Category Archives: money

Reed Elsevier funded ALEC — a climate-change denial group

Thanks to Michael Harris for the following dramatic example of Elsevier’s misuse of its profits, including those from scientific journals.

Reed Elsevier has just announced its resignation from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. But it has been giving money to ALEC for many years, and long served on its leadership body.

ALEC supports a long list of far-right legislative ideas — including efforts to require that denials of climate-change be included in high school science classes. Researchers who have published in Cell, The Lancet, and other Elsevier journals might be shocked to learn that profits from those publications have helped to block awareness and action on global warming. If you know people who would be interested in Reed Elsevier’s ALEC connections, you may want to point them to an exposé just published by the faculty union newspaper at City University of New York (CUNY), and another on how ALEC operates.

By the way, the ALEC website still lists Reed Elsevier as a member of its “Private Enterprise Board.” But here is a Reuters report on the company’s resignation.

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Why does the Elsevier boycott continue?

Shortly after the Elsevier boycott began, Elsevier withdrew its support from the Research Works Act, which immediately led to the act being shelved by its congressional sponsors. Elsevier also announced some new policies for its core mathematics journals.

Nevertheless, the Elsevier boycott continues, and continues to grow.

Henry Cohn and Doug Arnold have written a piece for Notices of the American Mathematical Society, now posted on the arXiv, that discusses several of the most important reasons for the boycott from the point of view of mathematics

If you haven’t yet taken a firm position on the boycott because you haven’t had time to get to grips with the issues of journal pricing and bundling, this article makes a good entry point.

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IRM update: transcript of town meeting AND Science Futures at the Cambridge Science Festival

The EPSRC has posted a transcript of the town meeting held at UCL on 28 January, at which Margaret Wright presented the draft IRM panel report. It’s long, but mostly interesting. One of Margaret Wright’s points jumped out at me:

But despite the enormous importance of the mathematical sciences their role is often invisible or disguised, and this is true in many other countries. Now, what’s a possible reason? Let’s take when you’re trying to convince someone at a high level how important your field is – you use powerful images – right? Ok, astronomy – in the US they just walk in, they show these pictures and everyone says ‘Give them what they want’ – great? We love it… astronomy… look this is from the Hubble space survey – they’re wonderful! Now of course we could argue about the mathematics, it’s leading to the size of data, to detect the things to show this, but people love it. So astronomy gets a cake walk – they just get what they want! Another thing you can do is be really cute – I’m not sure what fields would go with a kitten or a puppy, but people just say ‘Awww!’. We have to say stuff like that – whatever it is. Now I’m not saying, I’m trying to be a mathematician here, I’m not saying that some of my colleagues are not as impressive as a picture of a galaxy or as cute as a kitten or a puppy, it may be that they are and we should find them if that’s the case. But here’s the kind of thing we have – I have never known anyone to show an equation and have people go ‘wow!’ or ‘So cute! What a cute equation’. So this is what we have to offer. So what that means is we need people who understand how important mathematics is to make the case for us.

Two days ago, I attended the Science Futures panel discussion at the Cambridge Science Festival: three interesting, knowledgeable speakers had been asked to talk about the future of science, specifically in the context of public funding that could be justified as economic investment. The presentations and discussion were extremely stimulating, and the speakers were clearly committed to making the case for fundamental science. However, no one mentioned the mathematical sciences. And when I asked them where mathematics fit into their picture, I was disappointed by the answers, which felt perfunctory — along the lines of “of course all scientists need to know mathematics” and “studying mathematics at A-level will raise your lifetime income by 10%” and “who would have guessed that number theory would be critical to cryptography”. I don’t think the problem lies with the Science Futures panel members. Rather, I think it shows that we mathematicians are not making the case, even to the people waiting to hear it, that the future of science is mathematical science. And it is.

I emphasize “people waiting to hear it” above because the panel, in describing the type of science

  • for which public funding is most justified by efficiency arguments: far upstream (so no particular industry should be expected to pursue it but it should be pursued) and
  • has the biggest effect in contributing to national wealth: process improvement (which to me screamed out: operations research, computer science, compressed sensing, high-throughput statistics, all of which are in turn built on more theoretical math)

was talking about mathematical science but they didn’t make the connection. Again, I have to emphasize that I’m not criticizing the panel members. In fact, I think the UK mathematical community (possibly as embodied in the LMS) needs to get together with them and talk about what we have to offer and how best to make our case as one the most efficient drivers of economic growth and scientific progress, not just the passive language of science.

Panel members were: David Cleevely, Jonathan Haskel, Evan Harris. All very stimulating speakers, and all, I believe, good potential friends of mathematics.

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Turing’s offprints

The (mathematical) headline today is that Turing’s papers have been saved for the British nation. I was puzzled when the papers first came up for sale in November 2010, because upon a bit of investigation it turned out that what was being sold were offprints. I realize that Turing is personally more interesting than most mathematicians, and that there’s been a vast expansion of the “collectables” market, but are people really collecting offprints of mathematical papers now?

Apparently, yes, and they have been for a while. The Scientist wrote about offprints and other scientific collectables in 1996. An offprint of Claude Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” was auctioned at Christie’s NY in 2005 for $9000.

So, if tastes ever turn to interwar algebraic geometry, I’m sitting on a gold mine.

