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Just a brief update to the previous post. Gerhard Paseman and I have now set up a web site for the Short Communication Satellite (SCS) for the virtual International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which will be an experimental independent online satellite event in which short communications on topics relevant to one or two of the sections of the ICM can be submitted, reviewed by peers, and (if appropriate for the SCS event) displayed in a virtual “poster room” during the Congress on July 6-14 (which, by the way, has recently released its schedule and list of speakers). Our plan is to open the registration for this event on April 5, and start taking submissions on April 20; we are also currently accepting any expressions of interest in helping out with the event, for instance by serving as a reviewer. For more information about the event, please see the overview page, the guidelines page, and the FAQ page of the web site. As viewers will see, the web site is still somewhat under construction, but will be updated as we move closer to the actual Congress.

The comments section of this post would be a suitable place to ask further questions about this event, or give any additional feedback.

UPDATE: for readers who have difficulty accessing the links above, here are backup copies of the overview page and guidelines page.

[As with previous posts regarding ICM satellite events, I am authoring this post as an individual, and not in my capacity as chair of the ICM Structure Committee, which does not have any advisory or supervisory role over ICM satellite events – T.]

One of the traditional features of the International Congress of Mathematicians are the “short communications”, organized by the local organizing committee (as opposed to the International Mathematical Union), which allows participants at the congress to present either a poster or a short talk (typically 15 minutes or so) during the congress. For instance, here are the titles of the short communications and posters from the 2018 ICM, and here are the short communications and posters from the 2014 ICM. While not as high profile as other events of the ICM such as the plenary lectures, sectional lectures, or prize lectures, the short communications and posters can offer a chance for academics from a quite diverse range of institutions worldwide (and even a few independent mathematicians) be able to present their work to a mathematical audience.

There has been some volunteer effort to try to replicate some form of this event for the upcoming virtual ICM this July as a semi-official “satellite” event of the virtual ICM; it would technically not be part of the core ICM program, but I expect it would be recognized by the IMU as an independently organized satellite. Due to lack of time, funding, and technical expertise, we will not be able to offer any video, audio, or physical hosting for such an event, but we believe that a modest virtual event is possible involving submission of either a PDF “poster” or a PDF “slide deck”, together with other metadata such as author, title, abstract, and external links (e.g., to an externally hosted video presentation of the poster or slides), with some reviewing to ensure a certain minimum level of quality of approved submissions (we are thinking about setting guidelines similar to those required for a submission to the arXiv), and some ability to offer feedback on each submission. (For instance, we are thinking of hosting the event on a MediaWiki, with each communication being given a separate page which can attract discussion and responses to queries from the author(s).) We are also thinking of grouping the poster or slides according to the 20 sections of the 2022 ICM. We would then promote these communications during the virtual ICM, for instance on this blog or on the unofficial ICM Discord. Perhaps some of the other proposed online experiments for virtual events discussed in this previous post could also be implemented experimentally on this satellite event to demonstrate proof-of-concept. (If the event turns out to be successful, one could hope that it could serve as a pilot project for a longer-term and better funded platform for virtual short communications to accompany other conferences, but for now we would like to focus just on the virtual ICM satellite event.)

As one of our first actions, we would like to survey the level of interest in such an event, both among potential submitters of posters or slides, and also potential volunteers to help organize the event (in particular we may need some assistance in manually reviewing submissions, though we do plan to enlist peer reviewers by requiring submitters to rate and comment on other submissions in the same section). We have therefore created a form to (very unscientifically) gauge this level in order to decide on the scale of this project (or whether to attempt it at all). All readers of this blog are welcome to offer feedback through that form, or as a comment to this blog.

EDIT (Mar 29): a formal announcement will be made soon, but you can view a draft of the announcement here.

[Note: while I happen to be the chair of the ICM Structure Committee, I am authoring this blog post as an individual, and not as a representative of that committee or of the IMU, as they do not have jurisdiction over satellite conferences. -T.]

