Notes for Long Range Planning Exercise in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences –
Building capacity through NSERC’s RPP programs
The MITACS NCE had a huge effect on mathematical sciences research:
Changed the culture in mathematics to be more outward-looking
Trained hundreds of students and postdoctoral fellows
Established linkages with 300 industrial partners
Provided resources for academic/industry linkages through industrial problem
solving workshops, networking, workshops, etc.
We want to include in the LRP suggestions for ways to build on this momentum. We also
feel it is very important not to let the industrial connections lapse.
Our community members tell us that the current configuration of RPP programs doesn’t
work very well for mathematical sciences; certainly MITACS had considerable resources
devoted to making linkages from industry to academia, and many feel that was key to its
success. We feel that mathematics and statistics research has a somewhat different
relationship to industrial collaborations than in many other disciplinesan:
the sub-fields of mathematics or statistics needed by industry can vary both
quickly and unpredictably
application areas can arise in unexpected domains (e.g. algebraic topology)
need a ‘continuous feedback loop’ from industry to academia
need expertise in a wide range of sub-areas from ‘very pure’ to ‘very applied’
Industry time scales can be very short and the interest in and need for
mathematical input waxes and wanes; consortia work very well in this setting
For these reasons and more, many individual researchers in mathematical sciences may
not have industrial connections, and many companies, especially small ones, may not have
an ongoing link to academia. Similarly our graduates find it difficult to establish industry
connections for industrial PDFs, and the companies that could benefit from these PDFs to
find the right mathematical or statistical expertise.
We are working with the directors of the three mathematical sciences institutes, and the
MPrime (formerly MITACS) NCE, to consider ways to provide a platform to kick-start
successful proposals to the RPP suite of programs. For example, institutes can use their
international connections to bring world-renowned researchers to workshops that
involve industry-academic collaborations, and institutes can act as facilitators in providing
venues to discuss both short time-scale industrial problems and longer time-scale applied
research programs. MPrime can use its track record and industry connections to keep the
ongoing dialogue between mathematical and statistical sciences and industry open.
We see at least two areas of enormous potential: statistics and data science; and
mathematical biology. Canada has superb research communities with a track record of
important successes, and there is great opportunity for these communities to move to a
new level of excellence in innovation.
We also see emerging challenges in sustainability, neuroscience, digital economy, polar
science, cryptography, finance, water, and energy in which mathematical and statistical
sciences can play very important roles.