The Beltway and Beyond

April 22, 1999

From the SIAM President
Gilbert Strang

May I begin with a topic that has filled much of this month? It happens that 1999 is SIAM's year to chair the Joint Policy Board of the three U.S. mathematics societies (AMS, MAA, and SIAM). The board will meet on April 19 to discuss what is important this year for mathematics and computing---and there is a lot. One guest will be Philippe Tondeur, who has been chosen to succeed Don Lewis as director of NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences. Philippe is chair of the mathematics department at Illinois (as Don was at Michigan).

Mathematics has been doubly fortunate. SIAM News will have more to say about both directors as the new appointment becomes official.

JPBM's other guests in April will be Ruzena Bajscy from NSF and Penn, and Charles Holland from DOD. Each is directly involved with the large IT2 initiative for 2000 in computing and information technology. The initiative has been recommended by President Clinton and is just now on its way to Congress. It would direct new funds to computing and information sciences throughout the U.S. government agencies that support research. This would be the largest change in the NSF budget for next year. A central question for JPBM (and especially for SIAM) is to establish how mathematicians can contribute.

As always, I want to write personally about this. I know that algorithms developed by SIAM members are reflected in large speedups in scientific computing. This happens worldwide-a major savings from much better use of hardware by a wise investment in analysis and software. There are examples I know of and many that I don't (and would like to!). The contributions of applied mathematics need to be clearly recognized.

The rest of this column moves away from Washington to the widespread activities of SIAM. A message from Canada led to an idea that I think SIAM will act on quickly: to establish an International Committee. Its responsibility would be to see how SIAM can be helpful to its members around the world. This might be a large committee! I think this is all right. Applied mathematics is developing on a global scale, and SIAM's job is to help.

Our Annual Meeting in Atlanta includes a special minisymposium arranged by the Activity Group on Orthogonal Polynomials and Special Functions. It is Thursday and Friday afternoons, May 13 and 14, with a strong program. The whole subject of special functions is important to SIAM-a complement (not orthogonal) to algorithms.

A new activity group is coming forward in biology and medicine. This is absolutely a timely step, and perhaps it should extend more broadly to the life sciences---including ecology. Please send me any thoughts and suggestions. Mathematics is a rapidly growing part of biology, and Charles Peskin's von Neumann Lecture will show us how true that is. And this is my last chance to mention the Town Meeting in Atlanta earlier that same day (May 13).


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