The International Mathematical Union (IMU) has just released some updates on the status of the 2022 International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which was discussed in this previous post:

  • The General Assembly will take place in person in Helsinki, Finland, on July 3-4.
  • The IMU award ceremony will be held in the same location on July 5.
  • The ICM will take place virtually (with free participation) during the hours 9:00-18:00 CEST of July 6-14, with talks either live or pre-recorded according to speaker preference.

Due to the limited time and resources available, the core ICM program will be kept to the bare essentials; the lectures will be streamed but without opportunity for questions or other audience feedback. However, the IMU encourages grassroots efforts to supplement the core program with additional satellite activities, both “traditional” and “non-traditional”. Examples of such satellite activities include:

A more updated list of these events can be found here.

I will also mention the second Azat Miftakov Days, which are unaffiliated with the ICM but held concurrently with the beginning of the congress (and the prize ceremony).

Strictly speaking, satellite events are not officially part of the Congress, and not directly subject to IMU oversight; they also receive no funding or support from the IMU, other than sharing of basic logistical information, and recognition of the satellite conferences on the ICM web site. Thus this (very exceptional and sui generis) congress will differ in format from previous congresses, in that many of the features of the congress that traditionally were managed by the local organizing committee will be outsourced this one time to the broader mathematical community in a highly decentralized fashion.

In order to coordinate the various grassroots efforts to establish such satellite events, Alexei Borodin, Martin Hairer, and myself have set up a satellite coordination group to share information and advice on these events. (It should be noted that while Alexei, Martin and myself serve on either the structure committee or the program committee of the ICM, we are acting here as individuals rather than as official representatives of the IMU.) Anyone who is interested in organizing, hosting, or supporting such an event is welcome to ask to join the group (though I should say that most of the discussion concerns boring logistical issues). Readers are also welcome to discuss broader issues concerning satellites, or the congress as a whole, in the comments to this post. I will also use this space to announce details of satellite events as they become available (most are currently still only in the early stages of planning).

[Note: while I am chair of the ICM Structure Committee, this blog post is not an official request from this committee, as events are still moving too rapidly to proceed at present via normal committee deliberations. We are however discussing these matters and may issue a more formal request in due course. -T.]

The International Mathematical Union has just made the following announcement concerning the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) that was previously scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia in July.

Decision of the Executive Committee of the IMU on the upcoming ICM 2022 and IMU General Assembly

On 26 February 2022, the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) decided that:

1. The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) 2022 will take place as a fully virtual event, hosted outside Russia but following the original time schedule planned for Saint Petersburg.
2. Participation in the virtual ICM event will be free of charge.
3. The IMU General Assembly (GA) will take place as an in-person event outside Russia.
4. A prize ceremony will be held the day after the IMU GA, at the same venue as the IMU GA, for the awarding of the 2022 IMU prizes.
5. The dates for the ICM and the GA will remain unaltered.
6. We will return with further practical information regarding the two events.

An expanded version of the announcement can be found here. (See also this addendum.)

While I am not on the IMU Executive Committee and thus not privy to their deliberations, I have been in contact with several members of this committee and I support their final decision on these matters.

As we have all experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual conferences can be rather variable in quality, but there certainly are ways to make the experience more positive for both the speakers and participants. In the interest of maximizing the benefits that this meeting can still produce, I would like to invite readers of this blog to share any experiences they have had with very large virtual conferences, and any opinions on what types of virtual events were effective and engaging.

One idea that has been suggested to me has been to have (either unofficial, semi-official, or official) regional ICM hosting events at various places worldwide where mathematicians could gather in person to view ICM talks that would be streamed online (and perhaps some ICM speakers from that area could give talks in person in such locations). This would be very nonstandard, of course, but could be one way to salvage some of the physical ICM experience, and perhaps also a way to symbolically support the spirit of the Congress. I would be interested to get some feedback on this proposal.

Finally, I would like to request that comments to this post remain focused on the upcoming virtual ICM. Broader political issues are very much worth discussing at present, but there are other venues for such discussion, and as per my usual blog policy any off-topic comments may be subject to deletion.

