From IEEE Communications Magazine February 2018
Khaled B. Letaief
Conferences represent one of the key pillars of the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc). They also play a very important role in achieving ComSoc’s goals and serving a wider community, by showcasing the latest technologies at our events and providing ample networking opportunities for ComSoc’s members and others.
The President’s Page this month is shared with Stefano Bregni, ComSoc’s Vice President for Conferences for 2018-19, who is with Politecnico di Milano, Italy. He graduated in Electronics Engineering in 1990. After nine years in industry, he joined Politecnico di Milano in 1999. He has contributed to ETSI/ITU-T standards. He is an author of approximately 100 papers and of a recognized book on network synchronization (Wiley, 2002).
He was an IEEE ComSoc Distinguished Lecturer for seven years (2003–2009). As a volunteer in the IEEE Communications Society, before being elected Vice-President for Conferences (2018-19) he served as: Vice-President for Member and Global Activities (2016– 2017); Vice-President for Member Relations (2014–2015); Member at Large on the Board of Governors (two terms: 2010-12 and 2013); Director of Education (2008–2011); Transmission, Access and Optical Systems TC Chair (2008-09, Secretary and Vice Chair 2002-07); and Member at Large on the GLOBECOM/ ICC Technical Content (GITC) Committee (2006-09). He has been Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE ComSoc Global Communications Newsletter since 2007.
He has many years of experience in technical program management and organization of ComSoc conferences. Among his many appointments over the last 20 years, he was ICC 2016 Technical Program Co-Chair, GLOBECOM 2012 and GLOBECOM 2009 Technical Program Vice-Chair, LATINCOM 2011 Technical Program Co-Chair, and Symposium Co-Chair for nine other ICC/GLOBECOM Conferences. He is on the IEEE LATINCOM Steering Committee. In 2014, he received the ComSoc Hal Sobol Award for Exemplary Service to Meetings & Conferences.
The Conferences Council: Scope and Organization
According to the Bylaws of the IEEE Communications Society, the Conferences Council (CON-C) is responsible for the needs of the Society and Society Members related to technical conferences, workshops, and professional meetings.
Chaired by the Vice-President for Conferences, it includes as voting members: the two Directors of the Conference Operations Board and Conference Development Board, the two Chairs of the GLOBECOM/ICC Management & Strategy (GIMS) Standing Committee and of the GLOBECOM/ICC Technical Content (GITC) Standing Committee, at least five Membersat- Large, a representative from the Technical and Educational Activities Council (TEA-C), and the ComSoc Treasurer.
In this 2018-19 term, the members of the Conferences Council are listed on the following page.
- More in detail, the objectives of the Conferences Council are: Manage the ComSoc Portfolio of Conferences (that is, those conferences that are financially sponsored or financially co-sponsored by ComSoc) covering their strategic planning, technical scope, and growth.
- Manage the process of granting (or not) ComSoc Technical Co-Sponsorship (TCS) to those non-ComSoc conferences and workshops for which organizers submit a TCS application.
- Develop, implement and maintain policies regarding the financial, publications, and operational aspects of ComSoc’s portfolio conferences.
- Oversee the strategy, planning, technical content and organization of ComSoc’s flagship conferences (IEEE ICC and IEEE GLOBECOM).
Such objectives are pursued by the two Conference Boards and Standing Committees, which report to the Conferences Council, as follows.
The Conferences Development Board is responsible for the strategic planning, technical scope, and growth of all ComSoc financially- sponsored conferences (defined as portfolio conferences).
The Conferences Operations Board is responsible for the oversight and management of the operational, publications, and financial aspects of all ComSoc conferences.
The GIMS (GLOBECOM/ICC Management and Strategy) Standing Committee is responsible for the continuity, successful conduct, strategic evolution, and policy recommendations of the IEEE GLOBECOM and IEEE ICC conference series.
The GITC (GLOBECOM/ICC Technical Content) Standing Committee is responsible for the strategic vision and management of the technical content of the IEEE GLOBECOM and IEEE ICC conference series.
