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Planning: The Future of the CMS
Report from Task Force 9: Administration and Governance


Jon Borwein (SFU), President
Richard Kane (UWO), Past-President
Arthur Sherk (Toronto), Treasurer
Margaret Beattie (Mt. Allison), Vice-President Atlantic
François Bergeron (UQAM), Vice-President Quebec
Tom Salisbury (York), Vice-President Ontario
Keith Taylor (U. Saskatchewan), Vice-President West
Graham Wright, Executive Director

Preamble: Les sciences mathématiques jouent un rôle prépondérant en science, en ce qu'elles sont essentielles à l'articulation bien faite d'une pensée rationnelle. Ne serait-ce que pour cela, elles revêtent clairement une importance cruciale pour les sociétés modernes. Pour mieux comprendre ce rôle des mathématiques, il est peut-être de bon aloi d'en donner une définition, non pas en énumérant une liste de sujets qui en relêve, mais plutôt qui donne idée claire de son objet d'étude. Les sciences mathématiques sont les sciences qui étudient les structures abstraites et leurs interactions. Il serait intéressant d'explorer les nuances et implications de cette définition, mais nous laisserons cette question pour une autre occasion, étant donné que le but de cette introduction est clarifier le rôle et le mandat de la Société des Mathématiques du Canada, la principale organisation de mathématiciens au Canada.

Il est naturel pour la Société de procéder à une évaluation de la façon dont elle mène à bien cette mission, et d'explorer les améliorations souhaitables dans ses activités. C'est un tel processus qui à été entrepris il y a trois ans, et qui vient maintenant à terme. Cette évaluation à été réalisé par divers groupes de travail (numérotés de 1 à 8) se concentrant chacun sur un des pans d'activité de la société. Issu du groupe de travail numéro 9, à savoir l'exécutif de la Société, ce texte est une synthèse harmonisée des rapports de ces groupes de travail.

Background: The Canadian Mathematical Congress, now the Canadian Mathematical Society, was conceived in 1945; the founding members hoped that ``this congress [would] be the beginning of important mathematical development in Canada." In fact, today the CMS is the oldest and largest professional society for university mathematicians in Canada and, after over 50 years, has become a complex operation. It is natural and timely that the CMS now review its purpose and operations.

In June 1998, the Board of Directors of the Canadian Mathematical Society approved a proposal for a strategic planning exercise for the CMS. The existing mission statement was to be replaced by a Goal for the society, namely that ``the CMS promote and advance the discovery, learning and application of mathematics'', together with a four part Statement of Purpose. As well, all aspects of the society's operations would be reviewed by Task Forces:

  1. TF1: Budget and Policy
  2. TF2: Board Representation
  3. TF3: Endowment Fund
  4. TF4: Publications
  5. TF5: Finance and Fund-raising
  6. TF6: Support of the Mathematics Community
  7. TF7: Communication
  8. TF8: Office Strategies.
(The Task Force on Communication (TF7) was subsequently dissolved since much of its mandate was covered in the work of TF6 and elsewhere.) After wide consultation within the CMS community and much thoughtful deliberation, these task forces have submitted final reports, which are available at As well, following R1.2 (Recommendation 2 of TF1), an ad hoc committee on Electronic Services and Camel (ESC) was struck to conduct a full-scale review of Camel. The final report from this committee is posted with the final task force reports.

Report. The present Executive (TF9) has as its mandate in this planning exercise the consideration of:

  1. Committees and Board
  2. Administrative Structure
  3. Partnerships
  4. CMS membership
  5. Task Forces: Any areas from Task Force reports not covered above.

With the recommendations of the Task Forces before us, many of which have been or are being implemented now, and after two years of discussion of these issues, we submit the following summary report to the CMS community.

  1. Committees and Board.

    The strategic planning exercise has led to some changes in the standing committee structure of the CMS.

    Following recommendations from TF3, the CMS has established an Endowment Grants Committee (EGC) to administer the distribution of a portion of the endowment fund income on an annual basis. The EGC was established in 1999 and conducted competitions for CMS Endowment Grants in 1999 and 2000. As recommended by TF3, a review of the EGC and its mandate will be held in 2002, after three competitions have been held.

    In 1999, a CMS Student Committee was established. This committee maintains a central student web site on Camel at and is involved in all aspects of mathematics student affairs.

    The CMS standing committee on Government Policy has been dissolved, with the Executive Committee assuming its responsibilities. One of the tasks of the Government Policy Committee was to oversee the annual survey, sent to all Canadian mathematics departments. Following R6.9.1, a questionnaire on the usefulness and feasibility of the survey was sent to all department chairs, and a decision was made to discontinue the annual survey.

    In the spirit of recommendations from TF6, the Executive will recommend to the Board in June 2001 the establishment of a new standing committee, the Advancement of Mathematics Committee. The mandate of this new committee will be to oversee, on behalf of the Society, all activities for the advancement and development of mathematics, including monitoring activities both within and without the Society. This committee will have a Fund-raising Sub-committee and the present standing Fund-raising Committee will be dissolved.

