Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the London Mathematical Society

   I am writing on behalf of the London Mathematical Society, which is the principal learned society for mathematics in the United Kingdom, and which serves the whole United Kingdom mathematical community.

  The Society does not receive any current funding from the Government, nor any project grants. It owns its own premises and receives no subsidy for this.

  The Society gives scientific advice as the occasion demands, either directly to ministers and their departments, or through the Office of Science and Technology or through the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. It does this both on its own, and jointly with the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, either directly or through bodies such as the Science Council, the Advisory Committee for Mathematical Education and the Joint Mathematical Council of the United Kingdom.

  The Society's main aim in promoting mathematics is met at the university level. It does however each year organise a series of Popular Lectures, which take place in London, Scotland and another variable venue in England. These lectures are for a general audience, and are well received. The Society also promotes the Holgate Lectures, which are given in schools for an audience usually drawn from a group of schools, and are given by academic mathematicians.

  The Society would also like to give its views on government funding of the Royal Society, with which it has had good and strong connections. The most important feature of the Royal Society, in our view, is that it sets and maintains the highest possible scientific and academic standards. This is essential to maintain the United Kingdom's strong scientific position in the United Kingdom. We feel that it is essential for the Royal Society to continue to set and maintain these standards, particularly when making election to Fellowships.

  There are several ways in which the London Mathematical Society interacts with the Royal Society. Until recently, the Royal Society was the adherent body to the International Mathematical Union, the international body for mathematicians which is responsible for the four-yearly International Congress of Mathematicians. This role has ben taken over by the London Mathematical Society, but we value the role of the Royal Society membership of the International Council for Science (ICSU). The Royal Society also provides helpful financial support for attendance by our delegates at the meeting of the International Mathematical Union which precedes the Congress, and plenary speakers and invited lecturers at the Congress. We feel that this international role is an important one for the Royal Society, and that although dependent on government money it is best carried out by an independent body such as the Royal Society.

  We also welcome warmly the award by the Royal Society of various research fellowships, from University Research Fellowships for young scientists to Research Professorships for outstanding world class scientists. We have great confidence that because of its own expertise the Royal Society has excellent appointment procedures and makes outstanding appointments. The programme for University Research Fellowships has developed enormously in recent years, and helps meet the needs of Science in society by supporting excellent young scientists, and by ensuring an appropriate spread through scientific disciplines, and in doing so helps meet the needs of young women scientists.

Professor J T Stuart


April 2002

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