What Is MPE?
Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) is a grass-roots movement for mathematical scientists, engineers, and anyone with a scientific background interested in learning about the past, current and future state of our planet, using mathematical and computational models and data analytics to support science-based decision making.
MPE activities fall into four broad categories:
- Planet Earth as a physical system—climate dynamics, Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere;
- Planet Earth as a system supporting life—mathematical ecology, carbon cycle, food systems, natural resources, sustainability;
- Planet Earth as a system organized by humans—land use, energy, communication, transportation, socio-economics; and
- Planet Earth as a system at risk—global change, biodiversity, water, food security, epidemics, extreme events.
A Bit of Background
MPE traces its beginning to 2009, when the North American mathematical research institutes were exploring options for long-term collaborations. Plans were made to organize a yearlong program of scientific activities, including workshops, conferences, and educational and public outreach activities, to be launched in 2013. An introductory year was held in 2010–11 called Climate Change and Sustainability. In the United States, the planning effort was coordinated by the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM). The program went international at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2010 (ICM 2010) and received the patronage of UNESCO in 2012. It became known as Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013.
In the course of the year, MPE2013 grew into an international partnership of more than 150 scientific societies, universities, research institutes, and professional organizations. It involved fifteen long-term programs at mathematical research institutes, sixty workshops, dozens of special sessions at society meetings, two daily blogs (one in English, one in French), several public lecture series, summer and winter schools for graduate students, research experiences for undergraduates, open-source curriculum materials for all ages and grades, and a juried international competition to produce an Open Source Exhibition. MPE2013 underscored the multidisciplinary nature of the problems facing the planet and emphasized multidisciplinary partnerships to address these problems.
At the end of 2013, MPE2013 morphed into Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE). A new structure was designed to support the ongoing research efforts and maintain the momentum created by MPE2013. A program of technical and educational workshops, MPE2013+, supported by DIMACS at Rutgers University and the U.S. National Science Foundation, was instrumental in furthering the goals of MPE. The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) created a SIAM Activity Group on Mathematics of Planet Earth (SIAG/MPE). The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK funded a Center for Doctoral Training at Imperial College London and the University of Reading (MPE-CDT), with a new degree program in MPE. In the Netherlands, NWO (counterpart of the United States NSF) supports a research program in MPE as part of its Nonlinear Dynamics of Natural Systems cluster NDNS+. The Mathematics and Climate Research Network (MCRN) continues its research and training programs in the United States. Many groups and individual researchers around the world pursue research in informal settings on topics related to MPE.
The present MPE web site builds on the web site of MPE2013. All the material published during MPE2013 has been preserved, and new material will be published as we proceed with MPE. Contributions are welcome on any topic consistent with the goals of MPE.
“The Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) initiative resonates strongly with UNESCO’s work to promote the sciences and science education, especially through our International Basic Sciences Programme. Mathematics advances fundamental research and plays an important role in our daily lives. More than ever we need to develop relevant learning materials and to spark in every student, especially girls, a sense of joy in the wondrous universe of mathematics and the immense potential unleashed by this discipline. In this spirit, we commend this initiative and fully endorse the proposal to continue this programme beyond 2013.”
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO