IEEE President-Elect Candidates Address Computer Society Concerns
As the largest IEEE Society, the IEEE Computer Society (CS) serves computing and IT professionals at all levels of their careers, through IEEE’s network of more than 400,000 members in 160 countries. The IEEE president and Board of Directors define a vision for the association, and therefore, the decisions they make and plans they put in place impact us as CS members and volunteers.
To ensure CS members are well informed about the candidates on the IEEE election slate, the CS asked the IEEE president-elect candidates for their responses to four important questions that affect our Society and membership. The questions and candidates’ responses (limited to 250 words each) are provided here. Please take a few moments to read what these candidates have to say, and be sure to vote in the election, which opens on 17 August 2020 and closes at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time USA/16:00 UTC on 1 October 2020.
For full information on IEEE president-elect candidates, along with their personal statements and lists of accomplishments, please visit www.ieee.org/elections.
In addition, we encourage all members to participate in this important ballot process. We also remind and encourage you to cast your votes for the CS election by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, 21 September 2020.
—Forrest Shull, IEEE Computer Society President-Elect
Below are the candidates for the 2021 IEEE President-Elect. The 2021 President-Elect will become President in 2022.
The sequence of candidates was determined by lottery and indicates no preference.
(Nominated by Petition)
Joseph R. Loring Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Arlington, Virginia, USA
Professor Saifur Rahman is the founding director of the Advanced Research Institute at Virginia Tech where he is the Joseph R. Loring professor of electrical and computer engineering. He is a Life Fellow of the IEEE and an IEEE Millennium Medal winner. He was the President of the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) for 2018 and 2019. He was the chair of IEEE Publications Board and a member of the IEEE Board of Directors in 2006. He was the founding editor-in-chief of the IEEE Electrifications Magazine and the IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy. He served as the chair of the US National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering from 2010 to 2013. He is a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE PES, and has lectured on smart grid, energy efficient buildings, renewable energy, demand response and distributed generation topics in over 30 countries on all six continents.
S. K. RAMESH
(Nominated by IEEE Board of Directors)
Director AIMS2 Program,
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
California State University (CSU), Northridge
Northridge, California, USA
S. K. Ramesh is a renowned engineering educator with over three decades of leadership experience as a dean, department chair, and faculty member. The programs he established serve industry practitioners in high wage, high demand fields, including renewable energy, assistive technology, and advanced manufacturing. As 2016-17 Vice President of Educational Activities, he championed collaboration, diversity, and inclusive excellence, through innovative programs like IEEE Learning Network (ILN).
Ramesh is an IEEE Fellow recognized for “contributions to entrepreneurship in engineering education”, and founding Director of CSU Northridge’s internationally recognized AIMS2 program that mentors and supports underrepresented minorities in engineering. His many recognitions include the John Guarrera Engineering Educator of the Year, William Johnson International award for “leadership and contributions to the profession”, and Region 6 Community Service award. Ramesh has served on the Boards of IEEE and ABET, leading volunteers and staff with shared strategic goals, measurable outcomes, and transparent fiscal leadership.
K. J. RAY LIU
(Nominated by IEEE Board of Directors)
Distinguished University Professor and
Christine Kim Eminent Professor of Information Technology
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland, USA
I received Ph.D. from UCLA in 1990. My research contributions encompass broad areas of information and communications technology with recent focus on wireless AI for indoor positioning and wireless sensing. I have trained over sixty-eight doctoral/postdoctoral students, of which ten have become IEEE Fellow.
I am the recipient of two IEEE Technical Field Awards: 2021 IEEE Fourier Award for Signal Processing and 2016 IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Graduate Teaching Award, IEEE Signal Processing Society 2009 Technical Achievement Award, 2014 Society Award (highest award bestowed by SPS) for “influential technical contributions and profound leadership impact”, and over a dozen best paper/invention awards. Recognized by Web of Science as a Highly Cited Researcher, I am a Fellow of IEEE, AAAS, and U.S. National Academy of Inventors.
As the founder of Origin Wireless, my invention won 2017 CEATEC Grand Prix Award and CES 2020 Innovation Award, with products available over 150 countries worldwide.
Question 1. Given the serious financial challenges posed by COVID-19, what steps do you plan to have IEEE take to provide financial support, reduce overhead expenses, and help mitigate the financial disruption to Societies?
