Scientific Committee Meeting: September 2009

BMC Scientific Committee

Minutes of the meeting of 24 September 2009 at De Morgan House

Present: Peter Giblin (Chair), Ted Hurley (NUI Galway), James Ward (NUI Galway), Jim Howie (Maxwell Institute), Michael Singer (Maxwell Institute), John Hunton (Leicester), Alex Clark (Leicester), James Shank (Kent), Peter Fleischmann (Kent), Cathy Hobbs (LMS), Sandra Pott (LMS), Charles Goldie (LMS), Peter Kropholler (EMS), Edmund Robertson (EMS), Martin
Mathieu (AGM).

Apologies: Peter Cooper (LMS).

1. The minutes of the meeting of 8 April in Galway were accepted as accurate.

2. Matters arising. As anticipated, Charles Goldie has been re-appointed as an LMS representative until 31 May 2012.

3. BMC Historical records. These exist up to and including the 2008 York meeting, except for a few missing sets of minutes. There is a link from the St. Andrews History of Mathematics site.

4. Future Meetings.

Peter Fleischmann reported on preliminary plans for the 2012 meeting in Kent. Provisional dates are 16-19 April. (Easter Sunday is 8 April.)

2012 is the year of the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing. The Kent department propose to hold a special event within the BMC to mark this, consisting possibly of a public lecture and a plenary talk on the impact of Turing's work. This idea was met with approval by the committee. A further suggestion is that the special event could be used as leverage to getting some commercial sponsorship: any advice on how to go about this
would be welcomed by the Kent team.

Peter Giblin reported on negotiations with the University of Sheffield about the possibility of holding the 2013 BMC there. One potential obstacle is the University's strict policy on room booking charges: it does not distinguish between academic and commercial conferences, with the result that estimated costs look very high.

There was some general discussion about the 2014 meeting. The probable choice will be somewhere which last hosted a BMC around 35 years ago. The cost issue is likely to rule out Oxford, Cambridge and the London Colleges - but also some other institutions.

5. Report on 2009 meeting in Galway

A written report covering both scientific and financial aspects was circulated, and Ted Hurley reported verbally.

The meeting was considered a success. Particularly worthy of comment were the post-graduate conference held immediately before the BMC, the public lecture by Tom Körner, and the quality of the plenary talks.

The public lecture had attracted a good attendance from the general public, thanks in part to good publicity by the University Press and Information Office, and to a (free) ticket scheme.

Videos of some of the main talks were being prepared. The plan is to make them available online in due course - possibly via the St. Andrews archive.

On the financial side, the written report included detailed income and expenditure information. The final outcome is a deficit of €1462, which will be absorbed by the Galway department.

Four reasons were identified as the main contributing factors in the deficit.

(a) One plenary speaker's expenses claim was unexpectedly high, involving long-distance first-class air travel.

(b) The publishers had declined to contribute to the cost of the reception.

(c) The LMS had provided £2,000 less than anticipated. (This will be investigated further.)

(d) The University Computer Services imposed unexpected charges in the region of €850.

The committee congratulated the organisers for having run a successful BMC outside the UK, despite the additional travel and currency difficulties that this entailed.

In view of (5a) above, it was agreed that, in future, all offers of travel expenses should specify 'economy air fare' and 'standard class rail'.

6. Arrangements for the meeting in Edinburgh in 2010 (joint with BAMC). Jim Howie and Michael Singer reported.

All the plenary and BMC morning speakers are in place, as are the special sessions and some of the minisymposia.

Splinter groups are still to be finalised. Sandra Pott proposed that organisers be identified as early as possible, to encourage attendance from various sub ject groups. It was agreed to try to do so. Charles Goldie suggested that splinter group topics should not necessarily be restricted to traditional pure mathematics topics, but could include, for example, actuarial and financial mathematics. It was agreed that this would be considered.

Financial support has been promised from LMS, EPSRC, IMA, UCL and OUP. Applications to EMS, RSE and GMJT are currently being considered, with outcomes due very soon. It was suggested that other sources such as the City of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government could be asked for funding. Another suggestion was to use Paul Embrechts, who is giving a public lecture on Financial Mathematics, as a way of getting additional funding.

There was a long discussion about publicity. The website is already functional and posters have been distributed. An announcement should appear in the November LMS Newsletter.
Email announcements should be sent at various critical times:

late November, shortly before registration opens;

after Christmas;

shortly before the 12 February registration deadline.

These should be sent using the LMS, IMA, EMS and HoDoMS mailing lists. There are difficulties in obtaining direct mailing lists due to data protection legislation.

The 12 February deadline was felt to be very early. It was there to try to ensure that the pre-booked accommodation is indeed used, but it was agreed that the deadline could be fairly soft: later registration should be possible, presumably at a higher fee, and with no guarantee of accommodation.

There was a discussion of some administrative aspects of the meeting. Abstracts and titles will be solicited and processed using the ICMS system. Peter Giblin kindly agreed to provide LaTeX template files that had been used to produce the abstracts/programme booklet in Liverpool. He also stressed the need to have updated information available at various points throughout the meeting  for example, on the door of each lecture room a daily timetable of that day's events in that room.

7. Arrangements for the 2011 meeting in Leicester.

John Hunton reported.

Invitations have been sent to proposed plenary speakers, and replies are awaited. Accommodation will be in University halls of residence.

Internally, an application for room hire has been submitted, and an initial contract is awaited. The initial costings are expected to be on the high side (in the region of 7,000), but it is hoped to then be able to negotiate them downwards. The BMC should be helped in this regard by linking its negotiations with the European Numerical Mathematics Conference - a larger meeting that is to be held in Leicester later the same year.

The Leicester team proposed a modification to the traditional BMC programme. In place of the special sessions, they would like to choose 6 areas of mathematics in which to hold small 'workshops' over the two afternoons of the meeting. Each workshop would have one or two organisers and a small budget. They would also have a mandate to accept some contributed talks as well as invited talks. Splinter groups in areas not covered by the workshops would also be possible, in the usual way. After some discussion of the pros and cons of such an arrangement, the committee gave its backing to the scheme.

An application for LMS funding had been delayed till after this meeting  largely to allow for discussion of the above workshop proposal. The application would be submitted a few days after the meeting, and would incorporate the proposed new structure.

8. AOB.

Cathy Hobbs raised the possibility of seeking additional funds to help subsidise additional child-care costs incurred by participants in attending the BMC. She had run such a scheme for a conference in the past and it had proved useful. Jim Howie undertook to approach Gwyneth Stallard of the LMS Women in Mathematics Committee and David Youdan of the IMA on this matter.

9. Date of next meeting. To be arranged. Must follow the AGM, but preferably during the Edinburgh meeting (rather than at the end).