Posted by: Administrator | 23/02/2020

Solidarity with Turkish Mathematicians

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Posted by: Administrator | 26/11/2019

Theodore Voronov: GDPR compliance in the LMS election

Dear colleagues,

Some time ago I discovered in my inbox a circular email message sent apparently to all LMS members, quote:

======
GDPR compliance in the LMS election

A number of unsolicited lobbying messages in connection with the upcoming Council elections have been sent out to members who were not personally acquainted with the sender.

If you have received such a message, I would like to reassure you that the message you received was in no way official or sanctioned by the Society. The Society did not provide the email addresses of its members to the sender.

Please be assured that the Society has very clear and stringently applied policies about GDPR and takes very seriously the protection of the personal details of its members.
=====

This email has naturally made me curious because I could not remember any “unsolicited messages” falling under the above description. It seems, I have missed something.

The tonality of the warning against something I have no idea about has however brought to my mind some episodes from my childhood memories under the Communist system in the USSR. I remember vividly me as a schoolboy opening one day the main country’s newspaper “Pravda” (i.e. “Truth”)  and finding there a long letter signed by prominent academics, writers, artists and similar, in strong terms denouncing some evil acts by the two individuals, Academician Sakharov and writer Solzhenitsyn, without giving any details of the acts themselves. I read it with curiosity — as I did with the aforementioned recent circular email from the LMS —  but I could not understand much from it. At that time I knew nothing of any activity of Academician Sakharov nor had I read any of the literary works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I tried to ask the grow-ups about the two men, but they strangely preferred to avoid any explanations.

Obviously, the circular letter sent to the LMS members is a hint at some problems or undercurrents in the LMS, but which?! I do not have an idea. But the letter made me naturally curious without providing any clue. (Of course, whatever they are, they should be of less global significance than what Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn were doing in the times long ago. But still, I will be glad to know.)  I got an uneasy feeling from the letter. What this “lobbying” mentioned there could mean? As dictionaries define it, “lobbying” stands for attempting to influence a government member or other decision-maker in favour of a particular cause, often aimed at gaining profit. It has an expressed negative connotation because of association with rich companies trying to bend legislation in their favor. One cannot imagine anything like that applicable to the LMS internal activities. The letter is apparently referring to somebody’s (whom I have no idea about, and naturally would like to know now!) attempts of “canvassing” (not “lobbying”!). Well, if so, I do not see anything illegal or reproachable if members of the Society will be writing to other members trying to convince them in anything concerning the Society business or making the case for voting for particular individuals in the Society elections. What could be more legitimate in a democracy than publicly promoting ideas and asking people to vote for candidates?! As for the members’ email addresses, they are not a hidden secret. Most of them are publicly available and the LMS members have agreed to publication of them in the Members Handbook exactly because they are open to other LMS members contacting them.

It would be great if all the Society business were discussed more openly and without riddles.

With best wishes,
Theodore Voronov

Posted by: Administrator | 28/10/2019

Alexandre Borovik: I stand for election as Vice-President

My electoral statement. I served the LMS in various roles since 2006. Lately, my work focused on the review of the LMS’ Standing Orders: Royal Charter, Statutes, and By-laws – I was a member of the Standing Orders Review Group (SORG) set up in 2013. The proposed changes will be put to the vote at the AGM, and I invite all members to support them.

SORG carried out a detailed analysis of how Standing Orders work in the day-to-day functioning of the LMS, offering a unique insight into the life of our Society. I have agreed to stand for election because I feel that I can use my experience and my knowledge for the good of the LMS. The update of Standing Orders is an opportunity to review our Society’s long-term priorities. In particular:

  •  In the increasingly challenging academic environment, the LMS should focus on its core charitable aim: supporting research in mathematics. In the current political climate it is particularly hard to know what could foster a proper appreciation of mathematics. Our grant schemes promote a healthy mutually respectful mathematical culture and it is best the LMS focus on or start from that.
  • Standing Orders need to be supported by efficient governance procedures at the level of Council and Committees. It is important the business is conducted in such a way  that the LMS membership feel that what is done reflects the interests of the subject. That is the essence of a membership society.
Posted by: Administrator | 09/11/2018

Alexandre Borovik: Amendment of the Charter, put in context

The LMS has started discussion of proposed changes to its Royal Charter, Statutes and By-laws; the discussion blog could be found here: charter.lms.ac.uk.

