Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences

Minutes of the Committee Meeting held at UCL on 18th May 1995, commencing at 11.30am.

Present: Allan Norcliffe (Sheffield Hallam) in the Chair, Mike Atkinson (St Andrews), David Bartholomew (RSS), Ken Brown (LMS), Martin Everett (Greenwich), Ekkehard Kopp (Hull), David Larman (UCL), Adrian Lepper (IMA), Allan Ryley (Glamorgan), Graham Wilks (Keele).

1. Membership and Apologies: Mike Atkinson, David Bartholomew and Ken Brown were welcomed to their first meeting of the Committee. Apologies for absence had been received from Mike Crampin, David Crighton and Donald Davison, all of whom had engagements i n their home institutions.

2. The minutes of the meeting held on 26th January 1995 were approved.

3. Matters arising form the minutes:

Min 3: No action had yet been taken on the issue of advertising of courses. It was agreed to set up a HoDoMS Home Page on the World Wide Web, which could encourage member departments to use this facility in preference to commercial publishers for making courses known to prospective applicants, and to take part in promoting UK Mathematics, rather than use resources for competition. (Action: Mike Atkinson and Ekkehard Kopp)

Min 5: RAE follow-up: it was reported that the mathematics panels would be chaired by Barry Johnson (Pure), David Crighton (Applied) and Mike Titterington (Statistics). The full panels should be known soon, and it was intended that clear decisions on cri teria and procedures would be communicated to the mathematical community in the early autumn. The Committee agreed that it might not be appropriate to ask any panel chairman to lead an item on this at the AGM, but that the Committee should endeavour to pr ovide any information available at the time. There might be a need for a further HoDoMS meeting in the winter to monitor preparations for the RAE in March 1996; meanwhile, we could press the concerns raised in our submission (which had received no respons e so far). (Action: Ekkehard Kopp)

Min 6: EPSRC structures for Mathematics: Allan Norcliffe reported on the reply received from Richard Brook (EPSRC Chief Executive), which stressed the priority given by EPSRC to basic research funds for mathematics, but reiterated his view that a standin g committee for mathematics was inappropriate. In an extended discussion, the role of the Programme Manager (Geoff Richards) was highlighted: it was felt that members should be encouraged to meet him and to suggest means by which the necessary overview of the subject and consistency in the application of criteria by review Panels could be maintained, when the latter were drawn from a mathematics college of 108 members. The idea of an advisory group, assisting the Programme Manager, was floated. It was als o agreed to invite Prof Brook to the September AGM.

David Bartholomew reminded the Committee that the EPSRC Programme, including plans for spending #11.6m in Mathematics, was now out for discussion. It was noted that HoDoMS had not formally receiced a copy, though some Committee members had access to the Programme. The LMS and RSS planned to respond to the document. Reference was also made to the current EPSRC Regional Seminars, which some members felt served more as briefing sessions than consultations. The EPSRC plans to change the quota system for stu dentships could pose a threat to the Mathematics Pool, unless the community was united in its defence. Allan Ryley expressed concern that CASE studentships had also been concentrated more strongly on Engineering.

As Mike Atkinson and Ekkehard Kopp were to attend the EPSRC Seminar in Edinburgh thr following day, it was agreed that they should attempt to follow up these issues there. (Note: a detailed report of that meeting has been placed on the `mathsheads' email distribution list.)

Min 7: Allan Norcliffe gave an update of plans for the Nottingham UMTC, which is co-sponsored by HoDoMS this year. It was hoped that the Secretary of State would address the meeting.

4. Chair's Business: The Chair referred to the LMS job adverts facility, which should be drawn to Heads' attention - mathsheads could be used similarly, especially if more members availed themselves of the service. The LMS list had an exchange facility w ith the long-established AMS email service.

It was reported that Steve Ryrie (West of England) had expressed a wish to serve on the Committee, and it was noted that elections would be held at the September AGM.