[This post is collectively authored by the ICM structure committee, whom I am currently chairing – T.]

The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) is widely considered to be the premier conference for mathematicians.  It is held every four years; for instance, the 2018 ICM was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2022 ICM is to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  The most high-profile event at the ICM is the awarding of the 10 or so prizes of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) such as the Fields Medal, and the lectures by the prize laureates; but there are also approximately twenty plenary lectures from leading experts across all mathematical disciplines, several public lectures of a less technical nature, about 180 more specialised invited lectures divided into about twenty section panels, each corresponding to a mathematical field (or range of fields), as well as various outreach and social activities, exhibits and satellite programs, and meetings of the IMU General Assembly; see for instance the program for the 2018 ICM for a sample schedule.  In addition to these official events, the ICM also provides more informal networking opportunities, in particular allowing mathematicians at all stages of career, and from all backgrounds and nationalities, to interact with each other.

For each Congress, a Program Committee (together with subcommittees for each section) is entrusted with the task of selecting who will give the lectures of the ICM (excluding the lectures by prize laureates, which are selected by separate prize committees); they also have decided how to appropriately subdivide the entire field of mathematics into sections.   Given the prestigious nature of invitations from the ICM to present a lecture, this has been an important and challenging task, but one for which past Program Committees have managed to fulfill in a largely satisfactory fashion.

Nevertheless, in the last few years there has been substantial discussion regarding ways in which the process for structuring the ICM and inviting lecturers could be further improved, for instance to reflect the fact that the distribution of mathematics across various fields has evolved over time.   At the 2018 ICM General Assembly meeting in Rio de Janeiro, a resolution was adopted to create a new Structure Committee to take on some of the responsibilities previously delegated to the Program Committee, focusing specifically on the structure of the scientific program.  On the other hand, the Structure Committee is not involved with the format for prize lectures, the selection of prize laureates, or the selection of plenary and sectional lecturers; these tasks are instead the responsibilities of other committees (the local Organizing Committee, the prize committees, and the Program Committee respectively).

The first Structure Committee was constituted on 1 Jan 2019, with the following members:

As one of our first actions, we on the committee are using this blog post to solicit input from the mathematical community regarding the topics within our remit.  Among the specific questions (in no particular order) for which we seek comments are the following:

  1. Are there suggestions to change the format of the ICM that would increase its value to the mathematical community?
  2. Are there suggestions to change the format of the ICM that would encourage greater participation and interest in attending, particularly with regards to junior researchers and mathematicians from developing countries?
  3. What is the correct balance between research and exposition in the lectures?  For instance, how strongly should one emphasize the importance of good exposition when selecting plenary and sectional speakers?  Should there be “Bourbaki style” expository talks presenting work not necessarily authored by the speaker?
  4. Is the balance between plenary talks, sectional talks, and public talks at an optimal level?  There is only a finite amount of space in the calendar, so any increase in the number or length of one of these types of talks will come at the expense of another.
  5. The ICM is generally perceived to be more important to pure mathematics than to applied mathematics.  In what ways can the ICM be made more relevant and attractive to applied mathematicians, or should one not try to do so?
  6. Are there structural barriers that cause certain areas or styles of mathematics (such as applied or interdisciplinary mathematics) or certain groups of mathematicians to be under-represented at the ICM?  What, if anything, can be done to mitigate these barriers?

Of course, we do not expect these complex and difficult questions to be resolved within this blog post, and debating these and other issues would likely be a major component of our internal committee discussions.  Nevertheless, we would value constructive comments towards the above questions (or on other topics within the scope of our committee) to help inform these subsequent discussions.  We therefore welcome and invite such commentary, either as responses to this blog post, or sent privately to one of the members of our committee.  We would also be interested in having readers share their personal experiences at past congresses, and how it compares with other major conferences of this type.   (But in order to keep the discussion focused and constructive, we request that comments here refrain from discussing topics that are out of the scope of this committee, such as suggesting specific potential speakers for the next congress, which is a task instead for the 2022 ICM Program Committee.)

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