[PAST EVENT] Mathematics Colloquium:  Herbert Chang (University of Southern California)

February 25, 2022
2pm - 3pm
Jones Hall, Room 301
200 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Open to the public

Title: Fields Medals Are Concentrated in Mathematical ‘Families’

Abstract: The Fields Medal, often referred as the Nobel Prize of mathematics, is awarded to no more than four mathematicians under the age of 40, every 4 years. In recent years, its conferral has come under scrutiny of math historians, for rewarding the existing elite rather than its original goal of elevating under-represented mathematicians. Prior studies of elitism focus on citational practices while characterization of the structural forces that prevent access remain unclear. Here we show the flow of elite mathematicians between countries and lingo-ethnic identity, using network analysis and natural language processing on 240,000 mathematicians and their advisor-advisee relationships. We present quantitative evidence of how the Fields Medal helped integrate Japan after WWII, through analysis of the elite circle formed around Fields Medalists. We show increases in pluralism among major countries, though Arabic, African, and East Asian identities remain under-represented at the elite level. Our results demonstrate concerted efforts by academic committees, such as prize giving, can either reinforce the existing elite or reshape its definition. We anticipate our methodology of academic genealogical analysis can serve as a useful diagnostic for equity and systemic bias within academic fields. The presentation will also briefly discuss the similar use of network science and graph theory  in profiling misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Link: https://cwm.zoom.us/j/95514383546 (the talk will be on Zoom, but it will be projected in Jones 301 for viewing).


Pierre Clare