SIAM News Blog

Feedback Solicited on DMS Mathematics Institutes Update

By Pam Cook

In response to an invitation from SIAM News in January, Michael Vogelius, Division Director, and Henry Warchall, Senior Advisor at the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences sent an open letter to the mathematical community regarding the Mathematics Institutes (view the full letter in SIAM News).  We much appreciate this response.

We are, of course, reminded by this response that NSF DMS has a finite budget which they apportion among the various supported activities and constituents.  Despite the clear rhetoric of the letter we remain somewhat confused regarding the need to sunset the two institutes, indeed the only institutes currently not on one or the other coast.  We do note that a rationale was given for the DMS sunsetting of Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI), and we hope that additional, biological, funds will be forthcoming.  We are, however, still in the dark regarding the reason for singling out the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)  for sunsetting.

While we appreciate the distinction made by the authors between the physics “centers” and the Institutes which “recreate their programs each year”, we also note that bidding for or building up an institute requires commitment from the university or donors (for infrastructure, institutional framework, and financial management support among other things) as well as dedicated trained personnel. We recognize that annual programs result from a buildup of expertise and knowledge from the community.  Proposing a new institute, and taking on the massive dedicated work needed, is not a task to be taken on lightly if the understanding is that the infrastructure is not somewhat long term.

We welcome your comments and feedback on the update from the DMS through the comments section below.

 Pam Cook is Unidel Professor of Mathematics, Associate Dean of Engineering, and professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. She is the current president of SIAM. 
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