The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) was founded in 1996 by a consortium of five universities in Alberta and British Columbia (the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria). Later they were joined by the University of Washington in the United States and more recently by the Universities of Regina, Saskatchewan and finally Lethbridge.
PIMS is unique in several ways; most fundamentally because of its distributed structure. Most institutes organize events at a central location where international scientists are brought in residence; PIMS, on the other hand, has a site at each of nine major universities in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Washington State. PIMS also has affiliate sites at Portland State University and the University of Northern British Columbia. PIMS events are organized at each of these sites, and PIMS researchers are distributed throughout the network.
This distributed structure has been extremely successful, and has revitalized the mathematics departments in Western Canada. The strong presence of PIMS at the university level gives it access to a vast reservoir of scientists of all disciplines. Indeed, over the years PIMS has been able to break down disciplinary barriers and today the PIMS community extends beyond mathematics and statistics departments, and has come to include scientists in areas such as physics, biology, engineering, informatics, operations research and economics.
PIMS is institutionally binational (the University of Washington is a full member) and it is the only institute of this kind in mathematics. This unique international structure projects PIMS beyond the boundaries of Canada, notably towards the Pacific Rim, to allow Canada to benefit from international scientific and economic developments.