From: Oleg Viro
Date: August 5, 2006 3:59:17 PM GMT+02:00
Cc: Jan-Otto Carlsson , email@example.com
Subject: Letter of concern: hiring of a Professor of Applied Mathematics
Rektor of Uppsala University,
Professor Anders Hallberg
Faculty Dean, Professor Jan-Otto Carlsson,
Personal of the Mathematics Department
Professors of the Mathematics Department
Burglind Juhl-Jöricke and Oleg Viro
Dear Professor Hallberg,
This is to attract your attention to hiring of a Chair Professor in Applied Mathematics and leader of the Center for Applied Mathematics, which is about to happen.
We are very concerned about the most likely outcome and feel obliged to inform you about our observations. It would be highly irresponsible from our side to be silent now: reputations of Uppsala University and its Mathematics Department are at stake.
Here is the present situation: Rekryteringsgruppen i matematik has decided to rank applicants to this position as follows:
We claim that
X IS NOT A MATHEMATICIAN
(neither applied, nor pure)
and hence X IS NOT QUALIFIED FOR THE POSITION.
In our assessment we join Maria Esteban, one of the experts in the committee evaluating applications for the chair in applied mathematics. She wrote in her report on X: "... he is NOT an applied mathematician".
Maria Esteban is General Secretary of SMAI (Société de Mathématiques Appliquées et Industrielles) and a member of the Applied Mathematics Committee of European Mathematical Society. She is one of the key figures in the European Community of applied mathematicians. Her assessment deserves a special attention and high weight.
Notice that Esteban's judgment does not concern comparison of applicants. It is of a different level. The objection is that X LACKS QUALIFICATION.
Another expert, Bernt ¯ksendal, has not included X in his report into his list of candidates which satisfy the natural criteria of suitability for the position. In other words, he also stated that X IS NOT QUALIFIED FOR THE POSITION.
The expert committee consisted of 4 persons. The other two experts, Hans Wallin and Andrew Odlyzko, ranked X high, but they cannot overweight opinions of Esteban and ¯ksendal, who had DISQUALIFIED X.
By the way, Odlyzko neither has written any report, nor has provided any reasoning for his ranking.
Wallin is the only member of the expert committee which CANNOT be qualified as an APPLIED mathematician. (By the way, Wallin worked at UmeŒ University at the same time when X was a research fellow there. According to the rules at Uppsala University, this would prevent Wallin from serving an expert, say, for a docent application of X.)
Usually an expert committee comes up with a list of top candidates. Formation of such a list is coordinated by the head of the expert committee. In this case the head of the committee was Wallin.
A short list has NOT been made by the expert committee. It was the recruitment board who just picked up four candidates for interview. In particular, the recruitment board called X for interview.
At that point, the recruitment board ACTED AGAINST opinion of the experts, half of whom had disqualified X in their reports.
At the interview X did not overcome the objections. Esteban wrote in her final report:
"in my opinion he is not qualified enough as a mathematician."
Nonetheless, the recruitment board voted in favor of X.
We have undertaken our own investigation on X and have to agree with Esteban and ¯ksendal. Moreover, reading X's thesis and papers we have gotten a strong negative impression about his relation to mathematics and ability to function as a leader of the Center for Applied Mathematics.
The report by Esteban
provides an accurate concise formal portrait of X.
"X, 32 years old, fellow of the Royal Society, Dept of Zoology, Oxford. Previously, research fellow at UmeŒ and visiting researcher at the Newton Institute in Oxford.
PhD on Mathematical Zoology, University of Manchester.
Various grants from agencies and foundations in the UK and Sweden.
17 papers in zoology and biology journals. The closest to mathematics is one article in the J. Math Biol. Concerning his teaching, has taught many different courses at various levels, on topics like PDE theory, numerical analysis, integration, functional analysis, distributions, spectral analysis, Fourier analysis, optimisation, ...
Organization of 2 conferences.
Around 20 invited talks, in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.
The research field of X is mainly the organization of insect societies and other various aspects of ecology.
Conclusion : Though X's work seems fascinating,
he is not an applied mathematician, and
his project of being in Uppsala and be able to collaborate with
mathematicians working already there looks interesting,
but I do not think that this is the idea behind this position.
Report written by Maria J. Esteban"
As X confirmed during his interview with the recruitment board,
he has never proved a theorem,
he has never published a paper in a mathematical journal
(i.e., a journal reviewed by mathscinet).
A list of X's publications can be found on his homepage.
We cannot find any breakthrough associated to his name.
How could the recruitment board put X first?
How could it ignore the assessments of two prominent experts?
We do not know complete answers to these questions.
We blame, first of all, mystery-mongering and authoritarian style
of conducting the whole hiring procedure,
including advertisement of the position,
selection of experts and selection of the recruitment board.
We have looked through some of X's papers and his PhD thesis,
and certify that none of the mathematical journals
would publish a text of this kind.
Mathematics is used in any science.
It would be counter-productive to qualify any appearance of a
mathematical object in a science or engineering as applied mathematics.
This would turn all sciences into applied mathematics
and allow to hire any scientist, who writes formulas, to a position
of a professor of applied mathematics at a mathematics department.
It does not make sense to call applied mathematics something,
which does not deserve to be called mathematics.
This is why we do not qualify X's simulation models as applied mathematics.
The thesis and related papers convinced us
that the author is not a mathematician,
he cannot express his ideas in conventional mathematical language,
he is not familiar with elementary notions which stay behind
the words commonly used by mathematicians.
(It would not be appropriate to analyze X's texts here, but
we are prepared to provide elsewhere detailed arguments
which led us to the conclusions stated above.)
Therefore we foresee difficulties in communication
between mathematicians and X.
Indeed, when he gave a colloquium talk at our department
in 2004, he failed to understand
the question about the mathematical content of his talk
and failed to answer to other, more specific questions.
The position under consideration requires an ability of
fluent communications with mathematicians and broad knowledge of
mathematics and science.
The research of X is devoted to quite a narrow field of biology.
We cannot expect that X would be able to become
a successful leader of a Center for Applied Mathematics
with a broad spectrum of interests.
We have nothing personal against X.
We judge his qualification.
It would be a huge mistake and scandal to fill a key
position with a person who is not qualified.
We hope that our warning will be heard and
X will not be appointed.
Burglind Juhl-Jöricke, Oleg Viro