Skip to main content
Publications lead hero image abstract pattern


The ComSoc Retreat*

Vincent Chan

Vincent W.S. Chan

Past President


It is a tradition for ComSoc to conduct a retreat every January to discuss and create execution plans for items that are of vital importance to the society. This year we focus on the three main strategic thrusts of the Society and Technical Committee (TC) reform. We also invited the President of the Photonics Society to tell us about their Society’s effort on diversity and the President-Elect of the Signal Processing Society to tell us about their TC structure, which is quite different from that of ComSoc.

The three main ComSoc strategic thrusts are:

  1. Reshape the technical balance of and expand the portfolio of network activities from the Physical Layer to the Application Layer involving computing and services/applications.
  2. Re-engage the industry and recruit new members; work toward academic–industry balance in ALL portfolios.
  3. Promote diversity in gender, geography and discipline in leadership positions.

TC (including Industry Committees, ICs and Emerging Technology Committees ETCs) reform will be required to carry out these thrusts efficiently and effectively, and thus it was included as a topic for exploration. The following is a brief summary of each one of these topics generated by the breakout groups. In the next few months we will further expand and explore each topic.

Holistic multi-layer networking including the touching of computing, services and applications

The following questions were posed for the network breakout group:

  1. System design and architecture of future networks will need multi-layer and application coordination, sometimes called orchestration. How should we explore this direction in a holistic fashion?
  2. The ComSoc portfolio has some activities but not enough in this direction. How can we become an important player in this space?
  3. Other societies also have a natural role: CS, SPS, MTT, Antenna and Propagation, PES, etc. How can we work with them constructively?
  4. The role of industry is very important. How can we engage them in our plans and activities?
  5. What is the best Society structure to carry out these new initiatives?

Summary of findings

We observe networks are evolving in multiple directions driven by socioeconomic opportunities and enabled by new technologies:

  1. New applications pose a broad range of requirements in terms of latency, bandwidth, fidelity, connectivity-tolerance, mobility, and security. Network architectures must therefore evolve to meet the variable requirements of new services and applications.
  2. New services and requirements demand that services be deployable with agility, flexibility, reliability, security, and low cost. This drives networks toward cloud-native architectures that use microservice approaches to compose services and applications and to orchestrate the network resources to support these. Cloud computing methods provide the means for monitoring service levels and resource usage and to scale up or down as required.
  3. The geographic extent of application delivery is extending to encompass core, regional, edge, and gateway computing and networking to meet the resource and QoS requirements efficiently.
  4. An expanding array of devices are involved in application and service delivery starting with smart phones, wearables, and AR/VR, to sensors and actuators in connected vehicles and smart transportation, to critical infrastructures such as power grids, water systems, and the information infrastructure itself.
  5. The complexity of network architectures can no longer be operated under manual control, and sophisticated systems for monitoring system state and applying machine intelligence are being developed to manage and control networks to ensure correct operation while meeting multifarious and variable demands.

In the next months we will work with the TCs and emerging technology committees to implement some of these ideas, and we will also look into new opportunities to initiate new activities.

Re-engagement of the industry

The following questions were posed for the industry breakout group:

  1. Industry members are becoming less and less active within ComSoc. How can we re-engage them? Is our portfolio too abstract and not relevant to industry?
  2. It is important to get their participation on many new initiatives. How do we have enough attractive activities in our conferences to attract industry people to participate?
  3. What value added can we create to attract industry members?
  4. Should we revamp our nominations and appointments process to encourage industry participation?

Summary of findings

Our objectives are to build relationships with key industry contacts and to help ensure that industry sees ComSoc as an important resource. The plan calls for a startup phase, conducting a survey, developing an executable plan for the second half of 2021, and reporting the outcome to the December 2021 BoG. The following goals are identified:

  1. Industry Outreach: build relationships with key industry contacts.
  2. Industry Value: ensure that industry sees ComSoc as an important resource.

The plan calls for setting up and starting a subcommittee for each goal, conducting surveys, and developing an executable plan for the second half of 2021 and reporting the outcome to the BoG. The initial set of recommendations are:

Outreach and Influence

  1. Increase the visibility of ComSoc in industry by getting connected with senior management teams in industry.
  2. Offer forums for industry to share their best practices with startups and researchers.
  3. Offer opportunities for connecting with multiple societies and others in industry.