Portfolio of ComSoc Conferences and Workshops
Since 2011, IEEE ComSoc has adopted a Management Strategy for its financially sponsored technical conferences and workshops, based on the definition of a Portfolio of technical events. Such Management Strategy was defined by the Conference officers in charge at that time (2010-2011), namely Khaled B. Letaief (Vice-President for Conferences), Merrily Hartmann (Director for Conference Operations), and Heinrich Stüttgen (Director for Conference Development), greatly supported in that effort by Bruce Worthman (ComSoc Staff Director of Conferences).
In that Management Strategy, ComSoc Portfolio Conferences (or more broadly speaking, technical events), that is, those financially sponsored fully or in part by ComSoc, have been classified in various categories. Among them, the most important categories are the following four.
Flagship Conferences, with large international attendance (e.g., at least 1000 or even several thousands people) and extensive coverage of the ComSoc technical scope and involvement of nearly all ComSoc Technical Committees (TCs), which imply a significant project management effort and have ComSoc Governance meetings co-located. Current ComSoc Flagship Conferences are IEEE GLOBECOM, IEEE ICC, MILCOM and OFC.
Core Conferences, with smaller yet significant international attendance (e.g., a few hundreds) and narrower scope centered on a specific subset of the ComSoc technical areas. Current ComSoc Core Conferences are IEEE CCNC, IEEE CNS, IEEE DySPAN, IEEE HEALTHCOM, IEEE INFOCOM, IEEE SmartGridComm, IEEE WCNC, IEEE/IFIP NOMS and IFIP/IEEE IM.
Small Conferences and Workshops, often driven by a single TC, normally with less than 100 attendees and focused on a specific narrow technical scope. "Small" does not mean less significant in the conference technical area! Such ComSoc conferences and workshops have quite a good reputation in their respective field and meet all ComSoc quality requirements. For example, among them we might mention IEEE CAMAD, IEEE HPSR, IEEE ISPLC, IEEE LANMAN, IEEE SECON, etc.
Regional Conferences, which always occur in a specific Com- Soc Region, drawing involvement of the local IEEE Sections, ComSoc Chapters, and Sister Societies. Their main objective is favoring participation of members from all regions, striving to reach out to all countries and paying extra attention to disadvantaged areas, and ultimately membership development. The group of ComSoc Regional Conferences currently includes IEEE LATINCOM in Latin America, IEEE BLACKSEACOM in the countries surrounding the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, IEEE/CIC ICCC throughout the greater China region, and IEEE ANTS in India.
The full list of ComSoc Porfolio Conferences and Workshops is posted on the ComSoc web site (https://www.comsoc.org/conferences/portfolio-events).
ComSoc Technical Co-Sponsorship
Technical Co-Sponsorship (TCS) by ComSoc is available to those technical events in which ComSoc is not financially involved. However, TCS is only available to conferences that are financially sponsored by non-profit entities and whose scope is within the ComSoc field of interest.
Granting ComSoc TCS is an indication of the technical quality of a conference, as overseen by ComSoc. It is considered a mark of quality by ComSoc members, because it ensures that such conferences have met our minimum expectations for peer-reviewed events/meetings.
Stringent requirements about the conference technical management are therefore strictly required in order to grant TCS. Among them, the conference must be endorsed by at least one ComSoc Technical Committee (TC), which nominates at least three members to have a direct and substantial involvement in the organization and development of the technical program. Moreover, the paper acceptance ratio should be not higher than 50 percent of the total number of submissions. TCS qualifies the Conference Proceedings to be considered for inclusion into IEEE Xplore®, but does not guarantee it.
A detailed specification of the process for reviewing applications and granting or denying TCS was developed by ComSoc Conference Directors, other volunteers, and staff in 2012, in particular by Joe Touch (2012-2013) and Tarek El-Bawab (2014- 2015).
The TCS process specification is included in the ComSoc Policies and Procedures and posted on the ComSoc web site (https://www.comsoc.org/conferences/Event-Sponsorship).
