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AMS Committee on Meetings and Conferences 1996 Annual Report

The Committee on Meetings and Conferences (COMC) reviews and recommends policy for all aspects of the Society's meetings and conferences. COMC provides annual reviews, reports and communicates to the membership, and coordinates its activities with other AMS committees, particularly those activities involving meetings and conferences. Besides conducting a great deal of its business by electronic mail correspondence, COMC had two face-to-face meetings in 1996, in April and September. Some of the highlights of the year's activities follow. The recommendations listed (I.1.2 and I.2.2 ) were to be considered by the Council at the January 1997 meeting in San Diego.

I. COMC has a six-year plan for reviews of the various facets of the AMS Meetings and Conferences program. The two items scheduled for 1996 were completed and work has begun on the items for 1997. Specifically:

I.1. Evan Houston, chair, Deborah Sulsky and William Harris served on the COMC Subcommittee to Review Co-sponsorship of Meetings and Conferences of Other Organizations(CSSC), which was charged with performing a six-year review of co-sponsorship by the Society of meetings and conferences of other organizations. The committee examined the history of past co-sponsorships and developed goals and guidelines for future ones. The modern history of co-sponsorships dates to 1988, when a Committee on Cooperative Symposia was created to generate and review ideas for cosponsoring sessions involving applications of mathematics; this committee was discharged in January 1992. Since then simple requests for co-sponsorship have been handled by the Secretariat. This procedure appears to work well.

The CSSC also prepared a guidelines statement, concerning co-sponsorship agreements, proceedings and program committee appointments, which COMC has recommended be adopted by the Council.

I.2. Roy Adler, chair, Robert Daverman, Andy R. Magid, and Jerry Marsden reported for the Subcommittee to Review International Joint Meetings.

The Subcommittee on International Joint meetings was formed in September 1995 with the charge ``To review and report to COMC and through them, to the Council as appropriate, the operation of international joint,meetings, including financial, scientific, and organizational aspects.'' They also considered procedural aspects of international joint meetings.

The subcommittee commented that "International joint meetings are valuable for the AMS membership: this cooperation with other societies enhances the image of the AMS and provides a richer program of meetings and conferences. Mathematicians and scientists in other countries value the opportunity to invite AMS members and to make scientific and personal contacts with them. International joint meetings are a relatively new endeavor for the AMS, and procedures are still being developed. The AMS is doing an excellent job with the meetings, and they have been well-received. The subcommittee considered procedural aspects and other issues that may arise during the course of the review. The program seems to be successful and should be continued."

COMC has recommended some procedural and policy items regarding international joint meetings to the Council. These include: the development of written guidelines, the involvement of people who already have contact with the country (eg, who can speak the language and have substantial scientific contacts); and reports about each international joint meeting for future evaluation and information.

I.3. The reviews scheduled for 1997 are (1) Sectional Meetings; a subcommittee for this review will be chaired by Evan Houston, with Case, Daverman, and Sulsky, and (2) AMS sessions at Meetings of Other Organizations, to be chaired by Isom Herron, with additional members Hyman and Marsden. The scope of this latter subcommittee will be expanded to include consideration of sessions of other organizations at AMS meetings, because it is important for the AMS to be involved in interdisciplinary mathematics. In addition to these review subcommittees, COMC will form another subcommittee to study national meetings of the future.

II. Other items:

II.1. COMC has initiated the formation of a Joint Task Force on Interdisciplinary Activity with CPUB. When COMC reviewed interdisciplinary conferences, it appeared that the publication of proceedings led to problems. This task force, which will be named soon, would be charged to consider and facilitate proceedings of interdisciplinary conferences.

II.2. COMC has contacted the chair of COE about the formation of a Joint COMC-COE Subcommittee on Student Activities. This subcommittee would be charged to catalog and unify existing programs as well as to encourage and suggest new programs.

