciences and engineering. The Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at UT Austin, headed by Tinsley Oden, will host the partnership, in which Omar Ghattas is playing a key role.

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