Opinion 48: Some Suggestions to the IMU About Future ICMs

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Oct. 11, 2002

  1. Choose plenary (and invited) speakers who can give good general talks. Once chosen, they should go to a ``training camp'' and get feedback from each other and especially from ``coaches'' who are known to be good speakers. In ICM2002, some talks (including Lafforgue's) were way too technical (in spite of the good intention of the speakers) and only about a half (e.g., in the first week, those by Noga Alon, Shafi Goldwasser, Michael Hopkins, Douglass Arnold and David Mumford) were really excellent. (For more details about my impressions from ICM2002 look at Appendix to Opinion 48: Impressions from ICM 2002 .)
    I understand that to be chosen a plenary speaker is an honor, so in some cases, where the chosen speaker is a great mathematician but a bad speaker, have someone else give the talk for him or her.
  2. Have a census of mathematics every four years and accordingly shrink traditional sections and create new sections for emerging fields like Symbolic Computation.
  3. In Recent congresses there was at least one plenary speaker in Numerical Analysis (e.g. Wolfgang Hackbusch in Berlin and Doug Arnold in Beijing). Have also at least one speaker in Symbolic Computation.
  4. Make the Fields-medal committe and decisions less inbred. It seems that a necessary condition for a Fields medal is to extend or elaborate works of past Fields medalists. Also, don't go overboard with the Langlands program. It did have its successes. and it is very interesting, but so are many other research directions. The FLT success may have been a fluke, that has nothing to do with the substance of the program itself, and like, for example, `analytical proofs' in combinatorics, that can be done much easier with formal power series, or de Branges's original 100-page `operator-thoery' proof of Bieberbach, that can be shrunk to a few pages of formal calculus, I am almost sure that the dependence of Wiles's proof on the Langlands program is not intrinsic, but a historical coincidence that made its embedding in the Langlands program (discovered by Frey and Ribet) tractable to Wiles and Taylor.
  5. For the Combinatorics committee: algebraic and enumerative combinatorics is under-represented.

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