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From IEEE Communications Magazine April 2018

ComSoc's Technical and Educational Activities

Khaled B. Letaief
Khaled B. Letaief
Nelson Fonseca
Nelson Fonseca

As the world's leading organization for communications professionals, it is critical that the Communications Society (ComSoc) shall evolve and continue to be at the heart of communications technology development in the world. A central component within this evolution is our technical activities, which represent the key that links all activities within the Society. Indeed, technical activities not only represent the lifeblood of the Society, they also comprise its core values, and as such they are of utmost importance toward our members’ as well as the Society’s well being. This month, I am pleased to introduce Nelson Fonseca, Vice President–Technical and Educational Activities, who will share with us his plans as well as introduce the various activities under his portfolio.

Nelson received his Ph.D. degree from The University of Southern California in 1994. He is a Full Professor at the Institute of Computing of the University of Campinas, Brazil. He has published 350+ papers and supervised 60+ graduate students. He is a ComSoc Distinguished Lecturer and has lectured at the University of Trento, University of Pisa and University of Basque Country. He has received the IEEE Communications Society Joseph LoCicero Award for Exemplary Service to Publications, the IEEE Communications Society Latin America Region Distinguished Service Award, the Medal of the Chancelor of the University of Pisa, the State University of Campinas Zeferino Vaz Award, and the Elsevier Computer Network Journal Editor of the Year 2001 Award. He has been a Keynote Speaker for several conferences such as IEEE ColCom 2016, IEEE Cloudnet 2015, ITC 2014, IEEE NOMS 2014, and IEEE LATINCOM 2013, among others.

He is a Senior Technical Editor for IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials and a Senior Technical Editor for IEEE Communications Magazine. He was EiC for IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials (2008-2012). He served as EiC of IEEE ComSoc Electronic Newsletter (2004-2007), Associate EiC of IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials (2006), and Editor of the Global Communications Newsletter (1999-2002). He is on the editorial board of Computer Networks, IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials, IEEE Communications Magazine, Peer-to-Peer Networking and Applications, and the Journal of Internet Services and Applications. He also served as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Multimedia.

Nelson is an active ComSoc volunteer. Prior to his current position, he served as VP–Publications (2016-2017), VP–Member Relations (2012-2013), Director of Conference Development (2014-2015), Director of the Latin America Region, and Director of On-line Services (2002). He chaired the Multimedia Communications Technical Committee and the Communications Systems Integration and Modeling Technical Committee. He created the ComSoc Student Competition Program and several conferences, including IEEE LATINCOM, IEEE Latincloud, IEEE NFV_SDN, and the series of Multimedia Communications Symposia at GLOBECOM/ICC. He has been TPC Chair for more than 10 IEEE conferences, including IEEE ICC 2016 and IEEE Globecom 2021.

Over the past century, communications technology has profoundly altered our society and improved the quality of life. ComSoc has promoted advances in communications science and engineering for the past 65 years, being the world's leading organization for communications professionals in academia, industry, and government. ComSoc produces publications, organizes conferences, fosters educational programs, and promotes regional activities. At present, Technical Activities link all other activities within the Society. Indeed, Technical Activities are the pulsing heart of ComSoc and are of utmost importance for its members.

It has always been challenging to foster the evolution of communications, and especially today we need to broaden our concept of communications in order to embrace a new era of massive production and availability of data, as well as the ongoing transition from a hardware-based infrastructure to a softwarized global network. Technical Activities should play a major role in directing ComSoc in this new era by its adoption of a flexible structure capable of responding quickly to the dynamics of change, and even anticipating its occurrence.

To continue its revolutionary role, ComSoc must evolve and maintain its position at the heart of the development of communications technology around the world. For this, three pillars sustain the ComSoc dissemination of knowledge: publications, conferences and education. For the past decade, ComSoc has diversified its educational activities with the introduction of new courses, training programs and a summer school. Moreover, tutorial programs at ComSoc conferences are highly appreciated by conference attendees.

