Since April 16, 2013, when I formally became the President, I have devoted some time to understanding the financial state of the RMS. I wish to take all of you into confidence, and explain to you the financial stateof RMS as I understand it, set the realistic goals for RMS we can hope to achieve in the foreseeable future, and articulate the means to achieve them.
Perhaps this is the first time when a President of any mathematical society in India is writing such an e-mail! Since we are all mathematicians, we just like to talk about mathematics. But as an institution, we should also look for the financial sustainability, and further progress, of our institution so that we can keep talking about mathematics in a more vigorous way!!
There are no blue-prints in what follows. I feel, I still do not have a complete information. If some vital point is missing, please let me know. I have consulted with some colleagues before writing this e-mail. But let us collectively understand the broad situation, and plan on taking some steps.
RMS came into existence in 1985. Its membership is mainly College and University Math faculty and students. Our aim is to promote higher mathematics, through
research, teaching, and general dissemination of mathematics, in all segments of Indian society.
According to the bye-law 25 c), RMS is expressly a not for profit organisation.
Our biggest resource is the very high quality of our membership. Many of our members are in the list of the international and national "who is who" in Mathematics. There are some very distinguished members of RMS from abroad, like Prof.s John Coates, D. Eisenbud, M. Waldschmidt, ....and many members of Indian origin settled abroad. Many members of the national academies, some FRSs, some coming close to winning, or have already won, the Fields Medals, and Abel Prizes, and many distinguished award-winners, like Swarnajayanti and Bhatanagar awards;
and, irrespective of any accolades, most of us have attained professional distinction in some ways in mathematics.
Likewise, our Presidents as well as the EC-members are men and women of professional distinction.
This is a big plus. It earns us respect. Yet it is also a minus in some ways on the institutional level, as we have yet to build our financial resources.
RMS has been in existence for over 28 years. As of 31st March, 2012, it has accumulated a corpus of about Rs. 67 lakhs, which is a small sum, in my opinion. As yet we have no office, and irrespective of the office, no paid staff.
Just one example: if we have to bring out some quality publication, do we expect the Volume Editor also to be a proof-reader?
Similarly, should RMS pay for travel of EC-members for EC-meetings? Since NBHM has decided not to pay for travel for EC-members, this has become a serious matter for discussion.
I feel that the RMS-EC, in particular the President, may be expected to bring about enough revenues on an annual basis, so that such incidentals can be, and should be, taken care of, so that we can save ourselves from unnecessary headaches and un-pleasantness.
RMS has never seriously addressed such issues.
Our corpus (Rs 67 lakhs in the last 28 years) is mainly built from the membership fees, publications JRMS and Lecture Notes Series, and some sporadic donations from well-wishers.
Besides publications, RMS's main activity is the one, four-day, annual conference. Its expenses are mostly paid by an educational institution which takes responsibility for hosting the conference, and the funding agencies like NBHM and DST, which may pay for the fooding, accomodation, and travel/local hospitality for the plenary speakers and other invited guests.
Whether one should charge registration fees for annual conferences, there is no consensus in the RMS organising committee, although both the Secretary and I do not feel that we should charge registration fees, for that will be possibly a major consideration for many participants whether to attend the conference at all.
The annual conference costs very little to RMS. The host institutions are fairly generous because of the immense respect in which they hold the RMS. But in turn, RMS exercises very little "control" on what we do. We need to do a lot of correspondence before we can accomplish anything of substance.
A striking feature in the mathematical societies in the west is the enormous number of activities they perform each year. The American Mathematical Society (AMS), for
example, besides an annual meeting, organises eight regional meetings per year. It has a large office in Providence, in the state of Rhode Island. (Providence is much less expensive than major metropolitan cities like New York.) AMS has a paid, contractual, position of Executive Director with his/her fairly big staff. The Executive Director himself/herself is a mathematician of distinction. Besides the membership fees, it also builds its finances through its many publication series, its various "projects" with national and private
funding agencies, and it also gets lots of donations from organisations and individuals.
I hope, you agree, that we have a long way to go! India may be emerging as an economic power on the international scene, but RMS is still operating with a mind-set of way back in the early or mid-20th century!!
I propose: let us formulate the goal of acquiring an office for RMS and some paid staff, in a foreseeable future.
The veterans of RMS tell me that during the past 28 years of existence, this issue has come up from time to time, from the very beginning. In fact, the "Building Fund" was established to which some people have already made some contributions. Some proposals were also there.
But somehow .....
I wish to make a special note that RMS does have some dedicated members who have fully dedicated their energies for bringing RMS to the present stage.
For instance, Prof. Sampathkumar has essentially acted as the "Executive Director" without pay, all these years! For over a decade he has given half of his house
(about six rooms) for use for JRMS and RMS-LNSM. As a "Managing Editor" of these publication series he does a lot of work of keeping track of manuscripts submitted for publication, keeping the record of referee correspondence (the referees are decided by the editors), applying for grants, seeking support, keeping all the financial records etc. It costs nothing to RMS. It is a labor of love for Prof. Sampathkumar. He also made a substantial donation to the Buidling Fund of RMS, mentioned above.
Similar work has been done by Prof. Balakrishnan of keeping many accurate records of RMS, editing News-Letter for a number of years, writing bye-laws and keeping a record of their many modifications through many years etc.
