Category Archives: LMS

LMS ballots have been sent; ballots due 10-Nov-2011

If you’re a member of the London Mathematical Society, you should have received your ballot for the 2011 election. Completed ballot papers must be returned to the LMS by Thursday 10 November 2011.

If you haven’t received your ballot, and you think you should have, please get in touch with Fiona Nixon, the LMS executive secretary, at

You can see the list of candidates on the LMS website.

Candidates were allowed 200-word personal statements. These were sent with the ballots, but don’t seem to have been posted anywhere by the LMS. You can see my statement as part of an earlier post on this blog.

If you’re not a member of the LMS, but are a UK-based mathematical scientist, please think about joining. The value of LMS activities is felt by all UK-based mathematicians, members and nonmembers alike, but the LMS needs members if it’s to be most effective.

The small, flexible, low-bureaucracy grants that the LMS provides — to members and nonmembers alike — are becoming especially important as the research councils move towards longer, larger, highly “shaped” funding streams. On the policy front, the LMS — both directly and through the Council for Mathematical Sciences (which the LMS part funds) — has been very active and persistent in questioning EPSRC policy and practice and in putting the views of mathematical scientists to the policymakers. On the educational front, this year the LMS brought Emmanuel Candes to the UK to offer a one-week course on compressed sensing. This course was open to members and nonmembers alike, and drew over 100 young UK scientists from mathematics, statistics, and engineering departments. The lectures are now available on video, so everyone can benefit. Next year, the LMS will bring Alexei Borodin here for lectures on probability and its applications in representation theory.

Isn’t this an organization that you want to be part of?

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I’m running for LMS Council again — last time

LMS Council members are allowed to serve for at most six consecutive years. I am now running for re-election for years five and six of my maximum term of service. LMS members should be getting their ballots soon. You can see the slate of candidates: here.

Please vote. In recent elections, I don’t think even 20% of the membership has voted. Yet, I know that many more members than this care about the society, its activities, and the contribution it can make to UK mathematics and mathematical research more broadly.

If my goals for the LMS are close enough to yours, please vote for me, Burt Totaro. This year, in addition to the standardized list of facts about each candidate, the LMS has asked for short personal election statements. My submitted statement follows. The LMS has limited statements to 200 words, so I didn’t have room to say that I also think it’s important for the LMS to have a serious drive to attract more members, to broaden its membership criteria, and to make the mechanics of joining the LMS less bothersome.

Burt Totaro: Election Statement 2011, LMS Council
According to the LMS’s 2011 survey, the UK maths community thinks that the most important purposes of the LMS are: influencing national policy on mathematics; improving university mathematics, both teaching and research; and awarding grants to support mathematics. I agree. It is the LMS’s responsibility to promote and defend research mathematics. I want LMS Council to focus on this priority and avoid distractions, however worthy or well intentioned. Of course it is desirable for UK school mathematics to improve, for example, but the LMS should play a supporting role to other organizations such as the Mathematical Association.

In July 2011, EPSRC announced that in the mathematical sciences, it would fund fellowships only in statistics and applied probability. I am helping to organize opposition to EPSRC’s move. EPSRC’s decision did not come out of nowhere, however. Mathematics is central to science and the modern economy, but mathematicians have not succeeded in getting that message across to politicians and the public. The LMS does not have the luxury of shifting its focus away from its responsibility to promote research mathematics.

Burt Totaro: List of facts
Burt James Totaro, Lowndean Professor of Astronomy and Geometry, University of Cambridge.
Home page:
PhD: University of California, Berkeley 1989.
Previous appointments: Member, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Berkeley 1989-90; Dickson Instructor, University of Chicago 1990-93; Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton 1994-95; Assistant Professor, University of Chicago 1993-98; University Lecturer, University of Cambridge, 1999-2000; Eisenbud Professor, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Berkeley, 2009.
Research interests: Algebraic Geometry, Topology, Lie Groups.
LMS service: Council, 2008-; Programme Committee, 2008-; Editor, Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, 2003-2008; Editorial advisory board member, 2001-03.
Additional relevant information: FRS 2009; Prix Franco-Britannique, British Council 2001; Whitehead Prize 2000; Editor, Compositio Mathematica, 2008-.


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Hear top geometers! Edinburgh, December 6

Yujiro Kawamata (Tokyo) and Yum-Tong Siu (Harvard) will speak in Edinburgh on Monday, December 6th, at a meeting of the London Mathematical Society. Limited funds are available to contribute to the expenses of members of the LMS or research students to attend the meeting. Contact Isabelle Robinson <> for information.

This should be an interesting afternoon. Kawamata will speak on the abundance conjecture, perhaps the main open problem in birational geometry. Siu, the second speaker, has strongly suggested that he can prove this conjecture by analytic techniques.

Schedule and location
15.00  Tea and coffee
15.30-16.20  Yujiro Kawamata, Survey of the Abundance Conjecture
16.30-17.20  Yum-Tong Siu, Recent and Historical Analytic Techniques for Algebro-geometric Problems
18.00  Wine reception

UPDATE: I believe these talks are now taking place at the ICMS, 15 South College Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AA. Directions: here.

This LMS meeting is part of the first day of a conference on Birational Geometry organized by Caucher Birkar and Ivan Cheltsov, taking place 6-10 December at the Institute of Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP (Google map: here). See details for the entire conference: here.


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LMS elections, 2010

It’s London Mathematical Society election time again, and members have received their ballots in the mail with the October newsletter. Please vote if you’re an LMS member! One thing I hope we all learned from last year’s excitement is the importance of consistently active membership.

N.B. Completed ballot papers must be received at the LMS by Thursday 11 November 2010. If you’re missing your ballot papers, you can contact Duncan Turton at the LMS (

I’m on the LMS Council but am midway through a two-year term, so my Council slot is not involved in this year’s election. Other Council slots are, however, and the officers have to be re-elected every year. You can see the whole slate here. And there are statements from some candidates on the Future of the LMS blog: here.

I’d like to say a brief word in praise of the Education Secretary, Chris Budd. Governments love to tinker with education at all levels, and in this country they especially seem to love to consult about tinkering with education. For the past three years I’ve admired how Chris has 1) kept up with the flood of consultations and 2) achieved a reasonable balance between participation and criticism. Everything I’ve heard and read from him has struck me as sensible.

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