SIAM News Blog

Making Up for Lost Time in SIAM Membership

By Richard Moore

As COVID-19 approaches endemic stability and we gradually resume our pre-2020 routines, my thoughts turn to members of our community who may have missed out on valuable opportunities over the last few years. Students in particular had fewer chances to build collaborations and friendships through in-person classes, present their research and network at in-person conferences, visit labs and institutions in their own countries and beyond, physically intern at companies, and so forth. In short, they faced difficulties when attempting to develop their communities and careers outside of the narrow focus of their coursework and theses.

Lina Sorg (left), the managing editor of SIAM News, poses with Richard Moore, SIAM’s Director of Programs and Services, at the 2022 SIAM Conference on Mathematics of Data Science, which took place this September in San Diego, Ca. SIAM photo.
SIAM’s student membership numbers have been slower to recover from the COVID-19 blip than other categories. Almost all students have access to free SIAM membership through either their participation in one of the more than 200 SIAM Student Chapters or their institution’s status as a SIAM Academic Member; yet despite this perk, student membership is currently at 76 percent of its pre-pandemic total. As a result, many students are not receiving significant discounts on SIAM conferences and publications, getting involved in SIAM-funded student chapter activities, connecting with each other at conference “Student Days” and other SIAM networking events, learning about career fairs and professional development happenings, and beginning their journeys toward leadership positions in the SIAM community.

Outreach membership, which is available to individuals in countries that the World Bank has designated as “developing,” has also not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. SIAM now offers an outreach registration rate at all virtual and hybrid conferences; starting in 2023, outreach members will also be entitled to free membership in a SIAM Activity Group of their choice. These advantages add significant value to an already heavily discounted membership rate.

SIAM membership delivers a high return on investment in each of its categories, but students and outreach members undoubtedly benefit the most. So why haven’t these numbers bounced back as quickly? The answer is not entirely clear, but I suspect that a combination of exhaustion over COVID-19-related disruptions and fewer opportunities to attend conferences is to blame. Rising levels of inflation and—for outreach members—an unfavorable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar certainly do not help, but the discounts to conferences, books, and journals far outweigh these deterrents.

What can the rest of us do to bolster student and outreach participation? Spread the word! Regular SIAM members can nominate two students for free membership. Make sure that the students you nominate are aware of the many exciting activities that are scheduled for 2023, including the following:

We should also ensure that our colleagues in outreach countries know about the outreach rate at upcoming hybrid conferences — such as the 2023 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, which will be held in Florence, Italy, from January 22-25. SIAM membership will ensure access to all available discounts for this and other future events.

2023 will be a year full of new experiences that help us make up for lost time by reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, forming new collaborations, and expanding the boundaries of our professional careers. I look forward to ringing in the year with all of you.

  Richard Moore is the Director of Programs and Services at SIAM. 
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