SIAM Fellows: Yes or No?

September 24, 2008

This fall, the SIAM membership votes on an important and long-debated question: Should SIAM establish a fellows program?

The Council and Board of Trustees have taken up, debated, and set aside the question many times over the years, without reaching consensus. Clearly, the issue is an important one, and a SIAM fellows program has fervent proponents and equally adamant opponents.

On Tuesday, July 8, SIAM president Cleve Moler presided over the SIAM Business Meeting in San Diego, which had discussion of a fellows program as its single agenda item.

If you didn't attend the meeting and haven't followed the discussions, you might want to take the course of action Moler recommended in San Diego: Go to, where you will find a thorough presentation of the issue (courtesy of Randy LeVeque), read the material, and---when fall voting begins---cast your vote (

Neither the Council nor the Board of Trustees has taken a position on the issue, and Moler was carefully neutral in chairing the San Diego Business Meeting. He did, in response to a question from the audience as to where the controversy lies, sketch out the positions of the two sides. Those who object, he said, fear that a fellows program would create a two-tier society, "flying in the face of SIAM's tradition as an egalitarian society." Proponents of a fellows program believe that it would make SIAM members "competitive in the marketplace" with people who belong to other societies that do designate fellows.

In the end, the fellows decision and the implications for the identity of SIAM will be decided by the membership. The proportion of eligible voters who actually vote, even with electronic voting, hovers around 20%. The Council and Board, dismayed that such a small part of the SIAM membership could make such an important decision, urge you to vote.

SIAM members can cast their votes at between mid-September and early December.

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