SIAM News Blog

Outreach in the Linear Algebra Community

By David Bindel

Since the start of 2012, postings to the SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra (SIAG/LA) mailing list have been distributed in a SIAG/LA digest at the start of each month. These postings consist primarily of conference announcements and job listings, as is the case on most of the SIAG mailing lists. As a method of communication with SIAG members, this may be adequate, but it is hardly inspiring. In the October 2014 SIAG/LA Digest, I wrote to request feedback from SIAG/LA members regarding ways in which SIAG/LA might better facilitate interactions between members or with the larger SIAM community (or beyond).

Beyond being the home of award-winning expository writers, our SIAG has several members who are promoting linear algebra to the world at large through blogs, Twitter, and other social media. And this is true of SIAM more broadly, as well! SIAM is broadly engaged in experimentation with different forms of outreach. SIAG/OPT is resurrecting its Views and News newsletter; SIAG/MA has started a Facebook page; and the SIAG-OPSF newsletter includes not only pointers to recent SIAM journal articles, but also to recent arXiV preprints. SIAM UKIE maintains a bimonthly newsletter. SIAM also solicits material for SIAM News.

There are many ways to advance our understanding of linear algebra and to teach what we know to the world at large. I enjoy reading SIAM News, as well as the efforts of those who maintain their own linear-algebra-themed blogs, including David Gleich, Cleve Moler, and Nick Higham. I also appreciate the efforts of SIAM visiting lecturers, and of those who reach out even more broadly to convince the world that ours is a lively and intellectually exciting discipline. All outreach activities draw from the same finite supply of time, and improving the SIAG/LA newsletter is probably not the best way for most to spend that time. Nonetheless, I believe there are a few opportunistic things we can do to start conversations and to amplify the impact of our other outreach efforts:

  • We can provide a clearinghouse for information of interest to SIAG-LA, including not only information about conferences, but also pointers to articles, essays and blog posts.
  • Beyond pointing to essays produced for other reasons, we can solicit thought-provoking essays (as we have in the past).
  • We can sponsor and advertise contributions to SIAM News, just as we sponsor and advertise meetings of interest to the SIAG-LA membership.

My term as the SIAG-LA secretary will end in a bit over a year; in the mean time, though, I hope to use the SIAG-LA web site as a playground for experimenting with ways to make it a little easier for us all to find out what we’re doing and perhaps to amplify the effects of out outreach to the larger world.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Chen Grief, Tammy Kolda, Volker Mehrmann, and Françoise Tisseur, for their thoughtful responses and suggestions.

This article is reposted from the SIAG/LA website.

David Bindel is an assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University and secretary of the SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra.

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