Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Excuse me whilst I shoot my foot

I am an applied mathematician, and like most mathematicians I am reliant on my university and the UK Research Councils (usually the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EPSRC) for funding to develop ideas, to work with international colleagues and to attend conferences. The EPSRC has recently looked at the success rates of grant applications as a function of their specialist area (assigned by EPSRC) and the results are striking. The results were shown to Heads of Mathematics departments a couple of months ago.

(FY=Financial Year)


These results show just how much applied mathematicians seem to hate applied mathematicians within the UK! So why do applied mathematicians find it so hard to support each other? Here are a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions:
  • (the pure mathematician’s perspective) Pure mathematicians are much brighter than applied mathematicians so the purer proposals are simply of much higher quality.
  • (the statistician’s perspective) Hah! You thought we were cussed and argumentative? That’s nothing compared to those dumb applied mathematicians. 
  •  (the EPSRC perspective) Explanation? No, that’s beyond our remit, we just report the facts for the good of UK science.
  • (the biologist’s perspective)  Welcome to the real world. So you’ve finally understood that the only way to be the best is to screw the opposition.
  • (the physicist’s perspective) Make up your minds, are you scientists or mathematicians? You can’t be both, and nobody can tell what you’re trying to do. 
  • (the engineer’s perspective) One word: ‘validation’. 
  • (the chemist’s perspective) So x is a number? Why hasn’t it got subscripts and square brackets?
Does anyone want to hazard a guess at what the applied mathematicians themselves are thinking?
One things for certain:

Congratulations to EPSRC for going to the bother of looking at this issue, but it’s not enough to recognize the problem, we need some form of action.