Rahman. This is a three-part question, will have three answers. A. Financial support can be provided to members who are unable to pay their IEEE dues. We need to work at the sections level to determine how many current members are unable to pay their IEEE dues because of financial challenges, and provide some funds – after careful calculations – to the needy sections so they can help their members to pay their membership dues. B. Reduce OH expenses: First step will be to understand what are the overhead expenses now, and why they are what they are. Then we need to determine how we can offer services to societies/councils on a cafeteria model, rather than the same package to all. C. Financial disruption to Societies: The major hit societies will get is the loss of revenue from conference cancellations, drop in attendance and conferences going online. When a conference goes online, it is very difficult to attract sponsorships. For most conferences I have been involved with – budgets are balanced (with 20% surplus) by sponsorship support. For societies which have good reserves should be allowed to balance their budgets using funds from their reserves, and the 3% spending rule needs to be relaxed. Societies with strong reserves may be asked to offer loans to needy societies with IEEE central working out their repayment plans.
Ramesh. Long-term financial sustainability is a major concern given the uncertainties due to COVID-19. Financially, IEEE is a very strong organization with reserves exceeding $ 500M. However, tough times call for financial prudence. Societies and the IEEE need to be thinking about the COVID-19 impact as a 5 to 10 year challenge (and opportunity!).
Membership, Conferences and Publications drive revenues. Our members need industry focused conferences and publications to stay technically current. Recent virtual conferences sponsored by the Computer Society such as VR 2020, and S&P 2020, attracted diverse global audiences – delivering programs with financial stability. ICASSP 2020 attracted 11,000 non-members (66% of the audience). I see these as opportunities to grow membership and increase revenue in the short term. We need to leverage IEEE’s role as a trusted source of reliable data and peer reviewed research from our societies, large, and small. Investing in our societies for future growth is an important long term imperative.
Even before COVID-19, IEEE’s finance team was laser focused on reducing the corporate overhead rate from 29 %, to under 17 % for 2020. The Next Generation project allows better control of our expenses with increased transparency and timely access to financial information. I will look to cut costs with work from home policies, and elimination of non-essential travel. With online modalities likely to dominate the future, I would look to reduce our office space needs and printed materials to reduce costs in the long-term. Times are tough but we will get through this together.
Liu. First, I plan to establish an IEEE-wide rapid crisis response team with emergency funds available, possibly from IEEE Reserves. A process will be defined to assess impact and allocate funds to any international emergency of the same scale brought by COVID-19. We need to be prepared better for the next such event.
The Technical Activities Board (TAB), which I chaired in 2019 and all the societies/councils (S/Cs) comprise, also has a Reserves fund. I propose to use that to offer loans to any S/Cs that are temporarily running into financial disruption to mitigate their difficult time. The loan would be returned when the S/C is out of the disruption with sustainable operation.
Long-term, the real fix shall come from reducing overhead expenses inherent to the large organizational structure and business operations of IEEE. The Financial Transparency effort that I originated has shed light on some inefficiencies. We need to reinvent our business processes, such as developing Service Center models, to put those organizations who are generating revenue into a better position to control their expenses. Application of technology can also reduce the friction of manual handling, and re-handling, of purchase orders, contracts, accounting, and more.
In addition, many Young Professionals are affected severely in the worldwide economic downturn. I propose to reduce fees for Xplore access for YPs, offer entrepreneurial webinars and training courses to help improve technical skills for better job potential, and form networking programs to connect with experienced professionals for career mentoring.
Question 2. How do you see the technical activities of IEEE evolving as a result of COVID? How can IEEE work more effectively with Societies and councils to take their specific needs and capabilities into account in this evolution?
Rahman. Going forward, many conference, workshop and distinguished lecture related technical activities will be done fully online or hybrid. And these will be managed primarily by societies and councils, as done now. Because of the lockdown, travel restrictions and the like, almost all societies are now gaining the experience of doing events online. But the experience and best practices being generated are very diverse and are causing difficulties specially at the section levels due non availability of standard Webex type platform support. I have given two dozen webinars in 15 countries in the last three months to various IEEE sections and society chapters. I have seen them using Webex, Zoom, Google Talk, Ding Talk, etc., with varying levels of success. There must be IEEE level support to local sections and society chapters so that our society/council and section volunteers can come to one place to get the technology support they need to conduct their events locally. Some IEEE sections and society chapters have gained significant experience in running events online. Their experience and expertise can be pooled together at the IEEE level to provide support to sections and chapters as requested. This will reduce load on IEEE staff.
Ramesh. COVID-19 has brought renewed focus to IEEE’s mission of ‘Advancing Technology for Humanity’. Technologies such as AI, IoT, Machine Learning, and 5G, enable testing, tracing, and control. They play a critical role in slowing down the spread of the virus. IEEE members are at the forefront, developing these technologies, and establishing standards for their application that are ethical and inclusive. I see tremendous opportunities for collaboration between our Societies and Councils, and across the IEEE as our members continue to innovate in the face of adversity to tackle global challenges.
