UC Berkeley staff to attend virtual International Congress of Mathematicians

UC Berkeley faculty will attend the International Congress of Mathematicians, or ICM, being held virtually this year instead of St. Petersburg due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

While the decision by the International Mathematical Union, or IMU, to hold ICM online may change some of the logistics of the speeches and discussions, faculty on campus such as math professor Nicolai Reshetikhin agree. with this decision.

“I fully understand the decision to put ICM online and support it,” Reshetikhin said in an email. “It’s very sad. But what’s even sadder is the disgusting war in Ukraine, meaningless and unjustifiable.

The ICM, organized since 1897, meets every four years to support and encourage international cooperation among mathematicians around the world, according to its website. This is also where the Fields Medal is awarded.

A similar problem occurred for IMU previously when the 1982 Warsaw ICM was postponed for a year due to a Polish government takeover, according to Kenneth Alan Ribet, a prominent math professor on campus. .

Although the situation in Russia has discouraged planning for the IMU, participants such as Reshetikhin hope their efforts will not be taken for granted.

“I will participate in this ICM and I hope that the efforts of the organizers will remain in the history of the ICMs disconnected from this war.” Reshetikhin said in the email. “They did an admirable job, they put their time, effort, etc. into this, and unfortunately it was all ruined by the government that started the war.”

The online format has some disadvantages such as time zone conflicts, according to Ribet; however, it will also have its own advantages.

“It’s easy to imagine that the talks will be broadcast on demand shortly after they’re presented,” Ribet said in an email. “A big advantage is that the talks will be open to everyone, whereas in-person attendance at ICM 2022 would most likely have been less than 5,000.”

Before the event was announced online, representatives of other mathematical organizations such as the European and American Mathematical Societies expressed concern about the event being held in St. Petersburg.

According to Michael Hutchings, professor of mathematics and chair of the department, other guest speakers have signed their own open letters asking for the postponement or rescheduling of the event due to Russia’s actions.

Some, including campus math professor Edward Frenkel, argue the decision to go online was not made soon enough.

“I am appalled that it took so long for the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union to cancel the in-person Congress in Russia this summer,” Frenkel said in an email. “This decision had to be made immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Molly Cochran is a journalist specializing in higher education. Contact her at [email protected]and follow her on Twitter at @mollyacochran .



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