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AMS Committee on Meetings and Conferences (COMC) 2000 Annual Report

COMC met in Chicago on Saturday, April 30, 2000. The following is a report on that meeting and follow-up activities.

Report of the Subcommittee to review the Overall Program at National Meetings. Subcommittee Chair Karen Collins passed out a preliminary report. The key opportunity for the subcommittee to address its charge was the focus group held at the Washington DC meeting in January. The focus group discussions reinforced the importance of networking with other mathematicians as a reason for attending the national meeting. Consequently, much of the focus group discussion centered on advice about ways to enhance the opportunities for networking, both formally and informally. Naturally, the newest members of the profession typically find networking the most difficult. The report highlighted several suggestions for enhancing networking, especially for recent PhD's.

There was general COMC consensus on the importance of networking to meeting participants, but the difficulties of implementing some of the suggestions by focus group participants was also recognized. As an alternative to the suggestion that panel discussions be added, it was agreed that several special sessions organizers for the New Orleans meeting would be encouraged to incorporate time for an organized problem session as part of their special session. Furthermore, as a partial aid in arranging opportunities for group dinners for special sessions participants, information on local restaurants will be available on e-MATH and session organizers will be apprised of this information as the time for the meeting approaches.

The Subcommittee will continue its work over the coming months by reviewing some of the other aspects of the national meeting program, including the role of the governance meetings held during the national meeting.

Crowded Schedules at the Joint Meeting. COMC spent some time discussing whether or not the growing number of events scheduled at a national meeting enhances or detracts from the networking aspects of the meeting. There was no consensus on this issue. There was clear agreement that whenever activities are added to the general program, they should always be of the highest quality. Furthermore, COMC passed the following resolution: "As a matter of policy, COMC believes it is better that special sessions and contributed paper sessions not be scheduled in the evening."

Audience for the Gibbs Lecture. In the past, the Gibbs Lecture was aimed at the scientifically literate public and was considered an occasion for more general outreach by the Society. In recent years the talks have been aimed at a mathematically advanced audience. COMC discussed whether or not the Society should redirect the Gibbs Lecture to the more general audience of the past. There was support for such a shift and COMC Chair Vogtmann appointed a subcommittee, consisting of Jim Arthur and Bob Daverman, to draft a resolution in favor of this shift. The subcommittee's draft resolution was circulated to COMC by email. After email discussion and revision, it was approved and forwarded to the Council for approval and incorporation into the charge to the committee which selects the Gibbs lecturer.

AMS Participation in MAA's Mathfest. The MAA has expressed interest in some form of regular AMS participation in their summer Mathfest. COMC discussed the merits of AMS's participation and what forms of participation might serve AMS interest and be viewed by MAA as responsive to their request. There was general support for AMS participation at the level of AMS sponsorship of a plenary address, possibly jointly with MAA; this address should be distinguished from other plenary addresses by a distinctive name or other designation. COMC voted in favor of the following motion, made by Browder: "The AMS should be involved in the Mathfest and should have some sort of designated lecture sponsored by the AMS, with a clearly defined agenda; the details can be worked out in subsequent Mathfests."

Other Informational Items. COMC's topic for annual review for 2001 is to be international meetings. A subcommittee consisting of Rick Miranda (chair), Karen Parshall and Susan Friedlander will prepare a report on this topic for the next COMC meeting. COMC will again host a focus group at the New Orleans meeting with members Michael Starbird and Peter Kuchment serving as moderators. The next meeting of the committee has been scheduled for the O'Hare Hilton on March 24, 2001.

Prepared by Karen Vogtmann and Jim Maxwell 5/3/2000, revised 12/6/00