I was a member of the Standing Orders Review Group (SORG) which worked, since 2014, on the draft text of a new Charter and other governing documents. In my personal opinion, the old documents, especially the Charter and Statutes, worked well and required only minor cosmetic changes and updates (say, the address of the LMS given as “Burlington House in the Parish of Saint James in Our City of Westminster” in the preamble to the Charter definitely needed updating).

I also served on the LMS Council for sufficiently long time to witness the dramatic events of 2008-09. The Charter and Statutes were tested when the LMS was brought dangerously close to the point of legal paralysis — and, in my opinion, our governing documents turned out to be an efficient tool of crisis management. Some clauses in these may look obscure, and their meaning and their efficiency becomes obvious only when the Society faces a crisis, say, a threat of mass resignation of Trustees. I will make some specific comments on these points later on charter.lms.ac.uk. Some of the changes in the proposed documents appeared at the last minute, and, to the best of my knowledge, have never been given proper scrutiny – they deserve special attention.

I wish to put the discussion in context. The key words in Article 3 of the Charter, which lists the Objects (purposes) of the Society, are

(ii) To promote and extend (the emphasis is mine — AB) mathematical knowledge […]

In the context of the Article 3 as a whole, it is obvious that these words are about mathematical research. Mathematics cannot exist without mathematicians, and it is clear from Article 3, that the Society has duty to act as a professional body which represents, supports, and sustains health and vibrancy of the British mathematical community.

I believe that an in-depth discussion of proposed changes in the governing documents requires a closer look at the current policies of the LMS — do they fully meet the Objects? There are some issues here — for example, why have we seen a fall in grants awarded for mathematical research over the last 4 years, both in absolute value and as a percentage of the LMS income?

Here are figures for the totals of grants awarded:

2015       £550,155      18.9% of LMS income

2016       £513,429      16.4%

2017       £463,813      15.6%

2018       £437,939       14.6%

(data are from Trustees’ Annual Reports).

Members of LMS Council are Trustees of the Society, they bear responsibility for the efficiency of the charitable expenditure of the LMS. Unfortunately, they are prevented from seeing key financial documents of the LMS – records of expenditure and invoices. Last time Trustees had  access to the Society’s accounts in 2011-12 financial year. Since then, the LMS received income of £17.6M, more precisely, £17,675,176- with Trustees unable to see the records of expenditure.

In my opinion, the discussion of the new Charter is happening when we face some systemic issues in the day-to-day functioning of our Society.

Alexandre Borovik

11:48 09 Nov 2018

Disclaimer: The author writes in his personal capacity, views expressed do not necessarily represent position of the LMS, or any other person, corporation, organisation, or institution.

Posted by: Administrator | 04/10/2018

Tony Gardiner: Education Matters

In the 90s and 00s the Society represented Mathematics surprisingly effectively in education. In recent years we have taken a back seat – with unfortunate results – abandoning our active role as a key consumer, a constructive critic, and an honest broker.

Despite our role as a major end-user of school mathematics, we cannot presume to dictate from “on high”. However, we can highlight neglected issues; we can also facilitate communal discussion, on neutral territory, of matters affecting mathematics in schools, at undergraduate level, and relating to the supply and support of competent mathematics teachers.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So the Society and its Education Committee need to renew its focus, and to actively forge ways of representing Mathematics within the wider educational setting. I would be happy to elaborate.

Yesterday, 4 September 2018, UKRI announced their

Plan S: Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications

Since the LMS critcally depends on income from publishing, it has serious implications for out Society.

The key principle of the Plan is as follows:

“After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

IN ADDITION:

  • Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  • The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;
  • In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
  • Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
  • When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
  • The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
  • The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;
  • The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;
  • The `hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
  • The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.
Posted by: Administrator | 28/08/2018

LMS Elections 2018

Elections are coming, and this page will hopefully be a place for discussion of challenges that the LMS faces and priorities it sets for its activities.

