Focus on Next Generation Drives New SIAM Programs

December 26, 2004

Talk of the Society
James Crowley

Since 2002, when the SIAM Board of Trustees decided to make SIAM membership free for many students,* we began to see dramatic increases in the number of student members of SIAM. At its July meeting this year, the board took another step in the same direction, establishing a third category of free student memberships: Any regular individual member of SIAM can now nominate up to two students for free membership. Our student membership, a total of 1493 students in 2002, now stands at more than 3100.

The number of students who have expressed interest in attending SIAM conferences is even larger. This otherwise very positive development has put pressure on our Student Travel Award fund.

The fund was created many years ago, when a group of SIAM authors came forward with the idea of donating their book royalties to support student travel to SIAM conferences. Over the years, non-book-writing members have also made donations to the fund. Despite some generous recent donations, however, the program is underfunded.

As I write, in mid-November, the amount available available for student travel awards in 2005 is about $7500. This is enough to help approximately 15 students attend our conferences. Based on the number of requests we received in 2004, we could easily fund 50 highly qualified students in the coming year.

It is probably clear that we currently spend contributions almost as fast as they come in. A far more ideal situation would be to create an endowed fund; awards would be made from revenues generated by the fund, and SIAM would have a largely self-sustaining source of travel grants.

On behalf of the many students who have benefited from Student Travel Awards, we express our appreciation to the generous members who have made this program work. We encourage others to join in on one of the best possible ways to promote our discipline. Donations should be addressed to SIAM, Attn: Student Travel Fund, 3600 University City Science Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-2688, with checks made payable to SIAM.

Students and SIAM Review
Again with students in mind, the board took what might seem at first a curious action, as we move increasingly toward electronic distribution of journal papers. Each student with a free SIAM membership is to receive one issue of SIAM Review per year in paper form. (Paying student members already receive regular hard-copy subscriptions to SIAM Review, but free student memberships until now have provided only electronic access to the journal.)

At the board meeting, Nick Trefethen was an eloquent advocate of the plan. Thinking back to what had attracted him to applied mathematics as a student, he identified SIAM Review as an important factor in sparking his interest. He and other board members made a strong case for making this journal directly available to students.

News from SIAM Review
At the end of this year, the journal that the board took special steps to put into the hands of students will itself change hands. As of January 1, 2005, Bobby Schnabel will be the editor-in-chief of SIAM's flagship journal, succeeding Margaret Wright, who will have completed two full terms as the leader of the journal.

"Under Margaret Wright's leadership, SIAM Review has been a wonderful journal and a leader in applied mathematics and scientific computation," says Bobby Schnabel, incoming editor-in-chief of the journal. "Working with an excellent editorial board, I hope to maintain this record of excellence and continue to provide leading articles and new perspectives in research and education."

Wright took the helm of SIAM Review as major changes were being planned for the journal, and she managed its transition to the publication SIAM members receive today: a four-color quarterly journal with five sections, four with their own section editors.

The revamping of SIAM Review began in 1996, following a survey of the membership and a subsequent joint board and council meeting. A SIAM Review committee considered several proposed new formats, including a glossy magazine. The decision to aim for a high-quality journal, but one that would span the interests of the quite diverse SIAM membership, has paid high dividends. As one indication of its success, SIAM Review currently has the highest impact factor among applied mathematics journals, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

As mentioned above, Wright shepherded the journal to its current successful position with the help of a strong editorial board, and of course many excellent contributors. Incoming editor-in-chief Bobby Schnabel has played an important role in the revised SIAM Review from the beginning, as editor of the Education section. A glance at the two latest issues of the journal shows the Education section taking a prominent role, providing the cover illustrations in both cases-from papers on the SVD in computing "eigenfaces" in image processing (September) and on mesh generation (June). Succeeding Schnabel as editor of the Education section will be Andrew Bernoff of Harvey Mudd College.

As editor-in-chief, Schnabel will take over a journal with five thriving sections. Survey and Review, the centerpiece of SIAM Review, has required intensive efforts on the part of its editors---Nick Trefethen from 1999 to 2002 and Randy LeVeque since 2003---to establish the style of the articles they seek and---no small challenge---to find authors able and willing to write the articles. LeVeque can assure the new editor-in-chief of a steady flow of Survey and Review papers. We are happy to report that Problems and Techniques editor Joe Flaherty and Book Review editor Bob O'Malley will continue to run these two flourishing sections of the journal. (SIGEST, a section handled jointly by all the editors, contains "digested versions of selected papers from SIAM's research journals," bringing especially significant specialized papers to the attention of the entire SIAM community.)

