ERA results for mathematical sciences in Australia

The 2010 ERA (Excellence in Research Australia) results were released by the ARC on 31 January 2011. Comprehensive reports are available from the ARC ERA 2010 webpage.

Forty-one tertiary institutions submitted research outputs to be evaluated. Out of these, 17 did not receive an assessment in the mathematical sciences. This means that these 17 institutions did not have enough research publications in mathematical sciences in the six-year reference period to meet the ERA minimum threshold. What is this threshold? It is a minimum of 50 research outputs (or 30 outputs in the case of pure mathematics) in the reference period: 01 January 2003 – 31 December 2008.

To understand this a little more, consider a fictional mathematics department with ten research active staff members publishing one paper each per year in a mathematical journal. This department would have 60 research outputs over the reference period and so would receive an ERA assessment. The reality in Australia is that many tertiary institutions do not have such numbers of mathematically active staff.

The evaluations were carried out within bins called Field of Research (FoR) Codes. The 2-digit FoR code 01 represents mathematical sciences as a whole, within which 4-digit FoR codes represent pure mathematics 0101, applied mathematics 0102, numerical and computational mathematics 0103, statistics 0104, mathematical physics 0105 and other mathematical sciences 0199.

The FoR-based system complicates conclusions because many mathematicians may publish in journals that are codified to other fields (e.g., bioinformaticians may publish in medical and biological journals), while many scientists who do not see themselves as mathematicians may publish in journals codified to mathematics (e.g., engineers may have published in applied mathematical journals).

In addition to the 17 institutions mentioned above, 1 received an assessment at the most macroscopic 2-digit mathematics FoR code, i.e., 01, with no assessment in any four-digit mathematics FoR code. An additional 5 institutions received an assessment in only one of the four-digit mathematical FoR codes along with an assessment at the two-digit FoR level. Only 12 institutions over all received an assessment in the FoR code 0104 (statistics).

The ARC is hurrying onto the next round of ERA assessments. ERA2012 will assess the output of staff counted on the census date 31 March 2011, whose output appeared in the reference period 1 January 2005 – 31 December 2010.

AustMS now on twitter

The AustMS now has a twitter feed, which has now also been added to the sidebar of this blog. (Via Nalini Joshi)

July issue of the Gazette is published

The July issue of the Gazette is online now at .

In the Classroom Notes, Jerry Koliha and two of his third-year students, Sam
Chow and Gus Schrader, describe how they approached a challenging problem
in a special practice class in Linear Analysis. It is very encouraging to receive a
contribution from undergraduate students, and we hope that both Sam and Gus
and all their peers will send us many more articles in the future.

Also in this issue, Jon Borwein talks about exploratory experimentation in Maths
Matters, a topic close to his heart. We also continue our new series Mathematical
Minds with an interview with Rob McIntosh from Telstra’s Chief Technology Office.
And Nalini Joshi, Hyam Rubenstein and Philip Broadbridge all ponder the
issues of funding for Australian mathematics.

Congratulations to Ivan Guo for winning the latest Puzzle Corner book voucher.
And on behalf of all our readers, congratulations to Dr Norman Do for completing
his PhD while contributing the regular Puzzle Corner.

Happy reading from the Gazette team.

Vacancy: Editors for the AustMS Gazette

The present Editors of the Gazette, Birgit Loch and
Rachel Thomas, are, sadly, stepping down from their
position on 31 December 2009.  So the Society is
looking for new Editors for the Gazette. An overlap
in the position of a few months, from about October
2009, is envisaged, to enable a smooth transition
to the new editors.

Anyone interested in the position of Editor is
invited to send (via e-mail) a brief resume and
covering letter to both the President and the
Secretary, at and .

The current Production Editor, Eileen Dallwitz, is
expected to continue, so there is no need for the
incoming Editors to know any TeX although such
knowledge would still be an advantage.  There will
be some financial assistance provided towards
teaching relief and/or AustMS conference
registration and expenses.

