No Name Change for NSF’s Division of Math Sciences

October 19, 2012

A year ago, the mathematical sciences community was embroiled in discussions of a proposal to include statistics in the name of the National Science Foundation's Division of Mathematical Sciences. SIAM president Nick Trefethen weighed in with a SIAM News column (November 2011) titled "What's in a Name?" "As you can imagine," he wrote, "people have opinions on this. . . . "We are nervous about the implications of the proposed name change."

SIAM and its sister societies became involved in the discussions through the NSF advisory committee for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Each of the societies sought opinions from its community and transmitted comments received to the advisory committee.

In an August 16, 2012, letter to the advisory committee, Ed Seidel, then NSF assistant director for MPS, announced his decision: DMS would retain its name. The division would take other steps, he continued, to recognize the important role of statistics in the mathematical sciences. In particular, "whenever appropriate, we will specifically mention ‘statistics' alongside ‘mathematics' in budget requests and in solicitations in order to recognize the unique and pervasive role of statistical sciences, and to ensure that relevant solicitations reach the statistical sciences community." He also announced the formation of a subgroup of MPSAC that will examine funding for statistical sciences research at NSF, including organizational alternatives and new initiatives. (Seidel's letter is posted at http://www.nsf.gov/attachments/124926/public/Response_MPSAC_Subcommittee_Report_on_Name_of_Division_of_Mathematical_Sciences_8-16-2012.pdf.)

Further information on the issue, including a summary of comments received from the community, can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/events/event_summ.jsp?cntn_id=124926&org=MPS.


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