SIAM News Blog

The SIAM Board and Council at Work

By James Crowley 


The July 2014 meetings of the SIAM Council and Board were unusually busy, with full agendas and lengthy debates. As many readers will know, the Council deals with scientific issues and future directions for SIAM. An important example is oversight of the journals and conference programs, with regard to the scope, mission, and place of the journal or conference within its field. The Council delegates much of the groundwork in these areas to committees that report back to it. Irene Fonseca, as SIAM president, chaired the Council meeting.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for strategic directions and the finances of the society. The Board chooses a chair each year from its elected members; Tim Kelley, the current Board chair, ran the meeting in Chicago.

Each body considered a full slate of issues. Some overlapping issues were taken up by both, each from its own perspective. On the agendas were proposals for new activity groups, for a new regional section, and for a new journal. Also proposed were changes in prize rules and to the Fellows program. The new items that were adopted are briefly described below.

New SIAG, SIAM Section

Both the Board and the Council approved creation of the SIAM Activity Group on Education. The petition, which will be posted on the SIAM website, was approved after extensive discussion. SIAG/Education will begin operation as soon as practical, with Peter Turner, whose term as vice president for Education ends this year, as the first chair.

SIAGs––both proposed and existing––were the focus of several other discussions as well. A theme that emerged was a reminder that SIAGs are to serve the mission of SIAM: to promote mathematics (and/or computational science) and its application. As Irene Fonseca is fond of saying: We should not forget either the “I” or the “A” in SIAM’s name.

Regional sections being the responsibility of the Board alone, the petition to create a mid-American section of SIAM was taken up and approved by the Board. SIAM tends to take a “bottom-up” approach to regional sections and moves to create new ones only on the request of members in a given region. To dispel any uncertainty about the location of “mid-America,” the new section that won Board approval covers the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. The petition specified the initial slate of officers: Xiaoming He, Missouri University of Science and Technology; Stephen Pankavich, Colorado School of Mines; Erik Van Vleck, University of Kansas; and Xiu Ye, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The Board also approved an expanded charge for the Committee on Section Activities, enlarging its responsibility for oversight and reporting on section activities, as well as sunsetting sections and reviewing proposals for creating new ones. Details about the new committee charge will be posted on the SIAM website.

SIAM Awards Finetuned

The Major Awards Committee, chaired by Daniel Szyld, SIAM vice president at large, proposed several changes to the Fellows program. Both the Council and the Board approved revised submission requirements––in the future, nomination packages will require a single letter of nomination from all three nominators and exactly two letters of recommendation from people other than the nominators. The aim is greater homogeneity among nomination packages, which should make the decision process more straightforward for the Fellows Selection Committee. The Council and Board also agreed that the FSC should meet in person at least once in the course of the decision process. Expanded guidelines for nominators and letter writers will be posted on the SIAM website when available.

Pam Cook, SIAM president-elect, has taken on the task of collecting the wisdom of past Fellows Selection Committees and is writing guidelines for future chairs of the committee. The Council looked into possible changes to eligibility rules for the Fellows program (years of membership required, time in the profession) but will await further deliberation by the Major Awards Committee before making any decisions.

As recommended by the Major Awards Committee, the Council and Board approved an increase in the minimum award size for any of the SIAM Major Awards to $2000 (the change does not affect SIAG prizes or prizes joint with other societies). Also approved were changes to the specifications of several SIAM prizes. As amended, the George Pólya Prize is given for “a significant contribution in mathematics as evidenced by a refereed publication.” (See "Commemorating Pólya as Communicator" in this issue for more about the new category established in 2013 for the Pólya Prize.) The Theodore von Kármán Prize specification includes a revised statement:  “The award is given to a single individual for a significant achievement or for a collection of such achievements.”

Outside the Formal Agendas

Of course, many of the valuable contributions of the Council and Board stem not just from the formal consideration of proposals but also from the lively discussions ignited during the meetings. Discussions of the SIAM budget or reports from officers on the programs in their areas of responsibility might sound dry to some readers but give rise to many interesting ideas.

How many in the community are aware that SIAM arranges for audio recording/slide capture of invited talks and selected minisymposia at its larger conferences? SIAM Presents, which is hosted on the BlueSky platform, contains hundreds of presentations from SIAM conferences. Board and Council members expressed interest in increasing the visibility of this activity. Recorded  talks can now be accessed from the lists of invited speakers on conference programs (and in some cases from the speakers’ websites); SIAM is working to make access easier, ultimately via web search.  

SIAM provides information to the community through numerous vehicles, including Unwrapped (an email digest); SIAM Connect (short news items accessible from the SIAM home page); a blog (; and the print and online versions of SIAM News. Many of these feed media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. 

A further note on SIAM News: We recently updated and redesigned the online version of SIAM News. Accessible at, it currently contains all the articles that appear in the written version, with some new capabilities (such as embedded video), in a format that is compatible with mobile devices. Please take a look!

In ongoing discussions, the SIAM leadership is looking for ways in which SIAM could better serve industry (and national labs). Ideas in the development stage include an expanded job fair that focuses on non-academic employment, an expanded job board with increased listings, and promotion of internships in industry. More information on these efforts will be released as available; meanwhile, your ideas are welcome.

Readers are encouraged to send comments and suggestions about any of the activities, projects, and plans discussed in this article to Jim Crowley ( 

  Jim Crowley is the executive director of SIAM. 
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