    Again, following recommendations from TF6, the Executive, the Education Committee and the Mathematics Competitions Committee are discussing a reorganization of the structure and duties of these two committees.

    Finally, TF2 had a mandate to examine the geographical distribution of the Board membership and recommended that no changes be made.

  2. Administrative Structure.

    A review of the administrative structure of the CMS office and the responsibilities of various staff was conducted by TF8. All recommendations in their final report were supported by the Executive and Board and have been partially or totally implemented. Various solutions to the looming space problem at the Ottawa office are being explored. The Executive has also discussed the role of the Executive Director. For many years, the CMS has had an arrangement with U. Ottawa whereby Graham Wright was released from many of his teaching duties as a member of the math department to serve as CMS Executive Director. Beginning in June 2002, this arrangement will end. The Executive recommends that at this point, the CMS hire a full time Executive Director.

    The CMS also has many volunteer and paid staff outside of the Ottawa office whose duties are connected with Camel or with CMS publishing. It is clear that within the next year or two, many of these positions and indeed hierarchies of duties must be redefined.

    An ad-hoc Committee on Publishing Options was struck by the Executive in October 2000; their report is attached. The committee states that the CMS publishing enterprise needs to be restructured and recommends a centralized operation with a high percentage of salaried employees.

    The report from the ad hoc ESC committee and response from the Electronic Services Committee present options for an administrative structure for Camel. Following the ESC committee report, the Electronic Services Committee was restructured into a leaner committee to facilitate the decision making process. The Executive has explored the possibility of revenue from commercial advertising on Camel, and concluded that this is not practical at the time. The ``two hump'' Camel operation is shrinking to a single hump, located in Ottawa.

    Clearly, the administrative structure of CMS electronic services and publishing are evolving, separately and jointly, and in the next years it is crucial that the CMS direct the evolution to a model which is sustainable with the resources available.

  3. Partnerships

    The joint Math 2000 meeting at McMaster U. was very successful and the CMS hopes to build on this success by encouraging joint meetings with other societies in the future. Through the National Program Committee, the Institutes fund sessions at the semi-annual CMS meetings. The first CMS/MITACS job fair was held in June 2000 and it is hoped that job fairs will be held annually. Indeed, the CMS sponsored a lunch at the 2001 MITACS AGM.

    Although the practice of inviting CAIMS and SSC to have representatives on CMS standing committees has been discontinued, the CMS invites these societies to send representatives to our Board meetings. The CMS has been represented at SSC Board meetings in the last year.

    Included in the report of the ad-hoc Committee on Publishing Options mentioned in #2 is an option of the establishment of a publishing office shared with one or more of the three institutes.

    The role of the CMS in the Canadian mathematical community is a changing one and it is important that we maintain an active dialogue with all sectors of the community.

  4. CMS Membership.

    The issue of attracting student members who will then remain active CMS members throughout their careers has been partially addressed by offering free memberships to students and by the establishment of the Student Committee.

    The CMS would also like to attract more Francophone members to remain a truly national society. As a first step, the Executive recommends that editors encourage authors of articles in the CMS journals to provide abstracts in both French and English and that the editors strive to develop a pool of mathematicians qualified to vet these translations. Also the Executive recommends that the speaker's transparencies for the Public Lecture at the semi-annual meeting appear in both French and English.

  5. Task Forces: Other Issues.

    Recommendation R6.5.2 concerns a statement from the CMS on the minimal requirements for the teaching of mathematics at the pre-university level. This recommendation was supported by department chairs. The Executive recommends that the Notes solicit and publish a series of articles on this topic.

    Recommendation R6.8.1 is that the Notes should be enhanced; this is already being done. Recommendation R6.5.4 is that the CMS should produce a career brochure. The Executive views this as important; it could be done on-line, and jointly with the institutes.

Action Items. From the many recommendations of the task forces, ranging from the very specific to the very general and philosophical, three themes recur which should guide future planning. These three dominant action items will be addressed by the incoming Executive and referred to standing committees as appropriate.

  1. The future of the CMS electronic services and publishing ventures which are an integral part of the Society's activities, requires a sound plan for the administration of these services, involving salaried part-time and full-time staff, as well as volunteers.
  2. The expansion of the membership base of the CMS is crucial, both financially and for the intellectual health of the Society.
  3. The CMS must foster good working relationships and maintain open channels of communication with all mathematics-focused institutions across the country, be they research or education oriented. Only then can the CMS find its unique niche in the Canadian mathematical landscape.

Conclusion: The CMS is a flourishing society of which the founders may be proud. The focus of the CMS continues to be mathematical development in Canada but the CMS now reaches out to form new partnerships with the users of mathematics in business, governments and universities, educators in the school and college systems as well as other mathematical associations. In doing so, we enhance the perception and strengthen the profile of mathematics in Canada.

© Canadian Mathematical Society, 2014 :