Various and sundry

In no particular order:

♦ The Harmonic Analysis group at UBC has a new website. We’re still adding content and working out the kinks, but that’s basically what it’s going to look like. The website was created by Tom Hollai and Krista Pravetz of eMarketing Vancouver. We’ve enjoyed working with them and would recommend them to anyone needing to upgrade their web presence.

♦ The Erwin Schrödinger Institute, recently threatened with extinction, has been granted a reprieve:

The ESI will continue operation in its present form until May 31, 2011. Thereafter it will form a ‘Research Platform’ of the University of Vienna with the (unchanged) name ‘Erwin Schrödinger Institute for Mathematical Physics’.

Funding of the ESI research programmes and workshops in 2011 and 2012 seems assured. Unfortunately the Junior Research Programme of the ESI has to be suspended until further notice due to lack of financial support. This suspension does not affect current Junior Research Fellowships.

The Directors of the ESI would like to take this opportunity to express their gratitude to the scientific community for their overwhelming support of the ESI during these difficult negotiations.

♦ NSERC long range plan: I ended up not attending the information session at the CMS meeting. I’d been planning to go, but then other activities got in the way. Turns out, if you invite 20+ people from all over the continent to come and speak in your session, it’s hard to tell them once they’re here that you won’t hang out with them because you have a policy meeting to catch – and an information session at that, as opposed to a committee meeting where decisions are actually made.

It’s not clear how much I really missed, though. The steering committee has posted the slides from the presentation along with some FAQ answers. Compared to the expanded terms of reference, there’s some additional information about the procedure but (as far as I can tell) not about the substance of what they’re doing. All the substantive information is phrased in frustratingly general terms, for instance “How is research in mathematics and statistics impacting science.” Really? Where do we even start?

The FAQ answers look like so:

“Why isn’t there representation from ______ on the steering committee?”

• It was important to keep the committee small enough to function effectively, and there are many different aspects to try to balance. Everyone on the committee wears several hats!

• Because the committee is limited in size, it is very important that we get input from ________, ideally in the form of discussion papers, but comments to the committee via the website are also welcome.

While I’m sitting here and waiting for someone to ask me for a discussion paper, I’ve spent some time browsing the committee website, and (in case any committee members are reading this) I’d like to suggest a few improvements to its interactive functionality. Right now, the page setup does not encourage discussion of any of the specific issues on the agenda. The only places where comments can be posted are the three lonely blog entries (look under “recent posts”), so that if I wanted for example to submit feedback on the mathematics institutes – which I do – I’d have to post it under some completely unrelated article where no one would know to look for it. Now, I happen to have a reasonably popular (by math standards) blog where I can post whatever I like and there is a good chance that people will see it. But in terms of engaging the community, having designated comment threads for specific topics on the committee website would work much better.

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