SIAM News Blog

SIAM and the National Science Foundation

By Jim Crowley

SIAM is a member of many umbrella organizations. Along with its sister societies, SIAM participates in the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM), the Conference Board in the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), the Computing Research Association (CRA), and many others.

At its October meeting in Washington, D.C., the JPBM heard from Deborah Lockhart, Deputy Assistant Director of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). She offered noteworthy suggestions for SIAM and the larger mathematical sciences community.

Lockhart noted that as Michael Vogelius nears the end of his term as head of the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) in January 2018, the SIAM community can help identify new candidates for this important position. The DMS could also use help with its search for program directors, as half of the scientific staff tend to be rotators who serve for limited periods of time. The NSF needs the community’s input to find suitable individuals for these roles.

The NSF could also benefit from the scientific community’s assistance to identify and spread the word about important, new, and developing scientific areas that require research funding. In addition, the organization is seeking suitable individuals to serve on advisory boards, like the MPS Advisory Committee, and to organize and attend workshops. These workshops are meant to develop ideas and define and establish NSF-wide initiatives and priorities that show how the mathematical sciences can contribute.

Furthermore, opportunities exist for research funding in cross-cutting areas where the mathematical sciences—and members of the SIAM community—can make important contributions. Examples of these areas include cybersecurity and big data, and solicitations such as Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS). Lockhart also encouraged increased participation from mathematicians in the NSF Graduate Fellowship program. The mathematical sciences have traditionally received fewer of these fellowships than one might think, due to a relatively low proportion of submitted applications. The algorithm has changed somewhat, but the mathematical sciences are still underrepresented – more applicants are needed from the discipline. 

Moreover, Lockhart encouraged participation in programs such as Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES), Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) and NSF Research Traineeship (NRT).

The NRT program is a multidisciplinary effort designed to facilitate the development and implementation of new and potentially-transformative models for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate education training. Its goal is to ensure that graduate students develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. NRT encourages collaboration across disciplines, and the program’s emphasis changes year to year; data science was a recent emphasis.

Lockhart urged the community to hold workshops on new and emerging areas as well as new federal priorities to help define emergent topics and demonstrate the mathematical sciences’ role in these disciplines. Since solicitations are announced quickly with short turnaround times, advance discussions are important.

In short, Lockhart made an eloquent plea to help the NSF – a message that could be replicated across all agencies that fund scientific research relevant to the SIAM community.

Jim Crowley is the executive director of SIAM.
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