UK Nonlinear News, August 2003

Reflections on the Fifth International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, 7-11 July 2003

By Alona Ben-Tal

What I remember most from ICIAM 2003 are all the good talks that I missed. With 43 daily parallel sessions three daily parallel sessions of invited talks, it was inevitable that I would miss many interesting presentations. I was surprised to see how many people I recognised among the 1700 conference delegates and I was even more amazed at the number of people I managed to meet only once or not at all. There must be a mathematical model to explain it! After all, over the course of the five day meeting, there were mathematical models to describe almost every phenomenon imaginable.

I enjoyed some excellent talks at ICIAM. Among these were: "A new test for chaos" by Georg Gottwald (co-author: Ian Melbourne), "Modelling large scale interactive systems" by G. Keith Still (which described crowd dynamics), "Coupled cell systems" by Martin Golubitsky (co-author: Ian Stewart), "Decision theory for biodiversity" by Hugh Possingham and "The magic of Maths" by Neville de Mestre (this talk was given as part of a community day lectures and was intended for a general audience). For more details see: I apologise for all the excellent talks that I missed or don't have space to describe.

It is interesting to compare this conference with an engineering conference I attended last year in Huston (EMBS-BMES 2002). This had approximately 1400 technical papers presented over 4 days (compared with 1700 presentations over 5 days at ICIAM). Most days, there were 14 parallel sessions at the EMBS-BMES 2002 conference (compared with 43 at ICIAM). Three of the plenary sessions at the engineering conference were poster sessions. These sessions lasted between one and a half to two hours, during which the presenters stood next to their poster and answered questions. The poster sessions at EMBS-BMES 2002 were very effective and I suggest this format is used at future conferences. Perhaps because a large number of the technical papers were presented at the poster sessions, the program book of the engineering conference was much easier to use than the ICIAM program book. Never the less the technical program at ICIAM 2003 was excellent and the conference took place at a great venue (Sydney's magnificent Darling Harbour).

More details about ICIAM 2003 can be found at


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