For further information about what the position
entails, please contact the present Editors at .

[Via Elizabeth Billington.]

Clay–Mahler lecture tour for 2009

The schedule for the Clay-Mahler lecture tour is now available.  This is a series of public lectures, colloquia, and specialist lectures at several across Australia by Mohammed Abouzaid, Danny Calegari, and myself, from Aug 3 – Oct 9.  They are being supported by the Clay Mathematical Institute, the Australian Mathematical Society, and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.

Gazette Issue 2 (May) now online

The May issue of the Gazette is now online at .

The lack of suitably qualified maths teachers has long been a concern, but recently the state of maths education in Australia has received wide press coverage. Nalini Joshi discusses the recent coverage in her President’s column, and highlights the sometimes illogical arguments that have to be countered when dealing with national issues affecting mathematics.

But a good supply of well prepared maths students is only part of the answer, and we are all aware of the difficult situation of mathematics in universities. In Maths Matters, Larry Forbes tries to overcome ‘review fatigue’ to reflect on the reaction of the maths community to the Bradley Review of Higher Education. Will concentrating mathematical research in a few centres create the great mathematicians of tomorrow, or would it be better to embed mathematics in all degrees across the country?

Norman Do’s Puzzle Corner once again not only provides you with opportunities for glory and a trip to the book shop (congratulations to James East, winner of Puzzle Corner 10), it has also inspired Gerry Myerson’s paper on error-correcting codes. And this issue’s Puzzle Corner gives you a chance to apply mathematics to your vegetable drawer, and might just inspire you to new culinary heights, as well as mathematical ones!

This issue contains the first of a new series, ‘Mathematical minds’, where we interview Australian mathematicians about their work and their lives, and try to understand the minds behind maths. This issue’s interview is with Nalini Joshi, who tells us how she went from the child of Burmese migrants to the top of the mathematical profession today.

For those of you who thought the Access Grid was only accessible from dedicated AG suites, Bill Blyth and Jason Bell give alternative ways to make use of this technology via your humble desktop or laptop computer. We also have a paper on a geometric approach to saddle points, book reviews and all the news from Australian mathematics.

There are plenty of books available for review on the Gazette website (see Please contact us if you would like to review one of these books or suggest another reviewer.

Happy reading from the Gazette team.

Gazette Issue 1 (March) now online

The first issue of the Gazette in 2009 is now online at The Gazette wishes all our readers a very happy new year, and we hope 2009 brings Australian mathematics much health, wealth and happiness!

We would also like to warmly welcome our new president, Nalini Joshi. In her first President’s Column, Nalini gives us some insight into her experience as president so far, and some of the important issues on the current agenda for mathematics.

In Maths Matters we hear from the other side of the world, as Günter Ziegler looks back on his involvement with the government-sponsored German Year of Mathematics in 2008. Not only is it fascinating to hear his experience and the advice he has for promoters of mathematics, but it is also interesting to reflect on the opportunities such concrete government support for public engagement with science could give the mathematics community here in Australia. The Maths Year has obviously been a success in entertaining and enthusing the public, but whether the project has achieved its aim of changing perceptions and convincing them of the importance and relevance of maths may only become clear in the next few years. We are looking forward to an Australian Year of Mathematics!

We have reports from a number of meetings, including the Group Theory, Combinatorics and Computation conference in January in Perth which celebrated Cheryl Praeger’s 60th birthday. Bill Blyth continues his Access Grid column and in particular gives practical advice for electronically writing mathematics using this technology, and Larry Forbes gives advice on pointing directions in Tasmania. The AustMS news contains several important notices, including calls for nominations of the AustMS Medal, and also nominations for society officers and ordinary members of the Council that will be decided at the annual conference in September.

And of course, the issue includes Norman Do’s Puzzle Corner, book reviews and news from across Australian mathematics. We would like to thank Phil Broadbridge for his regular AMSI contributions, and wish him all the best in his new role at La Trobe University.