The meeting was amicable, and the final voting quite close. Our Motion
failed, so Council certainly has no legal obligation to implement
charitable arrangements to save the journal. However, I continue to hope
that Council will have learned something from the discussion, and may,
now that any tensions have dissipated, reflect on the hurt caused by an
almost inexplicable rush to judgement.

The fundamental issue is quality, in an intellectual sense, of the
journal. The word “quality” had been bandied about in the paper by the
Publications Secretary and in the paper of ex-President Lyons. Despite
this, repeated attempts at the meeting to get information on the quality
assessment proved fruitless. We were not given any evidence that any
experts had any reservations about the quality of JCM, in the sense just
explained. All the evidence points to Publications using only a notion
of quality based on download figures. This is shocking, and undermines
any argument for closing the journal so abruptly. Vague remarks about
concerns, or internal problems, most likely from quite a few years back,
do not affect the present high quality of the journal.

We have learned at the Meeting, too, that part of the case made by
Publications, about targets not being met, was presented in a misleading
way to Council. Two editors testified about this, and no refutation was
offered. Thus two of the main reasons for eliminating the journal are
suspect, one being simply nonsense (the issue of quality) and the other
(which to my mind involved improper pressure on Editors to meet targets
having nothing to do with quality, like number of pages) involving
exaggeration.

To the bitter end all that mattered was commercial viability. I tried to
argue in my opening statement that Publications ought long ago to have
become fully aware of the intellectual force of JCM, and acted
charitably towards it. We did not need extra journal income. We do need
respect for high originality and rather hidden service to the community.
We would do well to reflect on the apt image produced by Charles
Leedham-Green (see his piece on this blog). Can we not rely on the LMS
to provide refuge for researchers from the impact-driven pressures of
modern academic life?

In a related vein, we had some one-sided discussion on Rebranding. Dr
Hezlett was quite unable to provide any evidence (in response to a very
penetrating question) as to known advantages of Rebranding. In this
particular case there seem to be serious financial disadvantages to
Rebranding (or starting a completely new journal “supporting the areas
of mathematics and computation”, disregarding the fact that we already
have a high quality journal meeting the very specific needs of exact
computation in number theory and algebra), and no reason to expect
marketing success. The policy seems to me incoherent. It would be so
much more elegant to build on our strengths and run JCM for now, as it
is, as a charitable activity. Why do such violence to a journal which
brings us credit (intellectual of course)?

We had compelling statements, wise and collegial, from Professors Coates
and Curtis, admired researchers from number theory and group theory (and
people who have given so much to the LMS) about the quality of JCM,
the importance of its output, and the wisdom of putting aside purely
commercial criteria in considering the future of JCM.

Rob Wilson argued compellingly that JCM is the only natural place to
publish much of the specialized output that links deep computation to
some of the deepest structural problems in pure mathematics. Charles
Leedham-Green argued compellingly that the kind of algorithmic work
published in JCM goes right into the efforts of the next generation,
rapidly and not always explicitly acknowledged. The impact is not to be
measured by the simplistic ideology taking hold of academic life.

Like many colleagues I was proud to witness the passionate defence of
science, by a number of people whom I deeply admire. I mean no
disrespect to those who disagreed with us if I say that I left without a
sense of hearing any constructive arguments from them, except for an
important remark by John Hunton that Publications Committee is not
sufficiently in touch with Council (I may not be giving John’s exact
words, but I deeply appreciated the frankness of this remark, and it
would be reassuring to know that there will be closer links between
Council and Publications).

One knows (from a letter to someone submitting to JCM a few days after
Council 16 October 2015, but before we, the Membership, knew anything)
that Council were first asked to vote on making JCM a Gold Access
Journal (which seems very strange given its commercial record), and this
they voted down. They were then invited to vote on closure, and they
voted for closure, making them the first LMS Council to close a journal.

For Council to make the decision on the basis of very weak arguments
from Publications Committee, is a great shame. The Society’s reputation
has suffered, but , as I said in my opening statement at the Meeting, it
is very easy to put things right. We obviously have the money, and we
just need a bit more commitment to intellectual value supported by the
opinion of experts from all over the world.

The following letter was sent to an author of a paper submitted to the JCM; this has been done on 27 October 2015, a week after Council’s decision to close the Journal.

