A meta-structural issue is how to do it. The obvious way keeping the structure precisely as is, is to create new sections and then shrink other sections. But maybe there is a more subtle way in additional to sections to find ways to represent groups that are represented across sessions. I dont have an obvious answer on how to do it but it is an interesting question.

*[Corrected, thanks – T.]*

At every hallway, amphi, classroom, coffee corner of the campus there was some mathematician whose theorems I was trying to understand. The word “congress” from “congredi” made sense, namely “walking together”.

Since then I have attended partly or fully four more congresses, and

I have the feeling we are walking less and less together. With all respect and admiration for the huge work done, I am afraid there is more and more distance between the “chosen” participants and the ones who chose to participate. It is maybe romantic to long for the “spirit” of the old congresses

in a world where humans walk much less.

Now there is a “congress industry”, and congresses have formats imposed by this industry, locations usually out of city centres, conditions usually far from a “university” surrounding.

The questions raised by Tao make me feel that the aim is structuring the inside of the congress in this exterior new format, which is of course very valuable. The structure committee has a huge task, and it is great courage

to raise an open discussion but I must confess I am looking for a “Restructuring committee” which would redefine the very existence of the ICM’s for the future:

do we organise ICM for “us”, to see, to meet each other, to walk together,

or is it to be the first news in the world a few minutes every four years?

So far we might have been aiming both, but maybe it is not efficient anymore to try both at the same time.

We could have a world-wide diffused “Fields days” (maybe right after the General Assembly so that there is a minimum live participation from all

over the world) and restructure the remaining of the 9 days with “field days” conferences where real interaction is aimed.

Maybe Fields recipients can be the natural participants of the

field days to walk a few steps together with even younger mathematicians.

Betül Tanbay, Turkey

]]>I’m not a fan of poster sessions at conferences, but some arrangement whereby attendees can sit and talk with anyone who’s interested in their work, not stand in front of a poster like some poor, self-conscious salesperson, might result in many fruitful interactions. Simply having a small desk to sit behind with your laptop and pen and paper would be so much better. I don’t like sitting along with a small crowd facing a panel of people at the other end of a large room, either, the interactions always seem artificial. Breaking that up into many individual sessions might be better.

]]>To divide mathematics into sections is another difficult task. At the 7ECM there were 17 sections, while at the ICM 2014 and ICM 2018 we had 19 sections. It is difficult to say that this constitutes a big difference.

It is a never ending problem to make lectures accessible to non-specialists. Here is an excerpt from the invitation letter for plenary speakers at the ICM 2018:

“Plenary lectures at ICMs are addressed to all the attendees of the congress and aim to be surveys of recent major developments in a mathematical area, with possibly some discussion on future research trends. Therefore, they should be made comprehensible and interesting to a broad mathematical audience. More focused lectures on specific topics are the object of the

parallel sections of the congress.”

All speakers are seasoned lecturers, but they are not equally amenable to advice. So it is difficult to obtain the ideal survey lecture which is accessible to mathematicians at large. Some are, but many are not.

To select the about 200 speakers at an ICM, we have a Program Committee comprising 12 members, and sectional panels, which gives a total of around 200 members. In all committees and panels we try to make them well-balanced and diverse (gender, geography, age, scientific disciplines) while at the same time keeping a high scientific level. So it is not that we are not trying.

Helge Holden

IMU Secretary General

It would be nice if the speakers were given help making more professional and accessible talks and did them on topics that every professional mathematician could follow. If they were better, it’d be great to watch talks

by the amazing mathematicians online (like watching the old Feynman Messenger lectures).

I have a friend who gave a TED talk and they helped her a great deal in polishing her talk and making it accessible to everyone. Of course, math talks probably can’t all be accessible to everyone, but they could be accessible to a large fraction of mathematicians. And the slides could be much better than what I saw from Rio.

]]>First of all I think that the ICM should be the place to go for all mathematicians. I also think that the mutual respects of mathematicians from different fields and the communication between the different fields of mathematics needs to improved drastically. We can learn so much from each other if we make an effort. A small science like mathematics can only get worldwide respect if it stands toegether rather than loosing energy in internal fights about who is the better mathematician or who is more important for society. However, with invitations to such important congresses like ICM and ECM being used as quality stamp in evaluations of projects, grants, hiring processes etc, it is inevitable that conflicts arise.

I consider myself a wholehearted mathematician and I work hard for the mathematical community. However, in the last 20 years I did not feel that I wanted to go to the ICM for several reasons:

First, my own research area is not well represented at ICM, second many talks are given without having the possible audience in mind, and third I did not feel the mutual respect for other mathematical fields well established. I had the feeling (and I may be wrong) that this was much better established at the ECM than at ICM. Reading some of the comments in the blog I feel similar frustration and anger.

I do not have a recipe how to make things really better, but here are some suggestions about what can be done.

-The different mathematical subfields should be equally represented in the sections, plenaries and invited lectures. This can be done by splitting in many small subfields or by joining subfields. At 7ECM 2016 we agreed to have only 17 bigger sections, and personally I think that this worked well.

– Invited, plenary and speakers in sessions should be asked to adress a general mathematical audience not only specialists.

– The huge diversity of mathematics and mathematicians should be reflected in the program, in the comittees and in the prizes.

Is all this possible? I do not know, but I think we should try.

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