During a discussion of longer-term issues concerning the British Mathematical Colloquium, at the BMC Committee meeting held in Reading on 30 March 1993, it was decided to consider the introduction of a "scientific committee" that would assist in planning the programmes for future meetings of the BMC. A small sub-committee, consisting of
was asked to work out a detailed proposal, to be considered at the British Mathematical Colloquium at Cardiff in 1994.
The ideas that have influenced our discussions in the subcommittee are described in Sections 2 and 3 of this document. Our detailed proposal is set out in Section 4.
Although it was decided, at the BMC Committee meeting in 1993, to include specialist sessions as an additional part of the programme at future meetings of the Colloquium, in the proposals now brought forward, there is no intention to diminish in any way the generalist or expositional nature of lectures offered in the general programmne.
We believe that the planning of future meetings of the British Mathematical Colloquium should be undertaken by
(a) an Organising Committee, responsible for all practical arrangements, such as accommodation and meals for those attending the meeting, booking of lecture and seminar rooms, correspondence with invited speakers for the General Programme, correspondence with organisers for Specialist Topic sessions, and overall financial control,
(b) a Scientific Committee that advises on the academic programme for the meeting, including the choice of invited speakers (with alternates), in the General Programme, and the choice of topics and organisers for Specialist Topic sessions.
Most of the practical arrangements for the BMC, in a given year X, need to be handled at local level by a group of staff in the host mathematics department. This group constitutes "the Organising Committee for year X". In practice, though not in name, the Organising Committee already exists. We believe that its exact size and composition should be left to the discretion of the host department. One of the members of the Organising Committee should be designated "the Secretary to tile BMC in year X", and should have the functions already associated with the BMC Secretary.
Under the existing arrangements, the BMC Committee attempts to fulfill the purposes that we wish to assign to the proposed new Scientific Committee. But we believe that the present BMC Committee is too large, and that neither the method of appointment to its membership, nor the timing of such appointments, represent the ideal way of putting together a scientific committee to plan the programme of the premier annual meeting within the British pure mathematical community. Accordingly, the main change that we propose is the replacement of the present BMC Committee by a smaller Scientific Committee, with members appointed by different mechanisms.
Our proposed membership of the Scientific Committee includes three persons nominated by the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and three persons nominated by the London Mathematical Society. The two societies should be invited to make these nominations, with consultation to ensure that they produce, overall, a reasonable balance between various fields of mathematics. These nominated members of the Scientific Committee are not intended to act as representatives of the nominating society (nor should membership of the nominating society be a requirement). The objective, in involving the two societies, is simply to draw on their experience in attempting to appoint the best possible Scientific Committee. To provide an element of continuity, and because we believe that the Scientific Committee will need to look ahead and consider the series of British Mathematical Colloquia, rather than just one meeting at a time, we propose that the normal period of service for the six nominated members should be three years (with staggered retirement dates).
In order to maintain a link with the body of people attending the British Mathematical Colloquium, we propose that one member of the Scientific Committee should be elected by the Annual General Meeting of the BMIC, from among those attending that AGM, to hold office until the next AGM.
In order to ensure that the Scientific Committee is fully aware of the constraints imposed by practicalities, we propose that, during the period between the Annual General Meetings at the BMC in years X and X + 1, the BMC Secretaries for the years X, X + 1 and X + 2 should be ex officio members of the committee.
We believe it is very desirable that the host department not only takes care of the organisational aspects of the BMC, but also has a full opportunity to contribute to the academic planning. We therefore propose that, during the period between the Annual General Meetings at the BMC in years X and X + 1, one member of the Scientific Committee should be nominated by and from the host department for the year X + 1, and should act as Chairman of the Committee. We assume that this person would be a member of, or at least maintain close contact with, the Organising Committee.
We believe it is desirable that the Scientific Committee should meet, at some stage after the Annual General Meeting, during each meeting of the British Mathematical Colloquium. While it is hoped that its business could thereafter be conducted by correspondence, it should be quite feasible (for a committee of this size) to hold a further meeting if this proves necessary, perhaps in the autumn. Bodies making nominations to the Scientific Committee should be asked to emphasise to their nominees the importance of attending meetings of the BMC during their period of office.
It is our intention that the Scientific Committee should take the leading role in planning the academic programme at the BMC. But we are convinced also that, in the last resort, its role must be advisory. We are confident that the importance of its work will be appreciated, and that its advice will be taken other than in exceptional circumstances. But we recognise that contingencies may arise in which the Organising Committee has to make important decisions on a time-scale that precludes more than cursory consultation; in these circumstances, the local organisers must be able to take executive action. We believe that, with the BMC Secretary as a link between the two committees, and with the Chairman of the Scientific Committee in close touch with the local organisation, the advisory status of the Scientific Committee will not in practice be a source of difficulty.
(i) There shall be a BMC Scientific Committee, responsible for advising on all aspects of the academic programme at BMC meetings, including the choice of invited speakers (with alternates) in the General Programme, and the choice of topics and organisers for Specialist Topic sessions.
(ii) During the period between the Annual General Meetings of the BMC in years X and X + 1, the membership of the Scientific Committee shall be as follows:
(a) one member, nominated by and from the department that is to host the BMC in year X + 1, who shall be the Chairman;
(b) one member elected by the Annual General Meeting at the BMC, in year X, from among the persons attending that AGM;
(c) the BMC Secretaries for the years X, X + 1, X + 2.
(d) three members nominated by the Edinburgh Mathematical Society.
(e) three members nominated by the London Mathematical Society.
(iii) Members in categories (ii) (a), (b) shall serve for the one-year period between successive Annual General Meetings of the BMC. At the end of that year, the member in category (ii) (b) shall be eligible for re-election, subject to the proviso that no person may serve more than three consecutive years on the committee in this category.
Members in categories (ii) (d), (e) shall normally serve for three years (with staggered retirement dates). If a member in either of these categories resigns from the committee before the end of the three-year term, the resulting casual vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of that term by nomination from the appropriate society.
Note: In order to start the process, the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and the London Mathematical Society should each be invited to nominate
a member to hold office for two years,
a member to hold office for three years,
a member to hold office for four years,
subsequently nominating replacements as (normal or casual) vacancies arise.