When I came to Cambridge in 1999, I was put into Tim Gowers’ old office (this was when we were still in the converted CUP warehouse in Mill Lane). Tim apologized for the lack of storage space. The cupboards were full of J.A. Todd‘s offprint collection, and he hadn’t had the heart to throw it away.

The collection was an impressive sight — organized alphabetically in special document boxes in elegant, faded colors. I didn’t have any particular need for storage, so I left it alone. When, a year later, I had to pack up to move to the CMS, I found that I too couldn’t bear to throw it out. So I duly packed the collection for carriage to Pavilion B of the CMS, and then packed it again when I moved to the geometry pod (Pavilion E). It’s now arrayed across many feet of shelf space in my office.

I can’t say that I use it. Several years ago, out of curiosity about my predecessors in Cambridge geometry, I extracted a paper by Du Val and I could not make heads or tails of it. It was an astounding reminder of what a difference Weil and Serre and Grothendieck made to algebraic geometry. Igor Dolgachev is only person I know who really understands the old language.

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ICM grants from the LMS: PhD students etc.

A new announcement from the London Mathematical Society below. Note the expansion in who is eligible and the 30 April deadline.
International Congress of Mathematics 2010, London Mathematical Society travel grants
  • The London Mathematical Society has set aside funds to be used for making grants to support the attendance of UK-based mathematicians at the ICM in Hyderabad from 19-27 August 2010 ( The grants are not to support attendance at Satellite meetings.
  • The Society would particularly like to support those mathematicians at an early stage in their career, including postdocs. PhD students whose research would benefit from attending the meeting may also apply but their applications should be strongly supported, with a clear mathematical case, by their supervisor. You do not need to be an LMS member to apply.
  • Those who are not eligible for a Royal Society travel grant, or were unsuccessful in obtaining one (refers to applications submitted for their 1st February deadline only), can apply for an LMS grant to providing they are (i) based in the UK, and (ii) involved in mathematics at PhD level or above. The Grants are intended to contribute to the costs of attending the ICM, not to meet them entirely.
  • Applications should be submitted by 30 April 2010 and will be acknowledged by email. Applicants will be informed of the outcome by mid May.
  • Queries should be addressed to Isabelle Robinson (email, tel. 020 7291 9977).

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Philip Leverhulme Prizes 2010

Mathematics and Statistics is one of five disciplines covered by the 2010 Philip Leverhulme Prizes.  Full information is available here.

To heads of department: You will be the official nominator of anyone in your department. I’d suggest thinking carefully about whether you have someone who would be a suitable nominee.

To potential nominees: This appears to be a nice prize. The award is £70,000, paid to your employing institution or organisation in two installments. You can typically spend the money on research assistance, teaching replacement, travel and subsistence, consumables (including specialist books, databases and similar materials), technical and clerical support, or computing and software. You can’t use it for capital equipment, to boost your salary, or for institutional overheads. The US equivalent is probably the Sloan Research Fellowships.

However, you must be under age 36 on 17 May 2010 (with some allowance for career change or break; see the Leverhulme site for details).

The closing date is 4pm on Monday 17 May 2010.

The prizes have been going since 2001, and Mathematics and Statistics was an eligible discipline in 2004, 2006 and 2008. In those years, prizes were awarded to (affiliations at the time):

Steve Brooks (Cambridge)
Darren Crowdy (Imperial)
Matthew Keeling (Warwick)
Jens Marklof (Bristol)
Vladimir Markovic (Warwick)
Richard Thomas (Imperial)
Ben Green (Cambridge)
Marc Lackenby (Oxford)
Pierre Tarres (Oxford)
Peter Topping (Warwick)
Andrei Yafaev (UCL)
Marianna Csornyei (UCL)
Martin Hairer (Warwick)
Harald Helfgott (Bristol)
Jared Tanner (Edinburgh)
Andreas Winter (Bristol)

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Travel grants for ICM 2010 from the LMS

The London Mathematical Society has available grants to contribute to the costs of attending the ICM in Hyderabad this year. The application form is available here. Click the link “Travel grants for the 2010 ICM”.

You don’t have to be an LMS member. (But we’d like more members, so please think about joining. The LMS does a lot to support mathematics directly, and these grants are one example.)

The deadline is 30 April 2010.

Here are the guidance notes reproduced from the form. Don’t worry too much about #1 if you didn’t know about the Royal Society funding in time to apply for it.

1. Those who are eligible to apply to the Royal Society for an International Travel Grant
( are first expected to do so before applying to the LMS.

2. Those who are not eligible for a Royal Society grant, or were unsuccessful in obtaining one, can use this form to apply for an LMS grant to providing they are (i) based in the UK, and (ii) involved in mathematics at postdoc level or above. The Grants are intended to contribute to the costs of attending the ICM, not to meet them entirely. You do not need to be an LMS member to apply for an LMS grant.

3. Part A of the form should be completed by the applicant; the form should then be passed to a Head of Dept or other senior person for the completion of Part B and submission of the form to the LMS.

4. Applications should be submitted by 30 April 2010 and will be acknowledged by email. Applicants will be informed of the outcome by mid May.

5. Completed forms should be sent to:
Isabelle Robinson
ICM Grants
London Mathematical Society
De Morgan House
57-58 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HS

6. Queries should be addressed to Isabelle Robinson (email., tel. 020 7291 9977)

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