France applies for the organisation of the 2026 International Congress of Mathematicians

Submitted by Insmi on Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:35

Each International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) is the opportunity for the world mathematics community to come together and take stock of the most promising research perspectives of the moment. For sure, the human dimension of such an event is unmatched for mathematicians: an ICM is indeed one of the rare moments when all generations and all disciplines have the opportunity to exchange.

Hosting the International Congress of Mathematicians is also the opportunity for a country to be the place where prestigious prizes and distinctions are awarded. The Fields medals are the  best known among these awards, but others came up recently, placing greater emphasis on other aspects of our discipline, such as applications and societal aspects, as well as teaching and dissemination issues. To be sure, the set of prizes awarded at an ICM covers ever more broadly the field of contemporary mathematical activities, both academic and non academic.

Organising an ICM, for a country which has not been hosting this congress for some fifty years, is therefore a powerful means of revealing to the whole society the changes that mathematics are capable of.

Applying for the organisation, and then organising of an ICM, are long-term undertakings. The application should follow a procedure which is fairly precisely defined by texts drawn up by the International Mathematical Union (IMU). The decision as to who will be responsible for the organisation is taken during an IMU General Assembly and the presentations are the opportunity for each candidating country to highlight the values which characterise the aspirations of its community.

Defining such values and aspirations is an essential step to elaborate the project; in fact, working on such questions upstream may be regarded as a motivation to apply. Our country is known for the scientific level of its mathematical productions, but in relation to other aspects of mathematical activity, it also faces challenges: enhancing PhD degrees, disseminating scientific culture towards all social categories, encouraging non-academic mathematical careers, opening up the academic world to diversity, reinforcing the part of mathematics in education for all at all levels as well as in responding to great national issues, revalueing the scientific voice in the media, etc. Of course such questions have already been pointed out and there exist initiatives and institutions that are tackling them with determination. Preparing an application and organising an ICM, owing to the publicity they involve, constitute a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on those efforts and intensify them.

In view of these objectives, it is crucial to entrust this application with a very strong legitimity. It is the reason why a consortium is being set up. If, owing to the INSMI's national mission of animation and coordination in the fields of mathematics, the CNRS is an essential actor, all national institutions related to mathematics are represented: the Academy of Sciences, CNRS, Inria and the three mathematical societies (SFdS, SMAI, SMF). A framework text specifies the operating mode of the steering and of the bid committees and the modalities according to which the bid committee shall report to those institutions on the progress regularly made. The president of the CNFM (French National Committee of Mathematicians) is entrusted with the direction of the bid committee; other institutional partners will be solicited. Procedures to consult the mathematical community are considered very much upstream, and as of now. The objective is to enable the French ICM application to provide a powerful tool for sustainability and reinforcement at the service of existing or emerging initiatives, so that mathematics contribute more deeply and effectively to the proper functioning of our society.