Regional Conferences: Key to Pursue ComSoc Globalization
One of my priorities, as ComSoc Vice-President for Conferences, is to favor participation of members from all regions, striving to reach out to all countries and paying extra attention to disadvantaged areas. ComSoc Regional Conferences are instrumental in this strategy. They may be the only opportunity for members in disadvantaged areas to attend first-rate international events, saving the cost of long overseas travel.
Certainly, the key is to ensure that ComSoc Regional Conferences meet the same quality requirements of global Portfolio Conferences. The Conference Council will be well focused on this issue and on ensuring, for example, that the Technical Program Committees of Regional Conferences include qualified members from all over the world and covering all technical areas of ComSoc (in particular, nominated by nearly all Technical Committees).
Among ComSoc's Portfolio Regional Conferences, it is worth mentioning in particular the case of the IEEE Latin-American Conference on Communications (IEEE LATINCOM), which in 10 years has consolidated as the reference conference on communications in Latin America. With its acceptance ratio regularly below 50 percent, the same review process specified by GITC for the flagship conferences ICC and GLOBECOM, and an international TPC nominated by nearly all ComSoc TCs, IEEE LATINCOM exceeds the strict quality requirements set for the ComSoc TCS. Recently, a formal process for bidding and site selection has also been established by its Steering Committee.
The 9th edition of IEEE LATINCOM was held successfully in Ciudad de Guatemala in November 2017, featuring a high-quality technical program and world-class keynote speakers, namely Moe Win (MIT, USA), Luiz A. Da Silva (Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland), Pramode Verma (University of Oklahoma, USA) and Hikmet Sari (Sequans Communications, France, and NUPT, China).
More recently, IEEE BLACKSEACOM (IEEE International Black-Sea Conference on Communications and Networking) has been growing as a ComSoc Regional Conference, held annually in countries surrounding the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. The 5th edition was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2017. The next edition is planned in Batumi, Georgia in June 2018.
IEEE ANTS (IEEE International Conference on Advanced Networks and Telecommunications Systems) is the only conference in India, which is financially sponsored by IEEE Communications Society. Its 11th edition was held in December 2017 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.
Finally, IEEE/CIC ICCC (IEEE/CIC International Conference on Communications in China) is held annually throughout the greater China region, under the vision of ComSoc globalization by reaching out to the fast growing region of Greater China. Its sixth edition was held in October, 2017 in Qingdao, China. This conference has been very successful so far and is promising to grow further.
GIMS and GITC Standing Committees: Steering the ComSoc Flagship Conferences ICC and GLOBECOM
About 12 years ago, after years of discussion, what at that time was named the IEEE GLOBECOM-ICC Committee (GICC) was completely restructured into two specialized Steering Committees, namely, the IEEE GLOBECOM/ICC Technical Content (GITC) Committee and IEEE GLOBECOM/ICC Management and Strategy (GIMS) Committee, addressing the technical and management aspects of ComSoc flagship conferences, respectively. The first two Chairs of the new GITC and GIMS Committees were Heiner Stüttgen and Mike Kincaid, respectively.
The GIMS Committee is responsible for managing the continuity, successful conduct, strategic evolution, and policy recommendations of the IEEE GLOBECOM and IEEE ICC conference series. In other words, the GIMS Committee provides strategic guidance and management oversight for ComSoc’s flagship conferences ICC and GLOBECOM. More in detail, and among its many duties, the GIMS Committee is responsible for:
- Selecting the location, venue and dates for each ICC/GLOBECOM conference, and evaluating invitational bids to host a conference (usually four years before the date of the conference).
- Appointing or approving the appointment of the General Chair and Executive Chair/Vice Chair for each ICC/GLOBECOM conference.
- Approving the ICC/GLOBECOM locations and venues, and, in consultation with the ComSoc Staff Project Manager, the facilities proposed for the conference (i.e., hotels, convention center, etc.).
