NPR Topics: U.S.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Why the Math Sciences are about to be screwed by the Federal Government

 Recently, the American Mathematical Society  informed its members about  a proposed name change at the NSF. The Division of Math Sciences  is no be renamed the  Division of Math Sciences and Statistics. I'm pretty pissed off about  about this and here is what I wrote.

I read with profound worry the proposed   name change  for the current   Division of Mathematical  Sciences.   I was under the impression that all branches  of mathematical research  were equal,  but this proposed name  change   has  a whiff of an  Orwellian  ``but some branches are more equal than others''.

The new name  will  change the social  perception (read Congress' perception)   of the purpose of this division of the NSF. The practical effect   of this will be an ``equitable'' partition of resources between Mathematical Sciences and Statistics with damaging consequences to the mathematical community and research.

If anybody   doubts of the plausibility of this scenario  I would point  him or her to  the recent troubling events  from  UK. In that case, the ``equitable'' partition  of resources  took the form  of a   skewed  allocation of postdoctoral  positions, with a complete bias towards statistics.  This prompted a public reaction from the British   mathematical community that took the form of an open letter to the Prime Minister(  for  details see this recent  article from  The Guardian)

The fact that the British mathematical community had a public reaction is a telling fact  in itself because we mathematicians   tend to no get involved, even when   our interests are at stake. I think that  the American Mathematical Society   ought to state clearly and publicly    its position on this issue and I  sincerely  hope that the AMS will oppose such a name change.

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