Opinion 164: The American Mathematical Society's Fellows Program Does More Harm than Good (But it DOES increase the AMS Dues Revenues!)

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Dec. 31, 2017

A couple of months ago the American Mathematical Society announced the new batch of fellows. Naturally I was upset, since one great mathematician, that I nominated three years ago, was once again declined. (When you make a nomination that is declined, it is automatically renewed for the next two years, so they get your hopes up for nothing). That person deserves to be a Fellow much more than most of those selected. In addition, I know of two other cases, of top notch mathematicians who were nominated, and declined. On the other hand, quite a few of the new fellows (who will remain nameless) definitely should not have been chosen, because they are under-qualified

There is also a quite significant subset of the new "fellows" that are over-qualified, super big shots, (challenge: find them in the above-mentioned list!), who would have been (easily!) chosen to be in the so-called inaugural class of 2012, but did not qualify for a very "important" reason, their AMS membership expired because they failed to pay the dues (or were never members). Once this (to them) minor honor came to be, they said, why not? So what if I am a permanent member of the Institute for Advanced Study, member of NAS, Wolf prize recipient, plenary ICM lecturer etc. etc.? A penny (of honor) saved is a penny earned. Let's pay 200 dollars per year, and add yet-another-honor to our CV. (In fact, after they become a fellow, they can stop paying dues, I don't think that the AMS is that greedy to kick someone once they become a fellow, for not paying future dues).

Mathematics, until recently, was far more egalitarian and less elitist than other subjects. But humans will be humans, they need their inclusion-exclusion, and this unfortunate AMS Fellows program is really unnecessary and demoralizing.

Opinions of Doron Zeilberger