Science Policy at the AMS


I feel confident that your first question is “how can I get involved in the policy work and advocacy in support of mathematicians and our students?”

Each spring the AMS Committee on Science Policy holds its annual meeting. This year, it was March 23-24 and was held virtually.

The AMS has six “policy” committees. Five were established in 1993. A sixth launched last year—the Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Each policy committee provides major direction for AMS activities in its area.

The Committee on Science Policy (CSP) is one of the six. 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, normally 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 the level to which we are involved training a future STEM workforce and future math teachers. They care very much about what goes on at colleges and 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). They love personal stories, and need to collect them for their work in Congress.

This year we could not do the Hill visits, but were able to meet with other decision-makers in DC. The following joined us; each gave a terrific presentation and then we engaged in meaningful conversations:

Sara Barber has been with the staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology since 2016. Her portfolio includes National Science Foundation oversight, STEM education, diversity/equity/inclusion in STEM, interagency R&D programs, and research policy issues such as academic security and access to data and publications. Sara came to the Hill in 2015 as an American Institute of Physics Congressional Science Fellow after graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a PhD in Physics. She gave an overview of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, including its jurisdiction, membership, recent achievements and priorities in 2021.

Mark Green & Michelle Schwalbe spoke 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 discussed recent projects from the board as well as emerging opportunities for the mathematical sciences in policy discussions.

Sean Jones is the Assistant Director (AD) for the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) at the NSF, comprising of the Divisions of Astronomy, Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences (DMS), Materials Research, and Physics. He spoke with us about the new NSF Director’s visions, and opportunities for mathematicians within DMS and also outside of DMS.

Rachel Levy is the 2020-21 AMS Congressional Fellow and is serving in the office of Senator Maggie Hassan. 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. His research focuses on low dimensional geometry and topology.
  • Duane Cooper is an Associate Professor and Academic Program Director of Mathematics at Morehouse College.
  • 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.
  • Fern Hunt works at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Her research interests focus on ergodic theory, probability, information theory and bioinformatics.
  • Deborah Lockhart, retired, served in a variety of positions at the National Science Foundation—including as Deputy Assistant Director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate—beginning in 1988.
  • 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.
  • Natalie Shiels is an applied mathematician and works as Senior Principal Research Scientist at the UnitedHealth Group in the Twin Cities area.
  • Suzanne Weekes is the Executive Director of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). Her research 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 Mentoring from 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 and thus sits on the committee.
  • Ralph Cohen, Stanford University, is a member of the AMS Board of Trustees and represents the Board on the committee.
  • Boris Hasselblatt, Tufts University, is the is the AMS Secretary 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 Past President and thus sits on the committee.
  • Catherine Roberts, American Mathematical Society, is the is the AMS Executive Director and thus sits on the committee.
  • Katherine Stevenson, California State University, is the Chair of the AMS Committee on Education and thus sits on the committee.



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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