The technical and educational activities within the Society are managed and led by the Vice President for Technical and Educational Activities. These activities are conducted by a team of outstanding volunteers on different Boards and Standing Committees:

  1. Technical Services Board: Director, Tarik Taleb, former Chair of the Wireless Communications Technical Committee.
  2. Educational Services Board: Director, Fabrizio Granelli, former Director of On-line Content and former Chair of the Communications Systems Integration and Modeling Technical Committee.
  3. Emerging Technologies Standing Committee: Chair, Jeffrey G. Andrews, former EiC of Transactions on Wireless Communications.
  4. Distinguished Lecturers Selection Committee: Chair, Shiwen Mao, Vice Chair of the Technical and Educational Council and Chair of the Multimedia Communications Technical Committee.
  5. Fellow Evaluation Standing Committee: Chair, Sergio Benedetto, Past ComSoc President.
  6. Awards Standing Committee: Chair, Chengshan Xiao, former EiC of Transactions on Wireless Communications.
  7. Communications History Committee: Chair, Dave Michelson, Member-at-Large of the ComSoc Board of Governors.

Technical Committees: Technical committees are undoubtedly the cornerstone of ComSoc’s technical activities. These committees consist of a network of professionals with common interests in a specific technical area within the scope of the Society. Areas of interest vary from more traditional ones such as Communications Theory to more recent ones such as Big Data. Specifically, they define and implement the technical directions of the Society and play a major role in publications, conferences, educational activities and the development of standards. All Society members are invited and encouraged to participate in one or more of these Technical Committees, with such participation being the point of entry to several other activities since technical committees appoint volunteers for other activities such as technical program committes of ComSoc conferences and standard development working groups. For the list of ComSoc technical committees and their activities, please visit https://www.comsoc.org/committees/technical-committee

The Emerging Technologies Committee (ETC) is tasked with identifying and nurturing emerging areas of new research and development that will impact on communications technologies in the future. Naturally, this challenging task requires "crowdsourcing" from all corners of ComSoc. The ETC has six appointed members as well as the Chair, and collectively they identify and encourage new technical initiatives. The current standing initiatives cover many key topics of emerging interest for Com- Soc members, including the following:

  1. Backhaul/Fronthaul Networking & Communications.
  2. Internet of Things (IoT).
  3. Nano-Scale & Molecular Networking.
  4. Quantum Communications & Information Technology.
  5. Software Defined Networking & Network Function Virtualization.
  6. Tactile Internet (recently elevated to technical committee).
  7. Smart Grid.

These initiatives are headed by volunteers who are excited about the topics, and achieve impact and visibility for these topics in several ways, such as organizing JSAC special issues, and workshops and symposia tracks at Globecom and ICC, as well as the creation of a web presence with the help of ComSoc. In some cases, these initiatives have grown to the point where they have become full technical committees.

The ETC is actively looking for volunteers to start and lead new initiatives, about topics such as the following:

  1. Vehicular and UAV Networks.
  2. mmWave and Terahertz communications.
  3. Machine learning and Neural Networks at Layers 1 and 2.
  4. Artificial Intelligence for Networks, e.g. "Automated Networks".
  5. Radar and Communication.
  6. Localization and Radio Navigation.
  7. Full-Duplex Communication.
  8. Smart Buildings.
  9. Low-resolution communication.

Please contact Jeff Andrews (jandrews@ece.utexas.edu) if you would like to participate in or head a new initiative in Com- Soc. We need your help to keep ComSoc at the cutting edge of communications and networking research and technology.

Educational Services: Education and training have been established as the Third Pillar of ComSoc, focusing strategic efforts toward delivering a world class training and professional education program, aimed primarily at ComSoc members. The goal has been to provide high quality instruction at a reasonable cost and with easy access for addressing the career needs of professionals at all levels in communications and related fields.