Throughout the members of the EC have worked without any "sitting fees", often paying for travel and other incidentals from their own pocket, often not charging even for their travel to attend the EC-meetings, although the bye-law 14, v) allows for second class AC, sleeper year travel for the EC-meetings! The bye-law itself has become archaic in the 21-st century, in my opinion!!
Through such services, these people have saved lot of expense to RMS, and contributed to building its present corpus.
Prof. Sampathkumar and Balakrishnan. mentioned above, are getting senior in age, so we need to find their replacements. In this process, we need to keep in mind the financial aspects indicated above.
Please let me know, if any of you have any suggestions.
For improving the financial state of RMS, and increasing its activities, I wish to mention my current thoughts.
The two aspects are complementary. Without increasing the activities we are not going to improve our finances, and conversely!
In my view, if we start conducting regional meetings, and start School/UG/PG seminar activities, it will substantially increase our activities. In addition, I list three ways below to increase our finances.
0) Regional Meetings: I have already written in my first e-mail to all of you about RMS regional chapters. One expected contribution by the regional chapters is to arrange at
least one regional meeting per year. This single step, if supported by all of you, will substantially increase our activities.
Actually the idea is not new. It is already mentioned in 1985-bye-law 7), c), but not implemented so far!
May I suggest that we have at least 4 regional meetings next year?
The regional chapters may also start school/UG/PG seminar activities appropriate to the region.
I request all of you to take the idea seriously and send to us some proposals for regional meetings.
1) Membership Fees: The 1985-bye-law 10, ii) mentions six types of memberships, in addition to "patrons" mentioned in bye-law 13, iii):
Patrons, Donor Members, Annual Individual Member, Institutional Member, Life Member, Long-term Member, and Student Member.
The bye-laws do not explain the rationale behind "patrons". But a patron does not pay any membership fees, has no
voting rights, and cannot serve on the Executive Committee.
In the future I wish to see the term "Patron" used for a substantial financial benefactor of RMS.
Except for "life members", RMS probably had no other five types of members mentioned in the bye-laws, in any substantial number.
I wish to change this situation. Also the membership dues mentioned in 1985 need to be changed considering the present economy. I shall soon
send to all of you a bye-law amendment regarding the various memberships,
I am also keen on admitting student members, so as to systematically maintain the future health of RMS, and the mathematics profession in India.
These changes are expected to increase substantially both our membership and our finances.
I shall report to you in detail about the current publication activities of RMS, in my "State of the RMS"-address at the June 2013 conference.
Briefly, at present, we have four publication series: the Journal (JRMS), the Lecture Notes Series (LNSM), News-Letter (NL), and Little Treasures of Mathematics (LTM).
Please see the RMS web-site for some information about these series. Just google the "Ramanujan Mathematical Society".
The present corpus is largely built from the revenues generated by JRMS and LNSM.
The NL, of course, is not supposed to be a source of revenue. In addition to providing news, its editor, Prof. Ponnusamy, has also started publishing valuable expository research articles at the UG/PG level. We are thinking of whether we should extend this latter activity and start a new journal at the UG/PG level.
Finally, LTM is bringing in some revenue. We wish to increase its activity and scope.
The Secretary Prof. Jugal Verma, also has a more ambitious plan of starting something like a "Bulletin" for expository articles at the research level.
Obviously, if we publish more quality material at appropriate levels, our revenues will increase, and the Society will get more recognition.
3) Donations, and Project-based Support: RMS has gotten some voluntary, un-saught for, donations in the past.
We have three named plenary lectures at each annual conference, coming from the financial support of the families or friends of the named people, Prof.s M. N. Gopalan, W. H. Abdi, and C. S. Venkataraman.
I recently came to know, that Prof.S Bhanumurthy and S. Bhargava were "Donor Members".
In recent years, if I remember correctly, Prof. Manjual Bhargava of Princeton University, USA, got a Clay Foundation award of $10,000,
(approxmately Rs 5 lakhs). He donated the whole amount to RMS. He is a young man, often mentioned in connection of a Fields Medal, and one of our well-wishers.
Similarly last year the brothers and sisters offered Rs 5 lakhs to RMS in the memory of their of brother Prof. S. K. Lakshman Rao, a distinguished mathematician and scholar.
To my knowledge, these and any such donations have come completely voluntarily. In fact donors come to our doors, and urge us to accept their donations!
There has been no conscious effort on the part of the past Presidents and Secretaries to seek donations from generous corporations or individuals, explaining to them the worthy activities of the RMS. It is just not in the psyche!
A largely un-tapped resource, in my opinion, is the possible donations from mathematicians of Indian origin from abroad.
I have also suggested two years ago at the RMS annual conference, that many of us, with a secure financial future, in the foreseeable future should donate 1/2% of our anuual income for a specific project of RMS, like having an RMS-office for example, or support JRMS. LNSN, NL, LTM,...
Finally I mention a lot of project-based support from the national funding agencies like NBHM and DST. In terms of what we have gotten in the past, this support has been very substantial. But considering that RMS performs a major national activity in higher mathematics, in my opinion, the support from these agencies is not commensurate to what we do, or would do if the adequate support is assured.
Perhaps we have not properly explained our case to them.
Let us articulate our needs clearly. Let the funding agencies, wealthy corporations and individuals with a feel for the importance of mathematics, and we ourselves, help ourselves to become a leading mathematical society in the world.
Ravi S. Kulkarni,