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Every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), the Fields Medal laureates are announced.     Today, at the 2018 ICM in Rio de Janeiro, it was announced that the Fields Medal was awarded to Caucher Birkar, Alessio Figalli, Peter Scholze, and Akshay Venkatesh.

After the two previous congresses in 2010 and 2014, I wrote blog posts describing some of the work of each of the winners.  This time, though, I happened to be a member of the Fields Medal selection committee, and as such had access to a large number of confidential letters and discussions about the candidates with the other committee members; in order to have the opinions and discussion as candid as possible, it was explicitly understood that these communications would not be publicly disclosed.  Because of this, I will unfortunately not be able to express much of a comment or opinion on the candidates or the process as an individual (as opposed to a joint statement of the committee).  I can refer you instead to the formal citations of the laureates (which, as a committee member, I was involved in crafting, and then signing off on), or the profiles of the laureates by Quanta magazine; see also the short biographical videos of the laureates by the Simons Foundation that accompanied the formal announcements of the winners. I am sure, though, that there will be plenty of other mathematicians who will be able to present the work of each of the medalists (for instance, there was a laudatio given at the ICM for each of the winners, which should eventually be made available at this link).

I know that there is a substantial amount of interest in finding out more about the inner workings of the Fields Medal selection process.  For the reasons stated above, I as an individual will unfortunately be unable to answer any questions about this process (e.g., I cannot reveal any information about other nominees, or of any comparisons between any two candidates or nominees).  I think I can safely express the following two personal opinions though.  Firstly, while I have served on many prize committees in the past, the process for the Fields Medal committee was by far the most thorough and deliberate of any I have been part of, and I for one learned an astonishing amount about the mathematical work of all of the shortlisted nominees, which was an absolutely essential component of the deliberations, in particular giving the discussions a context which would have been very difficult to obtain for an individual mathematician not in possession of all the confidential letters, presentations, and other information available to the committee (in particular, some of my preconceived impressions about the nominees going into the process had to be corrected in light of this more complete information).  Secondly, I believe the four medalists are all extremely deserving recipients of the prize, and I fully stand by the decision of the committee to award the Fields medals this year to these four.

I’ll leave the comments to this post open for anyone who wishes to discuss the work of the medalists.  But, for the reasons above, I will not participate in the discussion myself.

[Edit, Aug 1: looks like the ICM site is (barely) up and running now, so links have been added.  At this time of writing, there does not seem to be an online announcement of the composition of the committee, but this should appear in due course. -T.]

[Edit, Aug 9: the composition of the Fields Medal Committee for 2018 (which included myself) can be found here. -T.]

 

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