Collaborate and Demonstrate Value

  1. Provide opportunities for connecting industry and academia at conferences, standards activities and through publications.
  2. Provide opportunities for companies to demonstrate visionary leadership outreach to students and young professionals.
  3. Leverage local chapters to connect with industry.
  4. Offer opportunities for industry to connect with potential collaborators (e.g., EU funded projects, commercialization of research).

We will work within our TCs and Industry Committees to position ComSoc as the industry partner in innovation.

Restructuring of ComSoc Technical Communities

The following questions were posed for the TC reform breakout group:

  1. There is a large amount of duplication and only very little coordination, if at all, among TCs, ICs and ETCs. How can we work together to serve our members better?
  2. What should the best Society structure look like?
  3. How can we increase the participation of industry, especially on network architecture?
  4. What is the best mechanism to evolve and start new areas? What are the roles of TC, IC, ETC, TEI (Technology Evolution Initiative)?
  5. How do we work with other entities?

Summary of findings

Technical activities and educational (TEA) services are a key pillar of serving our community and local chapters. With global rapidly changing technical fields, it is important to undertake a restructuring to meet diversified needs and to provide maximal benefits to our members by further enhancing ComSoc’s leading role in telecommunications. This will result in a strengthening of the technical activities, professional and education services.

Currently, our volunteers and members are grouped in 28 Technical Communities (TCs), four Industrial Communities (ICs), and seven Emerging Technologies Initiatives (ETIs). The large number of communities do not communicate easily with each other, have a high degree of scope overlap, and are inefficient in attracting and servicing industry members. Additionally, some have dated and ambiguous objectives not tied to objective quality metrics.

An ad hoc committee on the reorganization of ComSoc technical communities was created by the President at the BoG2 in 2020. The committee shall investigate and develop a restructuring plan to ensure that TCs, ICs, and ETIs can operate more effectively and efficiently, enabling ComSoc to sustain and enhance its technical prominence into the future. Sought solutions will facilitate contributions from both industrial and academic members, better synergies with local chapters, and support for multi-disciplinary fields, while ensuring higher visibility within and outside ComSoc. In particular, the objectives are:

  1. To re-organize the technical communities and industrial communities for more harmonious and efficient management and more flexible operation.
  2. To better facilitate joint activities between academic and industrial members, to help produce industry-friendly content, and to encourage industry participation.
  3. To improve synergy with local chapters, and support for multi-disciplinary fields, while ensuring technical excellence and high visibility within and outside ComSoc.
  4. To control the proliferation of TCs and minimize technical area overlapping among the committees by developing a robust framework that can evolve as technology changes.

It is expected that a framework will be created to achieve an efficient coverage of ComSoc’s fields of interest, and a reorganization of TEA Boards. The projected time to execution will be December 2021.


This committee reviews and examines ComSoc’s activities, programs, and policies, as well as explores new opportunities to create a more diverse and inclusive environment. The following questions were posed for the diversity breakout group:

  1. What is the honest assessment of where we are?
  2. Do the ComSoc nominations and appointments processes need to be improved?
  3. Do we have a pipeline issue? And what can we do to remedy that problem?
  4. Do term limits for elected and appointed offices help to create mobility up the ranks?
  5. Can we start new initiatives within ComSoc and joint activities with other organizations to foster our cause? What are the right mechanisms?
  6. If we want to increase the diversity of our membership, what value added can we create to attract new members?

Summary of findings

The group assessed the state of diversity and inclusion within ComSoc. We discussed innovative ideas and potential action items, and sought input from other board members. Diversity-related data collected by the Society and IEEE was reviewed, and a list of additional data needed was developed. Through extensive discussion, the working group determined the need for:

  1. Leadership development, training, and mentor opportunities for our volunteers and membership.
  2. The examination of conference programming and content practices to establish more inclusive and diverse environments.
  3. Proactive outreach to other societies to identify collaborative opportunities.

In addition, the committee plans to review and make recommendations around policies, succession planning, term limits, and fee structures. The group is now formalizing their terms of reference and hopes to form a larger, more comprehensive committee on diversity and inclusion as the first step to address these issues, as is becoming standard in other societies.

Stay tuned for further details of these committee outputs.

*This column summarizes the inputs of the four breakout groups transcribed by Alberto Leon-Garcia, Maite Brandt-Pearce, Fawzi Behmann, and Sherman Shen. Detailed findings will be reported in subsequent columns.