II.3. In the area of long-range planning for the Conferences Program, COMC considered the possibility of significant future cuts in funding for the summer conference program by the granting agencies (in view of the budget situation in Washington, DC). COMC discussed past attendance, topics, and organizers of summer conferences. In view of the potential for loss of funds, COMC recommended that only the highest quality proposals be submitted to granting agencies in the future. In the event of severe cutbacks, the Society itself could perhaps partially support the series for one year, but not on an ongoing basis.

II.4. Some concern has been communicated to COMC that National Meetings no longer appeal to those mathematicians primarily interested in doing research. COMC discussed this issue by email and at its meetings and will continue to explore it. (One question is whether the perception is accurate.)

II.5. COMC has assisted the AMS office with ideas for the Meetings and Conferences page on the WWW. It is hoped that this new technology will make access to information about meetings and conferences easier for members and also that members will assist with obtaining meetings information for the Web.

II.6. Progress has been made on various recommendations from COMC which appeared in previous reports.

II.6.a. The Council passed the recommendation from COMC regarding Summer Meetings. For various reasons, such as expense, poor attendance, and a lack of willing organizers for scientific offerings, it was decided that there would be no joint Summer Meeting in the present Mathfest format in the summers of 97, 98, and 99. In the year 2000, there will be a special AMS celebration in conjunction with the International Mathematical Union's World Mathematical Year 2000 activities, presently being organized by Felix Browder's committee.

As a transitional step toward the discontinuance of Summer Meetings, the AMS participated in the 1996 Mathfest in 1996. In fact the Seattle Mathfest appeared to be better-attended than some past summer meetings and included a varied and interesting program, with high-quality expository talks and some scientific sessions. Nevertheless, despite various cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the services offered, it was still an expensive meeting for the AMS, and problems arose from the lack of services.

II.6b. COMC has recommended that the AMS hold sessions for graduate students, in order to increase the participation of younger mathematicians in meetings; this idea was tried at the Seattle Mathfest and appeared to be quite successful and popular.

II.6c. Special discussion groups for researchers participating in Special Sessions, were proposed to encourage interaction between established mathematicians and younger mathematicians and underrepresented minorities; the first of these was planned for San Diego.

II.6d. Another idea was to encourage more interdisciplinary activities and discussion of diverse applications of mathematics at meetings. Two activities related to this were planned for the San Diego meeting: a panel discussion organized by Ruth Williams on "Careers for Mathematicians in Industry, Business and Government", and a Special Session on the Mathematics of Industry, Government, and Business organized by Desiree Beck.

II.7. COMC has decided to cut its face-to-face meetings to one per year, in order to reduce costs. The next meeting of COMC will be Saturday, September 20, in Chicago. The new chair of COMC will be Joel Spencer.

II.8. COMC is interested in members' concerns and ideas regarding its activities and regarding meetings and conferences in general. In particular, COMC welcomes comments regarding the topics mentioned here, especially regarding items currently under study, such as Sectional Meetings and the research appeal of National Meetings.

COMC will continue to seek input from various sources. A Focus Group Discussion on National Meetings will be held at the January 1997 meeting in San Diego, with a randomly-selected group of meeting participants. This is the fourth such Focus Group Discussion.

The members of COMC as of November 1996 are:

  • Roy Adler
  • Bettye Anne Case
  • John H. Ewing (ex-officio/ AMS Executive Director)
  • Robert Fossum (ex-officio/AMS Secretary)
  • Isom Herron
  • Evan Houston
  • Mac Hyman
  • Jerry Marsden
  • Cathleen S. Morawetz (ex Officio/President)
  • Frank Morgan
  • Deborah Sulsky
  • Sylvia Wiegand
  • Ruth Williams

The new chair of COMC will be Joel Spencer.

Permanent invited guests:

  • Robert Daverman (Associate Secretary, Southeastern Section)
  • Susan Friedlander (Associate Secretary, Central Section)
  • William Harris (Associate Secretary, Western Section)
  • Lesley Sibner (Associate Secretary, Northeastern Section)

AMS Staff:

  • Hope Daly (Staff support)
  • Heather MacDonald (Staff support)
  • James Maxwell (Senior staff liaison)

This report was prepared by Sylvia Wiegand, Chair of COMC, with the assistance of the committee.