Report on the 2015 Cambridge BMC
The Colloquium was held as part of the 4th Joint Meeting with the British Applied Mathematics Colloquium, from before lunch on Monday 30th March to lunchtime on Thursday 2nd April, at the University of Cambridge. The conference venues were the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, the Isaac Newton Institute, and (for the main plenaries) Lady Mitchell Hall, on the Sidgwick site. Accommodation and meals were provided at Robinson, Selywn, Caius and Churchill Colleges.
The meeting proved extremely popular. We initially capped registration numbers at 500 (the capacity of Lady Mitchell Hall). However, the conference sold out before the early-bird deadline, and even after additional places were made avail- able we suspect there were many more than the 23 on our waiting list who wished to attend but were unable to do so. In total there were 580 delegates, of whom 218 were research students. There were delegates from 111 different institutions, including 56 universities from across the UK.
The plenary speakers were:
A majority of the plenary lectures were videoed and streamed live via Youtube, and these lectures are still available to view through the conference website . Attendance at the plenaries was good, and delegates made positive comments on the quality of the talks, although the lecture theatre was never full (see the notes at the end). ( The Public Lecture on the Tuesday evening was given jointly by Stephen Hawking (Quantum Black Holes) and Michael Green (The Pointless Universe). Tickets were made available to conference delegates (190), local schools (250) and the general public (60). Other members of the conference could watch the lecture live by video link. The public lecture was extremely well attended and was enthusiasically received by the audience.
- Robert Calderbank (Duke, The art of measurement)
- Jacques Dumais (Adolfo Ibanez University, Chile, Some intriguing dynamical systems inspired by plants)
- Peter Kronheimer (Harvard, Existence theorems in low-dimensional topology)
- Stan Osher (UCLA, The impact of L1 optimization in Nonlinear PDE)
- Sylvia Serfaty (Courant & Paris 6, Crystallization questions for systems ( with Coulomb and Riesz interactions)
- Wendelin Werner (ETH Zurich, Random phenomena within fractal carpets)
- Andrew Wiles (Oxford, On the arithmetic of ideal class groups)
On the BMC side there were 12 Morning Speakers:
The afternoon workshops (with organisers) included: Analysis of Non-linear PDEs (Neshan Wickramsekera), Category Theory (Julia Goedecke), Combinatorics (Andrew Thomason), History of Mathematics (June Barrow-Green), Probability (Christina Goldschmidt and James Martin), Quantum Information (Toby Cubitt and Berry Groisman) and Mathematics Education. There were also LMS Scheme 3 workshops held on: Algebraic Geometry (Gregory Sankaran), Geometry (Joel Fine and Jason Lotay), Inverse Problems (Carola Schoenlieb), Number Theory (Fred Diamond and Yiannis Petridis) and Representation Theory (Stuart Martin and Nicole Snashall). On the BAMC side there were 6 mini-symposia (consisting of invited talks) and also sessions of contributed talks.
- Arend Bayer (Edinburgh, Positivity in algebraic geometry via the derived category)
- Tim Browning (Bristol, Rational curves on varieties over finite fields via analytic number theory)
- Adrian Constantin (KCL, Particle trajectories beneath irrotational travelling water waves)
- Mirna Dzamonja (UEA, Current challenges in foundations of mathematics, logic and set theory)
- Yaroslav Kurylev (UCL, Inverse problems in general relativity)
- Brita Nucinkis (Royal Holloway, Cohomological finiteness conditions for ( generalisations of Richard Thompson groups)
- Neil O'Connell (Warwick, From longest increasing subsequences to Whit( taker functions and random polymers)
- Oliver Riordan (Oxford, Counting connected hypergraphs via the probabilistic method)
- Dmitriy Rumynin (Warwick, 2-Characters)
- Richard Thomas (Imperial, Nodal curves, old and new)
- Ye Tian (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Congruent numbers with many ( prime factors)
- Ulrike Tillmann (Oxford, Homotopy theory for geometric groups)
There were 26 posters presented on both pure and applied mathematical topics, of which 19 were presented by students. Further details of all talks and posters can be found on the conference online proceedings . Six student prizes were awarded, each of £100; three were SIAM prizes for the best applied-mathematics oral presentations, two were for the best pure mathematics oral presentations, and one was for the best poster.
Due to generous sponsorship by GCHQ (Heilbronn Institute), Schlumberger and MathWorks totalling £10,150 (an order of magnitude larger than the original budget), 87 bursaries were awarded to students, covering at least their conference registration fee. The criteria for awarding the bursaries were based on need (e.g. cost of travel). No bursaries were awarded to Cambridge students.
A number of additional events suggested by the British mathematics community also took place as part of the conference.
There were talks on
There was also
- the new Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum;
- the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS): a pan African network of centres of excellence in the mathematical sciences.
There was a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the LMS on the Wednesday, with two sponsored plenaries, a broad selection of Scheme 3 Workshops and Mini- Symposia, a sponsored reception and a celebratory dinner addressed by Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC.
- an invited discussion on the The Future of Proof chaired by Ursula Martin, at which a panel (consisting of June Barrow-Green, Tim Gowers, Andrew Pitts and David Tranah) discussed proof by computer and its relation to the future of mathematical proof;
- an LMS Society Meeting;
- the BMC and BAMC AGMs;
- events arranged by the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research.
