The AMS and Science Policy


How can you get involved?

Spring is the time of the annual AMS Committee on Science Policy meeting. This year, it was April 21-22 and was held virtually. Of course, we had to do this, and hard to complain when there are so many people who are struggling to feed their families and survive the current global health crisis.

The AMS has five “policy” committees, which were established in 1993 to correspond to the five major areas in which the mission of the AMS is concentrated: Education, Meetings and Conferences, the Profession, Publications, and Science Policy. A sixth policy committee was just established in January–the Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; this new committee will begin its work very soon. Each policy committee provides major direction for AMS activities in its area.

The Committee on Science Policy (CSP) is one of the five. From the Committee website:

The Committee on Science Policy serves as a forum for dialogue about matters of science policy involving representatives of the Society, government and other interested parties; interacts with Federal agencies and policymakers; provides advice to the Society on matters of broad science policy; conducts periodic reviews of Society activities in areas of science policy; and selects those elements of AMS meeting programs which bear directly on policy questions that are within the purview of the Committee.

I serve as the staff support for this committee. This means that I work with the committee chair to set the agenda for the annual meeting, and give logistic and content support throughout the year for the committee’s work.

CSP meets for two days each spring, in Washington DC, giving us the opportunity to interact with important players in the policy arena (including congressional staff, from agencies that oversee funding in the mathematical sciences, and from other professional societies with missions with overlap to that of the AMS). The meeting in DC gives us the opportunity to make visits to CSP members’ congressional delegations. This gives congressional members insight into what mathematicians’ research looks like, why their funding of the National Science Foundation (NSF) is so very important to us, and what our teaching and other work mentoring students looks like. They care very much about what goes on especially at public universities in their home districts and states, and how we use federal funding to further research and train the next generation of mathematicians (and all scientists).

This year we could not do the Hill visits, and also could not meet with other decision-makers in DC. We had looked forward to hearing from the following, who were going to join us at the meeting:

Sara Barber is a PhD physicist and professional staff member on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and on the Subcommittee on Research and Technology. She was going to give us an overview of the Committee on Science, including its jurisdiction, membership, 2019 achievements and priorities in 2020. Sara has spoken to the CSP before, and she’s been super-informative.

Mark Green & Michelle Schwalbe were planning to speak with us about their work with the Board of the Mathematical Sciences at the National Academies. The BMSA organizes studies, workshops, and other activities that provide top-quality mathematical science advice to policy makers, helps strengthen connections between mathematical sciences communities and diverse application areas, supports the health of the mathematical sciences ecosystem, and increases public awareness of the expanding role of the mathematical sciences. BMSA Chair Mark Green and BMSA Director Michelle Schwalbe were planning to discuss recent projects from the board as well as emerging opportunities for the mathematical sciences in policy discussions.

Patty Evers heads the human rights work at the National Academies. Over the past year, I have worked with Patty, and she has given great advice as well as offered a sounding board, as I negotiate the work of the AMS Committee on the Human Rights of Mathematicians. This committee has been very active over the past few years; statements, reports and letters appear at the committee website.

Anne Kinney is head of the NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, which supports fundamental research in astronomy, chemistry, physics, materials science and mathematics. I was really looking forward to the chance to introduce her to the committee. She was supposed to participate at the 2019 JMM, but that evaporated due to the government shutdown. This time, COVID prevented us from meeting her!

Lucia Simonelli is the 2019-20 AMS Congressional Fellow and is serving in the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Each year the AMS sponsors one Congressional Fellow who spends a year working on the staff in a personal office or for a committee. The Fellow is a standing presenter at our annual committee meeting, telling us about their experience as a mathematician in the program, and about their day-to-day work in Congress.

The AMS CSP includes several at-large members, and also some who serve on the committee by virtue of some other position they hold within the AMS. The current at-large members of the Committee are:

  • Jeffrey Brock is Professor of Mathematics and Dean of Science at Yale University. He recently moved from Brown University, where he chaired his department from 2013 to 2017. In 2016 he served as founding Director of Brown’s Data Science Initiative. His research focuses on low dimensional geometry and topology.
  • Moon Duchin is an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Senior Fellow of Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University. She also serves as the director of Tufts’ interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and Society Her mathematical research is in geometric group theory, low-dimensional topology, and dynamics. She is one of the leaders of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group, a Tisch College-supported project that focuses mathematical attention on issues of electoral redistricting.
  • Edgar Fuller is Distinguished University Professor, Associate Director of the STEM Transformation Institute, and Coordinator of Undergraduate Mathematics Education at Florida International University. He recently spent almost two years as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Rosa Orellana is a professor at Dartmouth College. Her research is in algebraic combinatorics. She’s received the John M. Manley Huntington Memorial Award for newly tenured faculty for outstanding research, teaching, and mentoring. She co-founded a chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics, in an effort to increase the number of women taking and majoring in mathematics at Dartmouth.
  • Michael Vogelius, Board of Governors Professor at Rutgers University, is the current Chair of the committee. He recently served as Division Director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the NSF. His research interests lie in the areas of mathematical analysis, partial differential equations and numerical analysis.
  • Suzanne Weekes is Professor of Mathematics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her research work is in numerical methods for differential equations including applications to spatio-temporal composites and cancer growth. She is the recipient of the 2019 Humphreys Award for Mentoringfrom the Association for Women in Mathematics, co-directs the national PIC Math (Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences) Program, and she is a founding co-director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Undergraduate Program (MSRI-UP).

Additional members are:

  • Ruth Charney, Brandeis University, is the AMS President Elect and thus sits on the committee.
  • Kasso Okoudjou, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a member of the AMS Council and represents the Council on the committee.
  • Jill Pipher,Brown University, is the AMS President and thus sits on the committee.
  • Catherine Roberts, American Mathematical Society, is the AMS Executive Director and thus sits on the committee.
  • Carla Savage, North Carolina State University, is the AMS secretary and thus sits on the committee, as a non-voting member.
  • Katherine Stevenson, California State University, is the Chair of the AMS Committee on Education and thus sits on the committee.
  • Anthony Várilly-Alvarado, Rice University, is a member of the AMS Council and represents the Council on the committee.
  • Judy Walker, University of Nebraska, represents the AMS Board of Trustees on the committee.

How can you get involved?



About Karen Saxe

Karen Saxe is Director of the AMS Office of Government Relations which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who affect mathematics research and education. Over many years she has contributed much 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 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 and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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2 Responses to The AMS and Science Policy

  1. Amy Cohen says:

    Thanks for this informative post.

    Can the AMS CSP set up a meeting on Zoom to replace, at least in part, the meetings cancelled by the budget shutdown and the COVID19 shutdown? I would hope that the AMS would try Zoom or some other virtual method to maintain something like face to face communication.

    • Karen Saxe says:

      Thank you! I assume what you mean is that CSP would have a virtual meeting with the folks (Anne Kinney, Sara Barber, etc), to replace the in-person meeting? This is a good idea. This was one of the first meetings the AMS decided to go virtual, and the first virtual AMS meeting with (outside) speakers. We made the decision to have only the business portion of the meeting, which may or may not have been the right call. The meeting was ~8 hours, and adding in the speakers brings it to double that. In making the decision, we were thinking of the CSP members going to online teaching, leading their depts and campuses during this time, and were trying to be sensitive to their huge constraints and stresses right not. Additionally, the invited speakers had all sorts of added responsibilities due to COVID, that are pulling on their time. That said, good point, good suggestion. I am maintaining very good contact with the speakers, though clearly not the same as having the entire CSP talking with them. Thanks again.

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