On the Move in Washington

November 20, 2005

Talk of the Society

James Crowley

Members of the community are often encouraged to step forward and fill vacancies in federal funding agencies. As frequently pointed out, in this space and elsewhere, having the best possible people in these positions benefits all of us--including those who actually take the positions.

In the U.S., a few people who have served long and well in key positions in two important agencies--the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation--have moved on to other endeavors or are about to complete terms as rotators.

In the Office of Science at DOE, Ed Oliver has stepped down after running the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program for many years. ASCR is the home of programs in computational science and applied mathematics that are important to many in the SIAM community, and Oliver has been a stalwart shepherd of those programs.

On October 3, the Office of Science announced the appointment of Michael R. Strayer to succeed Oliver. Strayer, a physicist, is also acting director of MICS (Mathematical, Information, and Computational Sciences), one of two divisions of ASCR, and he is the director of ASCR's SciDAC (Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing) program.

At NSF, a search is under way for senior scientists to fill two important positions. Bill Rundell, who has been director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences since the summer of 2002, will leave NSF in the spring. One administrative level up, the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (which includes, along with DMS, the divisions of chemistry, materials science, physics, and astronomy) is seeking a successor for Michael Turner, an astrophysicist whose two-year term as head of the directorate ended in October.

DMS, as the largest provider of government support for the mathematical sciences, clearly needs an effective, energetic leader who can carry on the efforts of Rundell and his predecessors. Both the DMS and MPS positions require scientists who will bring a broad view of the disciplines they oversee.

As these searches proceed, readers are re-minded of the ongoing need at all the federal agencies for talented people willing to spend two or three years running programs in their research areas.

C. Edward Oliver, long-time head of the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program at the Department of Energy.

William Rundell, a professor of mathematics at Texas A&M University, will complete four years as director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation in the spring.

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