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AMS Committee on Meetings and Conferences (COMC) 2001 Annual Report

The Committee on Meetings and Conferences (CoMC) held its annual meeting in March at the O'Hare Hilton Hotel in Chicago. Highlights of that meeting are provided below.

Following its annual meeting, CoMC agreed to sponsor a panel presentation at the San Diego meeting titled "New Directions at NSF." In addition to a report from Philippe Tondeur, Director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at NSF, the panel includes representatives of the various institutes who will report on activites at their institutes.

Highlights of CoMC meeting
March 24, 2001

Report on the New Orleans Focus Group. Michael Starbird and Peter Kuchment moderated the Committee on Meetings and Conferences's (CoMC) New Orleans Focus Group discussions. Among the various suggestions that arose out of the focus group, a number were discussed during Michael's oral report to CoMC. These included:

  • Poster Sessions: Expanding the number and type of poster sessions at the Joint Mathematics Meetings or at the Sectional Meetings, as well as exploring alternate formats for poster sessions.

  • Invited Addresses: Designating one Invited Address slot at each Sectional Meeting for a member of an underrepresented group such as pre-tenured mathematicians or mathematicians from four-year colleges. Continuing to work on ways to improve the quality of invited addresses.

  • Technology: Having technology-based conferences (web, email, bulletin boards…). (CoMC discussed the pros and cons of these ideas and felt it was not an idea that should be pursued at this time.)

  • Special Sessions: Suggesting to Special Session organizers that they arrange dinners to promote interaction among session participants. Considering different formats for Special Sessions, including problem sessions (see Sibner report below).

No formal CoMC actions were taken on these suggestions.

Report of the Subcommittee to Review International Meetings. This subcommittee was composed of Rick Miranda (chair), Susan Friedlander and Karen Parshall. As part of its review, the subcommittee conducted an email survey of all the special session organizers for the international meetings of the past five years. Based on the rich feedback from this survey, the judgment was that international meetings are a very valuable component of the AMS's meetings program. The subcommittee made a number of recommendations to the Secretariat for adjustments to the procedures for international meetings. In connection with these recommendations, CoMC took two actions.

  • CoMC unanimously approved the following policy: "The goal is to have one International Meeting per year [outside of North America]."
  • CoMC unanimously approved the policy that the AMS consider joint SMM meetings every three years.

Report of the Subcommittee to Review the Overall Program at National Meetings, Including Governance meetings. Subcommittee chair Karen Collins reported on the recommendations made in the subcommittee's written report. The subcommittee recommended to the Secretariat that the instructions to Special Session organizers include some encouragement to have a designated mentor for younger participants in the session. It was also recommended that the prototype letter contained in the report, drafted by Associate Secretary Bernie Russo, be used by the Associate Secretaries for Special Session organizers. The purpose of this letter is to encourage organizers to make it easier for younger mathematicians and graduate students to become part of the conference community and to suggests some ways to accomplish this within their special session.

Sibner Report on Goldfeld's Special Session Panel in New Orleans. Associate Secretary Lesley Sibner gave an oral report on Dorian Goldfeld's Special Session panel in New Orleans, put together in response to the Subcommittee's previous report in 2000 to Review National Meetings. Sibner reported that Goldfeld had arranged a pre-session discussion of open problems in analytic number theory. The discussion was one hour long with six panelists and was very well received by the standing-room-only crowd. Sibner recommended that this experiment be tried again in other Special Sessions, given the right situation and an interested organizer. CoMC urged Sibner to write an explicit description of the experiment or ask Goldfeld to do it, so that the Associate Secretaries could give copies to interested Special Session organizers, and recommended a goal of one such problem session per meeting. Bryant will investigate arranging one for the Joint Meetings in January 2002.

Number of Invited Addresses at National Meetings. The AMS Secretary and MAA Associate Secretary jointly recommended that each of the societies reduce the number of its Invited Addresses at the Joint Mathematics Meetings by one (from six to five.) The meeting schedule is extremely tight, some of the times late in the meeting seem undesirable, attendance at Invited Addresses can be rather small, and the AMS Program Committee has been able recently to put forward only a few suggestions. With a smaller number, the quality of talks and attraction to the audience may be higher. The AMS Secretariat and MAA Board of Governors endorsed this proposal.

CoMC approved reducing the number of AMS Invited Addresses at National Meetings from six to five. They also recommended that the last Invited Address time slot on the last day be the one deleted.

Other Informational Items. CoMC's topic for annual review for 2002 is to be "Cosponsorship of meetings and conferences of other organzations and the AMS Conference program." .A subcommittee consisting of Dominic Clemence (chair), Irene Fonseca, and Rick Miranda will prepare a report on this topic for the next CoMC meeting.

CoMC will host a focus group at the San Diego meeting. The Focus Group has been tentatively scheduled for Monday morning, January 7, 7-9 am, and will be moderated by Hema Srinavasan and Karen Collins.

The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for the O'Hare Hilton on April 6, 2002.

Prepared by Karen Vogtmann and Jim Maxwell 4/20/2001