Professional Societies in the Mathematical Sciences: The Landscape

As you are surely aware, there are several professional associations with opportunities (benefits and volunteer) for mathematical researchers, educators, and students. Many members of the AMS are also members of one or more of our sister societies. Do these associations communicate? Work together? Of course! What do they do together and how do they do this? Read on and you will see some basic answers.

Many of us are about to head to San Diego for some nicer weather and, oh, the Joint Mathematics Meetings are there! The Joint Meetings are run annually and jointly by the AMS with the MAA (for society acronyms, see below). Several other associations hold activities at the JMM as well.

The AMS works with various coalitions on a range of issues that impact our community. The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) is the largest such coalition, and “is an umbrella organization consisting of seventeen professional societies all of which have as one of their primary objectives the increase or diffusion of knowledge in one or more of the mathematical sciences. Its purpose is to promote understanding and cooperation among these national organizations so that they work together and support each other in their efforts to promote research, improve education, and expand the uses of mathematics.” The CBMS member societies are:

And, this is just the professional association landscape in the U.S. There are of course professional societies all over the world, but this post is focusing only on our own national landscape.

The CBMS associations work together to run research conferences, and fora on education. They consider matters of national relevance and occasionally write position statements. Since 1965, and every five years, CBMS sponsors a national survey of undergraduate mathematical and statistical sciences in the nation’s two- and four-year colleges and universities. The informative reports summarizing the survey results are free!

The AMS is also part of the smaller Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, alongside the ASA, MAA, and SIAM. This group promotes Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month (in case you don’t know, that’s April) to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics, and, since 1988, rewards communicators who bring mathematics to a broader audience with the annual JPBM Communications Award. In Washington, JPBM members advocate for increased and sustained federal funding for research and education in the mathematical sciences.

I know it might sound odd to you, but this is me writing – I enjoy CBMS and JPBM biannual meetings. The fact that they both just happened is perhaps why I was inspired to tell you about these groupings of math societies. CBMS had its most recent meeting on December 7, and JPBM’s was October 30. These meetings give a chance to meet and share about the member societies’ activities and to hear from key players at our national agencies (e.g., NSF), the White House, and the National Academies about challenges and opportunities relevant to the mathematical sciences community.

Our community is full of wonderful people looking to move our research agendas forward, to improve education in our fields, to broaden participation in the sciences, to use ideas from mathematics for technological innovation, and to communicate about all these to non-mathematicians. While each society has its own niche, we share many goals and we can complement each other to promote these goals and to make the group voice more effective and more powerful.

About Karen Saxe

Since January 1, 2017, Karen Saxe is Director of the Washington Office of the AMS which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who impact science funding. Before joining the AMS, Karen was DeWitt Wallace Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over many years she has contributed time to the AMS, MAA, and AWM, including service as vice president of the MAA and in policy and advocacy work with all three. She was the 2013-2014 AMS-AAAS Science & Technology Policy Congressional Fellow, working for Senator Al Franken on education issues, with focus on higher education and STEM education. In Minnesota she has served on the Citizens Redistricting Commission following the 2010 census and serves on the Common Cause Minnesota Redistricting Leadership Circle. She has three children and, when not at work especially enjoys being with them and reading, hiking, skiing, and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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One Response to Professional Societies in the Mathematical Sciences: The Landscape

  1. Amy Cohen says:

    The 2015 CBMS survey included a “special project” questionnaire on Post-docs and other full-time and part-time doctoral mathematicians holding instructional jobs in 4-year colleges and universities. I was allowed to see some preliminary results. They are very interesting. I hope that our professional societies will advocate for similar questions in future CBMS surveys and/or some special Joint Data Committee surveys perhaps not every year but maybe in alternate years. It is important to track how our institutions of higher education are staffing their math courses, especially those at and above the level of Calculus I. The future employment of FT NTT doctoral faculty who re-enter the job-market will be influenced by the range of their teaching experience and the quality of letters evaluating their teaching, participation in continuing professional development, and service.

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