5. Treasurer's report: Martin Everett reported that renewal subscriptions had been slower this year, with only 53 paid-up members for 1995, against 87 by the end of 1994. It was noted that some larger Departments and Schools, which had taken out multiple subscriptions in 1994, were taking out single renewals. Reminders would be sent out with invitations to the AGM: only paid-up members could vote.The finances were healthy, with a balance of some #14,000 at present.

6. The Annual General Meeting: - It was agreed that the meeting should take place at UCL on Thursday, 14th September 1995. David Larman would undertake to make the necessary arrangements for room bookings and lunch (which would be paid from HoDoMS funds). He pointed put that inexpensi ve bed and breakfast accommodation in student residences would be available in mid-September, if required. - Discussion focused on the draft programme prepared by the Secretary, which was agreed with minor amendments. The morning session would contain a discussion of EPSRC issues, led by Richard Brook (if available), followed by a (relatively brief) formal ses sion, including Officers' Reports and elections. A buffet lunch from 1-2pm wopuld be followed by a brief Committee report on RAE issues, and an initial discussion of the new Committee's priorities for 1995/6. The main topic for the afternoon would be enti tled `The Promotion of Mathematics in the UK', and would address the issues raised in the recent debate on school mathematics, as well as positive steps that HoDoMS and its members can take to improve the perception of mathematics among school pupils and the public alike. It was agreed to ask Prof Geoffrey Howson to lead this session together with Adrian Lepper.

In a wide-ranging discussion Committee members drew attention to local initiatives which could be made more widely known through HoDoMS, and suggested that we might also learn from projects such as the EPSRC/PPARC `pupil researcher' programme. It was cle ar that mathematics graduates did not, usually, go into employment as mathematicians, but that they were sought after by many industries. It was important to obtain support (eg) from members of the EPSRC's new Users' Panel and to highlight information suc h as the EURAM report previously provided by David Crighton. It was agreed to seek information from members on aspects of their current local activities in promoting the subject. Such information could be included in the press release from the discussion at the AGM. - There was a brief discussion of Committee nominees for the Officers' posts which would fall vacant: the Constitution does not allow the Chair or Vice-Chair to continue in the same Office for more than two years, so that Both these posts would have new occupants. Members indicated that they would wish to nominate Graham Wilks as Chair, and Allan Ryley as Vice-Chair in September. Ekkehard Kopp indicated that he wished to step down as Secretary - members felt that Heads of Department might, generally, not have the time the position needed, and that we may wish to cast the net more widely. Martin Everett in dicated that the he would be willing to remain as Treasurer. Nomination papers for the elections, a draft agenda for the AGM and supporting papers would be circulated to members during June. (Action: Ekkehard Kopp)

7-9. HoDoMS and the School Mathematics Debate/Promotion of the image of mathematics/Operating Statement priorities (these 3 items were taken together). Allan Norcliffe reported that he had delayed the production of an article for the Higher in the light of activity elsewhere. While initial work has been done on developing a considered `HoDoMS view', it might be appropriate to await the Howson Report and the discussion at the AGM before commenting publicly in much detail. It was agreed that, while the current position caused great concern, it would be necessary to take care to persuade Government and the teaching profession of the need for urgent action.

This might best be done through by stressing the positive benefits of mathematics to the economy and its underpinning role in technical skills. Since it was becoming clearer to users of mathematics that these skills are in decline, our proposals for acti on to reverse this trend may soon be received more sympathetically than has been the case to date. Members commented on a wide range of activities which assist in the production of a comprehensive HoDoMS article in the autumn. In the meantime we would maintain a watching brief on developments. (Coordination: Allan Norcliffe).

10. The next meeting of the Committee would be at 10.30 on the morning of the AGM. There was a brief discussion of the process by which the AGM could move towards a March date (in 1997), when a two-day meeting would be easier to accommodate. A decision o n this would be needed at the AGM.

11. There being no other business, the meeting closed at 3.10 pm.