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Fall 2011 - Column

 

Fall 2011: A letter from MAA President Paul Zorn

Dear MAA members,  

As you may have heard, discussion is underway at the National Science Foundation and in our communities about the possibility of renaming the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS); the new name would be the  Division of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (MSS).  Ed Seidel, Assistant NSF Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, intends to make a decision on the matter next January.  

To inform the decision and assure that community voices are heard, the MAA and the NSF invite members' views on this proposed change.  (Other societies are inviting their own members to comment.)    A forum on this name change, involving NSF leaders, is expected at the January 2012 Joint Mathematics Meeting in Boston.

Background on and arguments in favor of the proposed change are summarized in a letter, available at www.siam.org/dmsnamechange/pantula-letter.pdf from DMS Director Sastry Pantula.  Dr. Pantula writes, for instance, that the name change would better "position the Division for the future, in light of the very clearly established trends toward scientific discovery increasingly dependent on the collection and interpretation of (massive) data and quantitative information."    For more details and further discussion, see Dr. Pantula's letter.

Colleagues who argue against the proposed change express their own concerns.   Some assert that the proposed name change suggests both that statistics is not itself a mathematical science and that the relevance of the mathematical sciences to data has diminished.  Others worry that a name change might portend a realignment of resources that should first be discussed and justified.

Clearly, views differ.  The point of this invitation is not to advocate but to invite MAA members' own views and comments. 

A small MAA committee will review and summarize members' comments; a digest (without identifying individual senders' names) of views will be forwarded to the NSF in mid-December.   

PLEASE SEND COMMENTS TO dmsnamechange (at) maa.org BY DECEMBER 1, 2011, AS A PLAIN TEXT EMAIL WITHOUT ATTACHMENTS.

Thanks for your attention.

Paul Zorn, MAA President 

Note from the Indiana MAA Public Information Officer: The American Mathematical Society's President, Eric M. Friedlander, has also written a letter on the same topic.

 

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