Support the IMA
Since 1982, the IMA has been an intellectual hub for scientific excellence and cross-disciplinary interaction in mathematics and related fields. The IMA has facilitated mathematical discoveries, connected divergent research communities, and identified rapidly emerging research areas. A unique strength of the IMA is its deep and sustained engagement with industry, evidenced by activities like the industrial postdoctoral program. While many IMA activities have now become templates internationally, the Institute continues to pilot new initiatives, responding to the needs of the large community it supports.
As members of a community working for the progress of science (a stated goal of the NSF), we are ill-served by the recommendation to defund the IMA. The IMA, built using decades of NSF investment, is a vital resource for our community. We, the signatories of this petition, urge the NSF to reconsider its decision.
SIGN THIS PETITION TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THE LETTER. Please note: though you may see a screen to donate to the IPETITION website, this donation is NOT required to become a signatory. Your signature will be recorded.
The full text of the letter can also be viewed at
Dr. Fleming Crim, Director, Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
National Science Foundation
Dr. Michael Vogelius, Director, Division of Mathematical Sciences
Program Directors for Institutes:
Dr. Joanna Kania-Bartoszynska, Dr. Mary Ann Horn, Dr. Nandini Kannan, Dr. Victoria Powers, Dr. Amnon J. Meir, Dr. Victor Roytburd
Re: Support the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications.
Since 1982, the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) in Minneapolis has been an intellectual hub for interdisciplinary research and outreach in the mathematical sciences. This letter is in response to the recent recommendation to stop funding the IMA. We the signatories urge NSF to re-examine the cost of dismantling the IMA, a vital community resource built using decades of NSF investment.
The IMA facilitates mathematical discoveries and connects divergent research communities, enabling dialogue between the mathematical sciences and other disciplines. The IMA is often where rapidly emerging research areas are identified and new opportunities and collaborations are first explored. Cutting-edge research is supported through the annual themed programs and the postdoctoral training program. No matter where one is on the arc of expertise in the mathematical sciences - an undergraduate working on a first research project or a trailblazing researcher - an IMA experience is memorable and enriching. The IMA's listing of activities show how it is at leading edge of several of the most important developments in applied mathematics of our times.
A unique strength of the IMA is its deep and sustained engagement with industry. The IMA hosts a range of activities to facilitate industrial interaction. Examples include graduate student industrial problem-solving training events, seminars, and the industrial postdoctoral program (which funded over 60 industrial postdoctoral associates). The synergy from and between these activities have benefitted an entire community of industrial mathematicians. The IMA model is now an internationally used template for such activities. Years of work fostered the ongoing engagement between mathematicians and companies meeting at the IMA (including and beyond the IMA Participating Corporations). The institutional memory and long-standing relationships that are the basis for these interactions between the academy and the industry will be permanently lost if IMA is dismantled.
The postdoctoral program, one of the first of its kind when it began, has seen remarkable success. The exposure to the intellectually vibrant atmosphere at the IMA, and the opportunity to develop an independent research program in an interdisciplinary area of mathematics, comes at a critical career juncture. Of the 311 postdoctoral associates, many have gone on to become world leaders; 13 are Sloan fellows, and 6 are CAREER award recipients.
The IMA has, over the years, piloted many innovations aimed at diverse groups. The New Directions program was a novel initiative developed to support researchers seeking to reorient their research programs. The IMA Public Lecture series was first piloted in 1998 with the aim of generating broad public interest in mathematical frontiers and has evolved into one of the most successful ongoing events of this kind. More recently, the IMA instituted the Abel Conference series to celebrate the achievements of the Abel Prize Laureates. The activities at the IMA continue to evolve and change, responding to the evolving needs of the (very) large community it supports.
Every year, the IMA hosts an average of 1250 visitors per year, half of whom are first-time visitors. Some of these are undergraduates (42 since 2009). Some are Fields medalists (7) and members of the National Academy of Sciences (63). While many are mathematicians, a large fraction (32%) are scientists from other disciplines ranging from neuroscience through cryptography. Serendipitous encounters at the IMA have led to career opportunities and sustained scientific collaborations, across academia, industry and government.
With the defunding of IMA, we stand to lose all this and more. At stake is a center committed to the vision articulated in 1982 by Hans Weinberger within IMA’s first annual report, a vision of rich interaction between mathematics and other sciences:
“ .. the resulting cross-fertilization will produce new insights into important mathematical problems. These insights, together with the thrust into new areas of application, should be a source of continuous regeneration in the mathematical sciences.The important benefit of the Institute to science in general is the development of dialogue between the participants and the fostering of on-going interest in new areas of mathematics.”
This vision remains relevant today and the “dialogue” can be seen in action at the IMA daily. The identification of “new areas” relies on years of institutional experience, in combination with the engaged expertise of a large number of committed scientists.
As members of a community working for the progress of science (a stated goal of the NSF), we are perplexed at the recent NSF recommendation to defund the IMA. The IMA has an excellent track-record of success and innovation within its mission. An imminent impact of defunding the IMA will be the loss of treasured collaborative postdoctoral training opportunities for the new crop of junior researchers in the mathematical sciences.
We regard the IMA as a vital resource for our community and urge the NSF to reconsider its decision.