We were keen to encourage participation by women in the conference. We held a Women in Mathematics drinks reception on the Tuesday evening, kindly sponsored by Cambridge University Press, to which all female delegates were invited. Unfortunately, only one of our plenary speakers was female, as Ingrid Daubechies (Duke) was forced (for extremely good reason) to pull out at short notice. Three of our morning speakers were female, despite Eugenia Cheng pulling out at even shorter notice due to visa issues (we were grateful to Mirna Dzamonja for standing in at short notice). The LMS grant included support for childcare, and we were also able to help with finding childcare within Cambridge.
Jointly with YRM2015 we made a successful application to the LMS requesting funding to enable students attending both conferences to pay just one registration fee.
The committee of BMC/BAMC2015 consisted of Ed Brambley, Rachel Camina, Stephen Cowley, Tom Fisher, Peter Haynes, Nigel Peake and Julius Ross. As the conference approached Abby Fidler (administrator) and Lorna Ayton (coordinator of student helpers) joined the committee.
|Other sponsors and publishers (see ) ||£5,459.67|
|Surplus on Accommodation||£2,943.40|
|Accommodation/Registration Refunds, etc.||£263.25|
|Opening Reception and Refreshments||£9,966.99|
|?Room Hire & AV Streaming||£12,966.00|
|Conference Dinner ||£15,239.57|
|Gratis Non-Speaker Registrations/Banquets? ||£2,600.00|
|Other (Transport, Hoodies, Stand Payments, Advertising)||£1,182.11|
|Returned to LMS||£4,615.84|
|Returned to BAMC float||£3,355.84|
The registration fee was set in November 2014 at £115 (or £163 including the conference dinner); registration included three buffet lunches, two receptions, and continuous morning coffee and afternoon tea. Student bursaries were awarded that averaged approximately £45 per research student attending. The registration fee was unusually high for a BMC and unusually low for a BAMC. Once we decided to have a single registration fee, historical differences in funding between the two conferences made this inevitable.
The financial outcome of the joint meeting was unexpectedly healthy. Reasons for this include:
As a result we were able to return part of the LMS grant, and contribute to the BAMC float (administered by the IMA). The difference between these refunds is the £1,260.00 subsidy that the conference made to the LMS reception in recognition of the 150th anniversary celebrations. The conference also made an unbudgeted contribution of £6,956.00 to help cover the cost of room hire in the CMS and INI, which includes significant facilities staff time that was not charged for elsewhere.
- speakers who did not claim for travel (instead using their own grants/funds);
- increased registration numbers above those originally planned;
- a surplus made on accommodation (£2,943.40 on a turnover of £58,829.15);
- the need to set the registration fee (and the sums allocated to the work- ( shops) before the total raised in sponsorship was known;
- budgetary planning that was somewhat conservative, given that on the BMC side there was no float, and any loss would have been borne by the departments. (We were aware that the last Joint Meeting in Edinburgh ( made a loss.) (
Aspects of the practical organisation of the conference that we viewed as successful include:
There were a few aspects of the organisation that, with hindsight, might have been changed and/or improved; organisers of future conferences might like to consider these.
- the generous sponsorship (in particular, that for student support);
- the AV streaming (although there were a few hiccups);
- pre-registration (which gave an indication of the need for accommodation, ( etc.);
- the websites; in particular, the software used for electronic submission ( of large numbers of abstracts, and the use of a google site for the main website (both of which we would be happy to share/clone for the use of future conferences);
- the use of a cloud-based spreadsheet (for the bulk of administration) that could be accessed and updated by different members of the Committee and administrative staff.
- After deliberation, we decided not to offer one-day registration. The rationale was that this was a gathering of all British Mathematicians, and if there was to be effective interaction then it would be best if all delegates attended for all three days. Unfortunately, significant numbers of delegates (including a few invited speakers) only came for one or two days. This lead to somewhat patchy attendance at the plenary lectures, and meant that we could have increased the cap on registrations.
- Given the lack of a large lecture theatre on the CMS site, there was a 15-20 minute walk to the venue of the plenary lectures. This, combined with the offer of streaming (that meant that at least one delegate watched a lecture from his accommodation), contributed to the somewhat patchy attendance at the plenary lectures. With hindsight, it might have been wise to have laid on transport between the venues.
- While we spent more than budgeted on workshops (e.g. £3915.65 on Scheme 3 workshops, compared with a LMS Grant of £3000), in many cases the funds available were not sufficient even to pay the registration fee for all the speakers (let alone travel/subsistence expenses). As we understand it, not covering such expenses is in line with convention at recent BMCs (since the change to workshops in 2011) and BAMCs, but it can be somewhat embarrassing (indeed, some workshop organisers queried this convention in disbelief). One way forward might be for workshop speakers to send in excess expense claims - on the understanding that these would be paid only as funding allowed (and some weeks after the end of the conference, since sometimes invoices take weeks to arrive).
- The (cheaper) shared-bathroom accommodation sold out very early, with the booked ensuite accommodation only selling out after the cap on regis- trations had been raised to 575.
- It is wise to start work on the conference booklet early.
 Conference website: http://www.bmc-bamc.org.uk/
 Online Proceedings: http://www.bmcbamc2015.maths.cam.ac.uk/proceedings/