Statement on the Association for Mathematical Research

The Just Mathematics Collective


We, the members of the Just Mathematics Collective, believe that based on the information currently available regarding its formation, mathematicians of conscience should stand in opposition to the Association for Mathematical Research (AMR). Moreover, the JMC stands with the mathematicians who have been calling on our colleagues to withdraw from this organization.   

From the views expressed (,,, by its leadership and more recently by founding member Scott Aaronson, this organization's goal seems to be to establish an "apolitical" research-focused association without room for initiatives related to teaching, community building, or the support of marginalized groups in mathematics. 

At present, the AMR's sole stated mission is to "support mathematical research and scholarship." On this, the JMC and the AMR converge. Indeed, this is a mission that every mathematician supports and carries out in their day‐to‐day work. However, such a mission is not actionable without concrete plans for nurturing, supporting, and prioritizing the human beings who conduct mathematical research. Most mathematicians lack the job security and labor rights afforded to the majority of the AMR's founding members. To support mathematical research, we must address disparities in stipends, salaries, and teaching loads. We must address harassment in academic spaces. We must address lack of access to sick/family leave, not to mention affordable healthcare and childcare (especially in the midst of a pandemic). Namely, to support math research, we must reckon with the myriad obstacles that the majority of mathematicians face in their everyday lives. A math organization that claims to support research must confront the concrete conditions under which researchers live and work. 

For these reasons, any organization that claims to support mathematical research, but whose founding members also claim to be "apolitical", will at best be ineffectual when it comes to addressing some of the most crucial problems facing mathematical researchers, precisely because these problems are political in nature. But we do not believe that the key players behind the formation of the AMR are genuinely concerned about such problems and that they're merely incompetent in having proposed an organization that has no chance in positively addressing them (although they may also be incompetent, in addition to being politically calculating). Rather, we believe the AMR to be motivated by a desire to intentionally obscure the racism, misogyny, white supremacy, classism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, and other forms of injustice, oppression, and marginalization that are present in our field. 

We would like to highlight another force behind the formation of the AMR: unadulterated arrogance. This is evident in the words and actions of founding members themselves. To choose just one out of the many examples to which the beginning of this statement alludes, take Scott Aaronson's short blog post in support of the AMR. It claims that when the AMS publishes opinions that call for "the abolition of the criminal justice system (what to do about Kyle Rittenhouse though?)", it's clear that a truly apolitical mathematics research organization is needed. Although he doesn't mention us by name, Aaronson can only be referring to the statement we authored ( If he had bothered to read it carefully or engage even minimally with any of the sources we cite, he'd know that abolitionists address his Kyle Rittenhouse question in hundreds of ways.

Of course, this question — which wasn't really a genuine question but more a means of implying that abolitionists haven't thought through even the most basic pieces of what it would mean to build a prison‐free world — has aged quite poorly, given the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial and the fact that our current criminal "justice" system doesn't have a meaningful answer for what to do about Kyle Rittenhouse in the first place. But the point here is that Aaronson is not nearly as interested in engaging with the decades of activism, struggle, and careful intellectual work that inspires the movement for prison and police abolition, as he is in implying that his opinions are automatically valuable because he is a prestigious computer scientist with fancy awards. It takes a lot of hubris to dismiss a movement as beyond the pale — a movement informed by the lived experience of current and formerly incarcerated folks and the activism and analysis of countless Black, Brown, and Indigenous people — without doing even the most basic background research. It is this sort of hubris, and the desire to preserve a social order in professional mathematics which rewards it, that propels the AMR project. 

The JMC would like to clarify that while we certainly oppose the AMR, we also do not endorse much of the shallow liberal politics of representation that tends to animate mainstream opposition to right‐wing political maneuvers in the professional mathematics world. What interests us are the real material conditions facing people in the real world; improving these conditions requires the sort of radical and transformational change that we have promoted in past posts and that evidently frightens Scott Aaronson. Several individuals, in particular Black and Brown women and nonbinary mathematicians, have labored largely without compensation to bring to the fore the structural injustices within our discipline. The JMC's organizing is inspired by these efforts, and by the efforts of all peoples who fight for justice and self‐determination. We believe the founding of the AMR is a reaction to this organizing — the sort of fear‐based reaction the right often displays when ideologically threatened. 

So what should individual mathematicians do in light of all this? One of the major motivations behind our organizing is to address the violence of the status quo — the violence of prisons, policing, settler colonialism, and in particular the ways in which our discipline actively invests in this violence. But in part because of how this same violence precludes so many from having a chance of becoming professional mathematicians in the first place, how it operates — and even the fact that it operates at all — is invisible to many mathematicians.

To many, the fact that so much of our research is bankrolled by the Department of Defense, the NSA, and weapons manufacturers is not cause for action. After all, money is money and given how hard it is to access basic research funding these days it's unwise to bite the hand that feeds, or even to wonder too much about what it is these agencies gain by supporting us. To many others, it is not particularly strange or jarring to attend major conferences at institutions from which scientists living under siege and colonial occupation in Palestine are barred by virtue of being trapped on the other side of a wall, a wall guarded heavily by weapons and surveillance technology those same institutions helped develop. Surely, individual mathematicians can't really help where the big conferences happen to be.

The theme here is that violence is fueled by a collective belief in powerlessness: the less empowered people feel to impact and ultimately change how things are, the more willing they will be to play along, and the more normalized violence becomes. A major goal of organizing is to bring these underlying tensions to the surface, to confront people with reality, and to show them that they do have the power to change things. Successful organizing targets the myth that neutrality is possible and makes it clear that there are sides, and it often — if not always — provokes a reaction from some of those other sides. We see the AMR as an attempt to gather forces on one of those sides and to resuscitate the illusion of neutrality so that it can be used as cover. We are not interested in masking our beliefs and opinions, and our ask of mathematicians right now is simple: do not look away. Face the reality that our discipline is political and that the choices we make as stewards of mathematics impact the world around us. Then, choose a side. 

Action Steps:

‐ If any of your colleagues have either already joined or are thinking about joining the AMR, speak with them about it and share this statement with them.

‐ Embrace the political dimension of mathematics by joining the JMC in its active and ongoing campaigns: 

   ‐ Read the JMC statement on the Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian Uprising and call to sign the USACBI pledge to take part in the academic boycott of Israel.

   ‐ Read the JMC statement (pdf, audio) on "Mathematics Beyond Secrecy And Surveillance". Use this link to co‐sign the statement or pledge to take action in a number of other ways.