Pre-COVID, IEEE embarked on a collaborative Continuing Education adhoc project to create educational programs and resources to serve our members. The IEEE Learning Network (ILN) just celebrated its first anniversary – a project that I co-championed as 2016-17 Vice President, Educational Activities. Programs such as the Brain Initiative, and Rebooting Computing began with support from New Initiatives, and evolved into Technical Communities. The main goal of the IEEE Entrepreneurship community (over 17,000 members and non-members) is to create useful products/services that provide value and generate revenue. Large societies such as CS have the opportunity to increase membership from these communities.
Extended lockdowns have already demonstrated short-term positive impacts with less traffic congestion, reduced pollution, and cleaner environments. Sustainable technologies are the key to the jobs of the future. IEEE’s societies are poised to “Engineer the Future” by engaging members – present, and future, to make a difference in a post-COVID world. Socially distant, and yet more socially connected than ever before.
Liu. Most affected by COVID were IEEE’s conference operations, a critical activity for S/Cs. Nearly 2,000 IEEE conferences were wiped out overnight for face-to-face meetings. Due to the global shutdown of travel, almost all IEEE conferences have become virtual events. We were preparing for the worst, but the results were amazing. Taking the flagship SPS conference ICASSP as an example, the peak attendance was 3,000 before. But once it went virtual, with the reach to a worldwide audience, the attendance was over 15,000. A crisis is also an opportunity. It taught us to get outside of our comfort zone to realize that we indeed have the means to serve a much larger audience and better meet our mission.
In the new normal, IEEE should facilitate the use of tools and platforms for S/Cs to offer their conferences as hybrid – consisting both traditional face-to-face meetings and virtual participation. That would allow us to be more inclusive to engage those who cannot afford to attend in person and those who work in industry without time to leave their daily job. I am working with the IEEE Conferences Committee in preparing for such a new normal.
Also, we should look beyond conferences centered on just published papers. Data, code, audio and video are all important media that can convey rich technical ideas. Witness the thousands of pre-recorded videos IEEE is collecting as part of virtual conferences, and the popularity of IEEE DataPort that I championed to produce, which enables us to build data communities.
Question 3. The challenges due to the Open Access (OA) publication model only continue to accelerate, as our collaborators and competitors continue greater adoption of this model. What do you see as the near-term activities that IEEE and the Societies need to undertake to address this fundamental shift? How do you propose to improve transparency regarding these issues so that Societies have more awareness of, and input to, what IEEE is planning?
Rahman. The one-time OA fee being charged by IEEE now is not enough to replace the life-time revenue now being generated from IEL and packaged product sales, and single article download fees, which will go away if we do full open access for all our conference and journal publications. If we try to raise the OA fees much more, it will be prohibitively expensive for most authors and they will slowly migrate to other publishers. We will have to replenish – at least partially – the loss of publications revenue in other ways. For example, we can use our Xplore platform to host third party OA content for a fee, which we have done some already. I chaired the TAB/PSPB Products and Services Committee in the past, and now I am a member of this committee. Requests to host third-party content in IEEE Xplore – for a fee – comes before this committee at every meeting and the discussions always start from scratch. There needs to be a dialogue between TAB and society/council publication volunteers to understand the market and offer templates to be used to evaluate requests to approve third-party content hosting in Xplore. As societies get engaged in such activities, they will be able to better define our expectations and help to bring such publications – properly vetted – into Xplore. This is a new revenue source for IEEE. Another revenue source for S/C is educational materials. The PES University, which I helped to establish provides an excellent model for this purpose.
Ramesh. IEEE should aggressively pursue the Open Access (OA) publication model. IEEE needs to be the leader, and challenge the competitors. We may be much more resilient than our competition, and we would have a lot to gain. According to the 2018 “Top Journals by Impact Factor”, IEEE publishes 23 of the top 25 journals in electrical and electronic engineering and is in the best position. We own more journals, conferences, and digital library records compared to other similar professional associations. With our immediate access to raw usage patterns from our users, we have the potential to monetize the data and create value for IEEE.
I strongly support the work of the TAB-PSPB adhoc committee to develop a long-term sustainable OA strategy that supports our members and the global technical community. IEEE now has 21 fully Gold OA journals in the portfolio with three more society-titled sections in IEEE Access, and two diamond journal pilots planned for launch in 2020. We are making good progress on Read & Publish pilots that are financially sustainable and meet market needs. I will request every society to develop a plan to support OA, and support it now. I will ask the committee to propose a plan to incentivize societies and councils to ensure they receive revenues that reflect their contributions.
Bottom line – Get out there as fast as possible. Urgency can be the antidote to complacency. We have a choice to lead from the front and figure out how to benefit from it.