- Approving the financial plans for each conference and providing advice on the preparation of their budgets; The GITC Committee, on the other hand, is responsible for providing strategic vision and overseeing the management of the technical content of the IEEE GLOBECOM and IEEE ICC conference series. In other words, the GITC Committee provides oversight and guidance to the ICC/GLOBECOM Technical Program Committees, in order to ensure that the conference programs meet the high quality requirements expected by the ComSoc exigent members. More in detail, and among its many duties, the GITC Committee is responsible for:
- Appointing or approving the appointment of a Technical Program Chair and Technical Program Vice-Chairs for each ICC/ GLOBECOM conference.
- Approving the technical program of each ICC/GLOBECOM conference, upon the recommendation of the respective Technical Program Chair.
- Providing general consultation and appropriate guidance to the Technical Program Chair and Technical Committees for each ICC/GLOBECOM conference.
- Providing strategic directions for the evolution of the technical content of ICC/GLOBECOM.
- Regulating the conference technical policies (for example, the peer-review process, which is strictly specified by GITC with a standard review procedure and form that has been the same for all ICC/GLOBECOM conferences over the last 10 years).
Our Strategies and Goals for 2018-2019
First of all, we should never forget that the two most important pillars on which IEEE ComSoc bases its structure of revenues are Conferences and Publications. Their technical quality and reputation are ComSoc's best asset. Should they be compromised, for whatever reason, we would see our tree start to dry from its roots.
Having served as Technical Program Chair or Vice-Chair for many chief ComSoc conferences, I have well understood that the most important value that attendees seek in a conference program is technical excellence, beginning with the quality of submissions (the work of authors), to the fairness and rigor of the review process (the work of the TPC), to the broadness and timeliness of the subjects addressed, whose scope must be not limited to academia but also embrace practitioners and engineers working in industry.
In my experience of technical management and practical organization of ComSoc conferences, I have always been focused on doing my very best to improve their technical quality and the overall experience of attendees. This will also be our priority in this 2018-19 term.
More than 10 years ago, as a GITC member under the coordination of the Chair Heiner Stüttgen, I led the group that defined the new standard process for ICC/GLOBECOM paper peer review, which is still in force. Such a process, posted on the ComSoc web site for everyone's information, ensures that the peer review of submitted papers is fair and rigorous, according to the best practices of the best international technical conferences. Since then, GITC has continued to do significant good work to continuously improve the policies and procedures for the technical management of ICC/ GLOBECOM.
The best practices of our flagship and best core conferences (e.g., INFOCOM) represent good models for all others. Therefore, we will strive to encourage more and more ComSoc conferences to review and possibly improve their policies and procedures related to the technical program, looking at such best paragons.
Besides quality and technical excellence, I believe that attendees also seek a rewarding social experience when participating in a conference personally, having the opportunity to meet top international experts in their areas of activity, colleagues and friends who share the same professional interests, and of course possibly in a nice location with good services.
Moreover, it would be desirable that attending events in person would be possible also for those who have limited funds, in particular students from countries and institutions that cannot provide strong financial support. Therefore, my philosophy suggests that, when selecting locations for flagship conferences, among positive factors such as local infrastructures, organization capabilities and tourism attractiveness, also the availability of affordable accommodation and travel options should be considered. Under this perspective, I would like to point out that years ago I led the work to bring ICC 2016 to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a magnificent location yet in one of the most affordable countries in Conference history.
In conclusion, our strategies and goals in 2018-19 can be summarized as follows:
- Guarantee the quality and technical excellence of ComSoc Conferences, improving procedures for organizers, authors and attendees, and ensuring fair paper review in all of them.
- Aim at lowering expenses for attending flagship conferences, avoiding as much as possible further increases of registration fees and favoring affordable locations in all regions.
- Foster Regional Conferences, in order to favor participation from all regions and to give more opportunities to members in disadvantaged areas to attend first-level international events, saving the cost of travelling overseas.
- Ensure that programs are balanced between the needs of Academia and Industry.
- Support and involve participation of students, in particular along the recommendations of the Strategic Planning Committee.