We are very pleased to publish a number of brief technical notes in this issue commenting on papers previously published in the Gazette. It is very encouraging that papers published here have stimulated interest, and we hope that technical articles from 2009 will continue to do so. If you or your students have an idea for a mathematical article that is of general interest to all mathematicians, please consider submitting it to the Gazette. Happy reading from the Gazette team.

Venkatesh receives 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan prize

I’m happy to report that my friend (and UWA undergraduate) Akshay Venkatesh, now a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, has won the 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan prize for outstanding contributions to areas of mathematics influenced by the great Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.  The prize, worth US$10,000, is only awarded to those under the age of thirty-two (the age of Ramanujan at his time of death).  Congratulations Akshay!

Update, Jan 14: By coincidence, the Australian mathematics society has just awarded its annual prizes at last month’s joint Australia-NZ colloquium, in particular giving the AustMS medal to Shahar Mendelson and the George Szekeres medal to Hyam Rubinstein.

Gazette Issue 5 (November) now online

The final issue of the Gazette for 2008 is now available online at With this issue Peter Hall contributes his final column as President of the Society. Along with all members we would like to thank Peter for the excellent work he has done as President, and in particular we thank him for his support and encouragement during our first two years working on the Gazette. We also hear from previous President of the Society, Bob Anderssen, in his contribution to our regular Maths Matters series, who explains the importance of changing the public image of the mathematics profession. This issue also introduces a new feature to the Gazette, Bill Blyth’s regular column on the Access Grid.  Phil Broadbridge writes about the important role mathematics has to play in ensuring economic stability in his AMSI news.  We have reports from a graduate modelling workshop in Canada and a conference on mathematics and computers in sport held in Tweed Heads, and  the annual report on higher degree and honours completions for 2007. We are very pleased to publish Neil Saunders’ paper for which he  received the B.H. Neumann Prize for best student talk at the Annual Meeting in 2007, along with papers by Ovidiu Furdui and John Miller.  And of course there are book reviews, Norman Do’s Puzzle Corner (congratulations to Gerry Myerson, winner of the book voucher for Puzzle Corner 8!), as well as all the news from mathematics around Australia. Finally we’d like to once again thank all the Gazette readers for your continued support, and particularly for your excellent contributions. We wish you all a very happy festive season, and all the best for the new year! Happy reading from the Gazette team.

Gazette Issue 4 (September) now online

Issue 4 of the Gazette for 2008 is now available online.

In Maths Matters, Australia’s only Fields Medalist, Terry Tao, writes about the state of mathematics in Australia. Despite his busy schedule, Terry ran a petition for mathematics at the University of Southern Queensland, which attracted more than a thousand signatures from mathematicians around the world, including leaders in industry and education and even a Nobel laureate. He discusses the response to this crisis, and how to approach and hopefully avert future crises.

Peter Hall’s president’s column explains the Society’s response to the new ERA journal rankings by the ARC which may have a negative effect on the mathematical community. This issue also contains the outcomes of the mathematical sciences questionnaire, a questionnaire sent to Heads of Mathematical Sciences at Australian universities to identify if the National Strategic Review of Mathematical Sciences Research in Australia conducted in 2006 and additional government funding for mathematical sciences in 2007 have improved the situation in universities. Sadly, it appears that this is not the case.

Bill Blyth reports on this year’s Access Grid Retreat in Vancouver in what may become a regular column about the Access Grid and its use in collaborative mathematics teaching across the nation.

If you would like to contribute to the Gazette we would be very happy to hear from you. We are always interested in hearing from potential authors for our occasional columns Maths@Work on mathematics outside of academia, and Classroom Notes, on innovations in maths teaching. You can also submit communications, technical papers, and we have a number of books available for review — details can be found on the Gazette website at

Happy reading from the Gazette team.