Other Board and Council Activities
The SIAM journal program came in for considerable discussion at the July board meeting, with the emphasis on financial considerations and the issue of open access. The movement to make articles in scholarly journals freely accessible has many adherents, especially in the biomedical community. Some nonmedical scientific organizations have introduced mechanisms by which authors pay a fee to publish their papers, receiving in return the right to make the papers freely available.

Broad access to SIAM journals is available at the many research institutions that subscribe to the journals. Journal authors, moreover, can take advantage of the liberal SIAM policy allowing them to post the final SIAM-edited files for their articles on their Web sites. SIAM journals, however, continue to run on a subscription model. Given the importance of SIAM journals to the applied mathematics community, and the centrality of the journal program to our financial well-being, it is safe to say that the board will be debating this issue for some time to come.

In July, the board created a Publications Committee, with two subcommittees: One, chaired by Bob O'Malley, will focus on the SIAM book program, and the other, chaired by Margaret Wright, will be responsible for overseeing the journals.

The council and board had lengthy discussions of two of our most important prize lectures: The John von Neumann Lecture and the I.E. Block Community Lecture. Both groups considered a vision for what each lecture should be, as well as proposals for revising the selection process. These discussions were not altogether new: I was reminded that the SIAM board had a very similar discussion of the von Neumann lecture in 1989, agreeing that the lecture, as "the flagship award of SIAM," should be a survey of a "significant and useful contribution to mathematics and its applications." This summer, the board also looked into the constitution of the selection committee. Similar discussions focused on the Block lecture.

In a major change for SIAM, the board and council approved two new reciprocal arrangements, one with Koninklijk Wiskundig Genootschap and the other with Gesellschaft für Angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik. During the 1990s, SIAM looked to regional sections as a way to serve members outside the U.S.; this approach has worked well in some areas, such as the U.K. and Ireland, but regional sections in other areas have not taken hold. An ad hoc committee formed by Marty Golubitsky to look at membership issues proposed that SIAM adopt the concept of reciprocal membership.

Reciprocal memberships allow members of each participating society to join the other at reduced membership rates. The agreements with KWG and GAMM are now in effect; additional information can be obtained from membership@siam.org.

Computational Science in the Spotlight
Another way in which SIAM promotes applied mathematics and computational science is through the Committee on Science Policy. This committee, which has become increasingly active in the last five years, meets twice a year in Washington, where invited guests include representatives of funding agencies, congressional staffers, and other policy makers who affect research programs in our discipline. Visitors at the October meeting of the CSP included two representatives from PITAC-the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Daniel Reed, chair of PITAC's subcommittee on computational science, participated by phone, and subcommittee member David Nelson attended the meeting. The subcommittee, for a report back to PITAC, and eventually to presidential science adviser John Marburger, has been charged to address numerous focused questions about computational science. Among them are:

Of particular interest, given that computational science crosses academic departments in many institutions, is the issue of training future computational scientists. The SIAM CSP directed the PITAC visitors to Linda Petzold's report on educational programs in computational science, which includes a variety of successful examples; the report was published in SIAM Review (Vol. 43, No. 1, 2001).

At a hearing in Chicago in September, the PITAC subcommittee had discussed all of these issues, and I gave a short report. In October, CSP members engaged Reed and Nelson in a lively debate about computational science. Based on the CSP discussions, Steve Ashby delivered a short report at Supercomputing 2004 in November, and the CSP is now in the process of composing a written response to the subcommittee.

Other October guests of the CSP included two associate directors of the National Science Foundation, Peter Freeman (CISE) and Michael Turner (MPS); CISE program director Sang Kim; and representatives of the DOE Office of Science, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Transitions
A final note: Several new board and council members will take office on January 1. The election returns are not yet available, although early indications are that the introduction of electronic voting-as we hoped-resulted in a large turnout compared with previous years. Also taking office in January will be Marty Golubitsky, who is now nearing the end of his year as president-elect. Mac Hyman, an inspiring source of new ideas during his two-year term as president, will begin a one-year term as past-president on January 1.

*Students enrolled at institutions that are academic members of SIAM and members of SIAM Student Chapters at any institution.


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