 

From: JCM [JCM@lms.ac.uk]
Sent: 27 October 2015 11:48
To: X Y ZZZZZZ
Subject: LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics

Dear XXXXXXXXX YYYYYY ZZZZZZ,

I am writing with news that may have a bearing on your consideration of publishing your article in the LMS JCM, ‘[Title of the paper]’, by YYYYYY ZZZZZZ.

As you may be aware, the LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics has been running for some years as a ‘free’ journal and the costs of publishing the journal have been borne by the London Mathematical Society. From the outset, it was intended that the journal should progress to at least break even and, for a few years, it ran as a subscription journal but did not manage to acquire sufficient support from libraries to cover the costs of subscription management. Over the last few years, we have been considering how to best get the journal to a satisfactory and successful state and, last Friday, the LMS Council (whose members are the Officers and Trustees of the London Mathematical Society) considered the LMS Publications Committee’s proposal for the JCM, which included moving the journal to a gold open access model.

However, the LMS Council did not accept the proposal, and decided instead that the journal should be closed, one reason being that it felt the move to a gold open access model would likely lead to a slow decline that could be more damaging to its reputation. Council felt that the general area of computation and mathematics was one that the Society should, in the long run, continue to be present in, but thought that there were probably better ways to use its resources in this direction. Of course the Society will continue to make the papers already published available in perpetuity.

While we are happy to continue the process of publication of your paper, we are giving all authors yet to be published the opportunity to withdraw their papers. We will continue to publish any papers still in the pipeline providing you are willing to continue.

If you wish to withdraw your paper, please let us know and we will do this on your behalf. If you do not wish to withdraw your paper, no further action is necessary on your part.

Best wishes,

[Signature]
[FirstName LastName]

De Morgan House, 57–58 Russell Square, London WC1B 4HS, UK
www.lms.ac.uk<http://www.lms.ac.uk>
Tel.: +44 20 7927 XXXX
Fax:  +44 20 7323 YYYY
Charity no.: 252660

I am Derek Holt from Warwick, the current Editor-in-Chief of the LMS JCM. I
would like to make a number of points, but I will start by clarifying my own
position as Editor-in-Chief. In the event of the JCM being revived, I would
be willing to carry on in this position in the short term, but ideally I
would prefer to step down and be replaced within a year or two. But if the
LMS Council wanted to relaunch the journal with a new editorial team, then
I would be perfectly happy with that decision.

I would like to take issue with one of the points made by the Publications
Secretary in his document opposing the motion. He states there that in
2012 the JCM editors were given some targets for the next few years, and
in early 2015 “it was clear that the targets had not been met, and it was a
moot point as to how much progress had been made towards them”.

There were two specific targets. The first was to increase the volume of
publications by a precisely specified amount without a decrease in quality.
In fact we achieved the prescribed increase in 2013 and exceeded it in 2014 and
2015. (I will come back to the question of quality in a moment.) For example,
in 2015, the target was 30 papers totalling 577 pages, and the actual amount
published was 33 papers totalling 773 pages.

The second target was to publish two sets of conference proceedings within
three years. In the even we only published one, but we will be publishing
another this year (which sadly looks like being the final activity of the
JCM), which will make two in four years. So I would descibe it as a borderline
failure to achieve the targets rather than a clear failure.

On the question of quality, I have been Editor-in-Chief since 2008, and I have
personally approved every paper that has been published since then. I can
honestly say that our criteria for acceptance have not change during this
period, and neither has the overall quality of the published papers. We were
not asked to improve the quality, but to maintain it, which we have done. I
have the impression that the goal posts have been moved in assessing the
extent to which we have achieved the targets set.

The JSC has also been criticised for lack of diversity in the range of
subjects covered. It is true that, in the past, the best papers published have
been in a few specific areas, particularly Computational Number Theory and
Group Theory, and I would not dispute that the strongest papers continue to be
in these areas. A new editor and numerous new editorial advisers have been
appointed in the past few years with a view to addressing this situation.
After looking again in detail at the papers published by the JSC in 2015, I
see clear evidence of progress in this area, and a generally broad range of
topics covered including, for example, numerical solution of differential
equations. But it takes time to build up a good reputation in new areas,
and it seems a great pity that we have been so abruptly curtailed just as we
were beginning to make some headway.

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