Today, after two successful years developing various actions in education and training, ComSoc can count on a relevant portfolio of services, which can help meet the needs of both young and mature members, industry professionals and academics. Established services include the following:

  • Education and Training Track at ICC and Globecom: This is a service for student and young members of ComSoc run by the Educational Services Board (ESB) successfully for three consecutive years. It provides a specific track to help attendees gain insights into how to build their careers and what to expect for the future, as well as a chance to participate in hands-on activities to empower them in the use of novel technologies. As an example, at IEEE Globecom 2017 the track proposed a panel on “Exploring Exciting Career Paths for Young Engineers & Scientists” and a hands-on session on “SDR Hands-On: FPGA Prototyping with Over-the-Air Signals” by National Instruments.
  • ComSoc Summer School: The ComSoc Summer School aimed at graduate and post-graduate students provides a unique opportunity for student members worldwide to meet and learn from the top experts in the field. It has successfully been run for three years (in Italy in 2015 and 2016, and in the U.S. in 2017), and has now become an integral part of ComSoc’s student services.
  • 5G and Beyond Education Initiatives: One of the strategic actions of the IEEE 5G Initiative is the support for training and education activities on emerging hot topics, including 5G, offered by ComSoc. It offers tutorials, webinars and e-learning modules exploiting the knowledge of top world experts on the topics. Tutorials in 2017 were successfully conducted in Bangalore, India; New Jersey, USA; and Shanghai, China. In March 2018 a 5G Learning Series event will be held in Trento, Italy.
  • IEEE Communications Magazine Feature Topic on Education and Training: This initiative was designed to showcase and share relevant contributions in the area of education dealing with topics of importance in the area, as well as reports on current experiences and lessons learned. The initiative was experimentally instituted in 2014, and is still successful today, and successfully ran until 2018, with a focus on various different aspects of education, from the introduction of hands-on activities to the development of curriculum and standards and certification.
  • ABET Accreditation of Telecommunications Engineering: ComSoc has been supporting ABET by helping them update their accreditation criteria. After more than six years of effort, Tarek El-Bawab, with the help of several people along the way, succeeded on November 1, 2014 in getting the approval of ABET for the new accreditation criteria for “Electrical, Computer, Communications, Telecommunication(s), and Similarly Named Engineering Programs” (see http://www.abet.org/eac-criteria-2015-2016/).
  • IEEE WCET: The IEEE Wireless Communications Engineering Technologies Certification program represents a successful example of exploitation of the critical mass and outstanding expertise of ComSoc members applied to the provisioning of services to companies and enterprises. Remarkably, the program continues to be net positive in revenue, and it will be updated and renovated during 2018.
  • ComSoc Training Courses: The course catalog was ex panded in 2017 beyond wireless training, and now includes the successful launch of two new courses on optical communications: (1) “Visible Light Communications — The High Bandwidth Alternative to WiFi”; (2) “Background Concepts of Optical Communication Systems”. These courses have attracted the second highest number of participants for an online course in 2017. The 2018 Course Schedule will be confirmed by the middle of 2018. It includes a novel course on “Advanced Technical Writing and Presentation for English-as-a-Second-Language Engineers” that will be held in-person at ICC 2018 Regardless of the success of these actions, however, Com- Soc still plans to further consolidate and increase its efforts in the strategic field of education and training. Here is an outline of what is to be expected in the near future.
  • ComSoc Summer School Consolidation: Given the success of this event and the positive feedback received by its approval in previous editions, ESB plans to make the ComSoc Summer School a permanent event in its portfolio. With this in mind, an open call for proposals will be issued every year, in order to allow ComSoc members to organize and host ComSoc Summer Schools.
  • Educational Support for IEEE Initiatives and Development of Novel Training Courses: Following the success of educational activities in support to the IEEE 5G Initiative, ComSoc plans to extend its support to other IEEE-wide initiatives, such as those of SDN and IoT, as well as extending its own catalog of technical courses.
  • IEEE Communications Magazine Feature Topic on Education and Training: This initiative will be consolidated by creating a series in collaboration with the IEEE Communications Magazine Editorial Board, in order to provide continuity and visibility of education and training and to disseminate novel approaches and methodologies to our members.
  • Telecommunications Engineering Study Curriculum: Specific efforts will be devoted to providing guidance and support for the construction and implementation of a successful modern curriculum for Telecommunications Engineering Studies.
  • Certification Efforts: Following the success of the IEEE Wireless Communications Engineering Technologies Certification program, ESB plans to investigate additional topics that might be of interest to industry for offering additional certification program and courses. Moreover, for specific relevant geographical areas, existing material (e.g. IEEE WCET) may be translated and taught in the local language, to facilitate access to this content.

