MPE2013 was launched at the winter meeting of the Canadian Mathematical Society in Montreal on December 7, 2013. At that time, approximately one hundred partners in several countries had planned a range of special scientific and outreach activities, which were to take place around around the world in 2013 on the themes of “Mathematics of Planet Earth.” Subsequent launches at the national level brought in many new partners who developed their own MPE-related activities, particularly in the areas of outreach and curriculum development. In the course of the year, the enthusiasm kept growing, to the point that now, at the end of 2013, more than 140 partners are affiliated with MPE2013.
This level of cooperation of the world mathematical community has been without precedent. Of course, compared to what existed 20 years ago, technology makes it easier to collaborate across boundaries. But there is more to it: MPE2013 helped change the image of mathematics among students and the general public. Many activities sponsored by MPE2013 illustrated the role that mathematics plays not only in addressing the planetary challenges but also in discovering and understanding our planet, its interior dynamics and its movement in the solar system. Teachers have new material to provide exciting answers to the question: What is mathematics useful for? All this material is shared on the MPE website; it will be further enriched over the coming years and will be a lasting legacy of MPE2013—tangible evidence that collaboration is beneficial for our community.
The interest in MPE2013 among the research community has also been very important. As research mathematicians, we are captivated by mathematical problems, and MPE2013 has demonstrated that planetary issues lead to many new and challenging problems. In the framework of MPE2013, we have organized summer schools for young researchers. Of course, a researcher cannot be trained in a few weeks, but what has been accomplished is really a first step toward what should be a long-term goal. This is true especially in view of the fact that the problems related to planet Earth are extremely complex; the ingredients are all interconnected, they cannot be studied in isolation. As mathematicians, we have some experience building and analyzing models of complex systems, but we absolutely need to cooperate with other disciplines to capture the essence of the problems and improve our models so they are as faithful as possible to the real world, yet manageable in the context of mathematics. MPE2013 has exposed the immensity of the research field that needs to be explored.
“Mathematics of Planet Earth” needs to continue, and this is why MPE2013 will morph into MPE on January 1, 2014. MPE will maintain the momentum of multilevel collaborations (researchers and educators) within the world mathematical community. The foundation has been laid, MPE will take on the long-term task, including the training of new researchers and supporting collaborations with researchers in other scientific disciplines.
This contribution is the last official post of the MPE2013 Daily Blog. MPE will have its own blog, which will appear on a less regular basis. Please contact us when you want to report on new developments of MPE.
Hans Kaper and Christiane Rousseau