CSE, Long a Part of SIAM, Moves to Center Stage

November 21, 2000

From the SIAM President
Gilbert Strang

SIAM's first conference on computational science and engineering was a success. I feel justified in using the word "success," based on many comments from participants, and also based on the open discussion of SIAM's proper role in CSE. The invited speakers worked hard to describe how the scientific side of their work combines with the algorithmic and computational sides. The minisymposia were well attended and very active. The discussion about the possible formation of a new Activity Group was lively too. The fact that over 300 people attended an organizational meeting attests to the exceptional interest in CSE.

That discussion, at the end of the third day, was led by Tom Manteuffel and conference organizers Steve Ashby, Linda Petzold, and David Keyes. Because it is important to the whole SIAM membership, I will try to open the discussion now to everyone. The formal steps of starting an Activity Group are straightforward---a petition signed by at least twenty members goes to the Board and Council with a statement of purpose. The decision to go forward depends on clear indications of wide support within SIAM.

The two newest Activity Groups (in Life Sciences and Imaging Science) are in areas that have seen rapid growth, with more and more of our members working on these topics. Their first conferences, next September 24-26 and 26-28 in Boston, will bring those members together and focus on the contributions that SIAM can make. The importance of the problems has been recognized by increased support worldwide---this is especially true of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, where a new Imaging Institute is planned. Organizing our efforts in those areas was the natural thing to do.

The discipline of computational science is both old and new. It has always been a very significant part of SIAM, and universities around the world are now creating interdisciplinary programs with this name. That reflects a movement close to our immediate interests, and we should respond. We are not the largest society to be involved (the engineering societies are much larger), but still SIAM has an important part. The SIAM Working Group on CSE Education has described the core areas and scope of this subject. (Their document, at http://www.siam.org/activity/cse/, provides ideas about curriculum and information on graduate programs.) The new question is what to do at the professional level, and the strong response to the first conference indicates that we could do more.

Computational science is somehow a combination of applied mathematics, computer science, software, visualization, and science itself---and SIAM includes all of those. At the same time, I don't think the definition extends so far that we are all computational scientists! I believe that applied mathematics remains a distinct discipline, and it surely remains entirely central to SIAM. Our society represents other major areas that are clearly distinct too. One of our great strengths is to be inclusive. My hope is that the evolution of CSE and our explicit involvement will add to SIAM, in new members and in contributions that we can make to the whole society we live in.

On a different subject entirely, did you know that SIAM's academic members (http://www.siam.org/membership/academic/) can nominate students for free one-year memberships? The nominal limit (not rigidly enforced) is six students. The faculty nominator should send the student's name and contact information to [email protected]. Those who have taken advantage of this program are enthusiastic, and more student memberships are available.

Last minute news! As I was finishing this column, I learned that the Senate has passed the funding bill that includes a 13.6% increase for the National Science Foundation. This was agreed in conference with the House, where quick passage is expected (and the White House is in agreement too). The Information Technology initiative receives $215 million more than in FY 2000, and the Division of Mathematical Sciences will have an increase of 14.8% in FY 2001. A good result.

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