Liu. Open Access (OA) is a publication model that poses both a revenue threat and an opportunity for IEEE, and we seem to fear its threat. I view it as an operational opportunity and a mission advantage for IEEE. Revenue obtained from authors through OA publishing will likely be less than currently earned through institutional subscriptions, however, that will drive our costs of publishing lower, improving our operational efficiency. Importantly, OA makes more research results available freely to a larger audience, helping IEEE fulfill its mission of Advancing Technology for Humanity greater than ever before.
Not all authors will be able to afford Open Access Article Processing Charges, hence some continuation of the free-to-publish, pay-to-read model may survive. Since it is difficult to predict that balance, our best approach is to serve both OA and traditional audiences and see where that takes us. IEEE is building a portfolio of OA publications. When I was Vice President-TAB last year, we fast tracked the creation of new S/C OA journals. They allow IEEE to compete fairly in the new landscape of OA.
Transparency of all these efforts has been provided through various TAB forums. Most have taken place as in-person meetings during IEEE Meeting Series, and not easily available to all. Our experience with virtual Meeting Series events in June 2020 has shown we can reach a broader volunteer audience. I propose that similar virtual meetings continue even when physical meetings can resume, to keep all interested volunteers informed and their inputs heard.
Question 4. What are your plans for greater engagement, transparency, and inclusion of Society volunteers with IEEE? What are your plans for increasing diversity in volunteer leadership?
Rahman. I have always believed and still do – in order for IEEE to be successful and have an impact in the technical community – IEEE needs to be a bottom-up organization. Local sections and society chapters all over the world provide this structure. Volunteers working at these levels are our “foot soldiers”. They demonstrate the value of IEEE to their local technical community. I have seen this first-hand myself; I was the chair of the IEEE Virginia Mountain Section in 1985, and was a PES chapter chair prior to that. In order to have a deeper engagement with technologists at the grassroots level, I have set up the highly effective IEEE Power & Energy Society Chapters’ Councils in China, India, Africa and Latin America, which engage members for organizing local events and reach out to local industry. I have encouraged these councils to have gender diversity. I have seen this happen already in India and China. Hopefully this diversity awareness will take hold in Africa and Latin America as well. These chapters’ councils do have budgets from PES to pay for meeting expenses, travel costs within their countries/regions, etc. These councils get visibility at very high levels within the members’ countries and regions and organize national events. As we empower our volunteers at the national and regional levels all over the world, some of them get motivated to engage at higher levels within their societies and broadly at the IEEE level committees and boards. I will mirror similar developments throughout IEEE.
Ramesh. My IEEE experiences of almost four decades have taught me some timeless values: To be Inclusive, Collaborative, Accountable, Resilient, and Ethical. Simply put, “I CARE”. I see these as intrinsic to our envisioned future. Collaboration begins with trust. We are a team – volunteer led and staff supported, with an unwavering focus on our mission, and united in our commitment to serve our members. We build trust by being open, transparent, authentic, and accountable.
IEEE and its 46 Technical Societies/Councils serve a diverse global membership including students, educators, and industry practitioners. Our Women in Engineering (WIE) affinity group has almost 19,000 members. The Young Professionals (YP) affinity group has over 100,000 members. YP representatives serve on 39 of the 46 Societies/Councils. Overall, we have a strong foundation to nurture the leadership of the future.
I will work with societies to mentor future leaders (through an academy) and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is our collective responsibility to make IEEE more accessible, to lower barriers, and mentor, support, and proactively engage diverse and brilliant minds. As a first step, I would request all societies to have a diversity plan. It is important for societies to measure where they are today, assess near term opportunities to change the balance, and the support they need. I will be supportive of genuine ideas that may be “local” at the chapter level, or specific to a society. IEEE is a transformative organization that positively affects our members and their communities. It is time for action.
Liu. Diversity is a strength and we must excel with such an advantage. We have been very successful in offering products and services for our members in academia, but we can do better to engage industry members. My plan is to offer more continuing training and learning on practical content relevant to their work to advance their career, creating more tangible value and benefit to industry members. If we can offer more to industry, we can attract more industry volunteers, who can help us create more value for industry, in a virtuous cycle.
In geographic regions, we should develop global strategies to offset political walls against equal participation and strive for fair participation and leadership from diverse groups, especially women and others who are under-represented. We must make sure at every level of our organization that we have proper representation from our constituents. It cannot be just a token at the top.
Young professionals are our future. We should build IEEE to be their “Home Base” to help them with career growth, job opportunities, mentoring, and peer networking, by building a sense of community.
Also, we should provide better personalization of services to accommodate different needs of our diverse constituents. IEEE should engage broadly and communicate more effectively with our members/users about our value proposition, services, and opportunities. I have led the development of the IEEE app to devise mobile strategy and infrastructure to engage members and other users with a simple click, to offer persistent availability and value.