In general, education and training activities constitute an important asset nowadays, and are expected to gain space and visibility among ComSoc services in the near future. We hope the efforts and the topics will enable our Society to provide useful and suitable services, especially for younger members, and hope they will serve as a catalyst for exploiting the know-how of our Technical Committees.

Distinguished Lecturer Program: Another benefit to ComSoc members is the ComSoc Distinguished Lecturer Program, which provides the means for ComSoc chapters (and other organizations) to identify and arrange lectures by renowned authorities on communications and networking-related topics. The current distinguished lecturer team consists of 37 experts and technical leaders, covering a broad spectrum of emerging topics in the field, and serving a two-year term (see: https://www.comsoc.org/about/memberprograms/distinguished-lecturers).

The Distinguished Lecturers Selection Standing Committee is responsible for establishing the selection criteria and for the appointment of lecturers. There will be a call for nominations each fall, and the new distinguished lecturers will be selected by the committee through a rigorous review process for announcement at the TEA-C meeting at IEEE GLOBECOM. The newly formed committee will continue the success of the past committees, and review the distinguished lecturer selection procedure for possible enhancement. Based on the feedback collected, we plan to put more emphasis on the extent and quality of the presentations and outreach activities of the candidates, as well as endorsements from technical committees. Input from ComSoc local chapters will be requested to promote the reappointment of distinguished lecturers. We are open to suggestions and comments from the ComSoc community, especially the TCs and local chapters. Please do not hesitate to contact Shiwen Mao (smao@ieee.org) if you have any suggestions or questions.

The Fellow Evaluation Committee manages the IEEE Fellow program within ComSoc. Fellow recognition is a highly regarded achievement, with the total number of Fellows selected in any one year not exceeding one-tenth of one percent of the total voting IEEE membership.

While the final selection is carried out by the IEEE Fellow Committee, the Organization Units Fellow Committees play a crucial role in evaluating the candidates (around 80 in the case of ComSoc) and ranking them before passing the results to the IEEE Fellow Committee. It is thus fundamental that the ComSoc Fellow Evaluation Committee conducts its operations impartially so that it is fair for all four categories of candidates: Application Engineer/Practitioner, Educator, Research Engineer/Scientist and Technical Leader.

The new Chair of the Fellow Evaluation Committee, Sergio Benedetto (a past President of ComSoc), will work with the Committee on the revision of the criteria and evaluation procedure in an attempt to improve the process and make sure that the candidates recommended to the IEEE Fellow Committee in the highest ranking positions show an extraordinary record of accomplishment.

The ComSoc Awards Committee receives the nominations and processes them to identify the recipients of awards. Com- Soc Awards are meant to honor colleagues who in some way, either via scientific/technical contributions or exemplary service, have made highly significant, widely recognized achievements in the communications community. Owing to their great significance and value, they must be awarded through a fair and transparent process. This is the essential yet difficult task of the Awards Committee. ComSoc awards include Best Paper Awards, Service Awards, and Career Awards. Details about these awards can be seen at https://www.comsoc.org/about/memberprograms/comsoc-awards

Communications History Committee: Communications is, in the final analysis, a community endeavour. However, it has been said that a community does not truly exist until it has an awareness of its history. The Communications History Committee plays a key role in promoting the awareness of the history of our profession by a variety of means. The committee will maintain the outstanding efforts of the previous committee to solicit articles on Communication History for our magazines, organize communications history sessions at our flagship conferences, and commemorate significant anniversaries of the Communications Society. We hope to move beyond personal histories to encourage both a scholarly study of communications history and an appreciation of the role of communications history in policy analysis and formulation.

The ComSoc History committee will work with the IEEE History Center to create a ComSoc presence on the Engineering and Technology History Wiki (ETHW), a joint effort of the United Engineering Foundation and leading engineering societies, including AICE, AIME, ASCE, ASME, IEEE, SPE and SWE, and solicit material on Communications History to submit to the IEEE History Center's first-hand history and oral history programs. Volunteers interested in Communications History should contact Dave Michelson (davem@ece.ubc.ca).

ComSoc is an open volunteer-based society with its success depending on the involvement of its members. We encourage you to participate in the Society's technical and educational activities. You are welcome to get in touch with Nelson Fonseca at nfonseca@ic.unicamp.br if you have any suggestions or if you wish to participate in any of our activities.