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2013 IEEE Society President's Year End Message

posted Jan 27, 2014, 11:02 AM by IEEE CS STCs


The idea that the Computer Society should be a collection of flexible communities has been in front of the Computer Society leadership for roughly eight years. As we have watched social media’s rise, knowing full well that our own members contributed to its technological underpinnings, we knew that we needed to use this technology to advance our organization. Our members are focused on solving the problems that interest them, and they need communities to help support this work. These communities can be organized around a variety of activities that support and engage our members. In creating these communities, we’ve tried to develop organizational structures that are simple, agile, flexible, and yet effective.

In January of this year, we institutionalized our Special Technical Communities (STC) program (, currently led by Martin Arlitt, to meet this need for flexible organizations that support our members. With roughly 18 communities in operation, the program is on track to grow rapidly in the coming years. After testing this program for almost four years, we identified three fundamental principles for them. First, these groups should be easy to form and easy to terminate when they are no longer active. Second, they should not interfere with existing categories of products and services within the Society—for example, you can form an STC to prepare a Transactions proposal, but once the Transactions is established, the STC becomes an editorial board that reports to the Publications Board.

Finally, as our last principle, we concluded that STCs should have no scope monopolies. This was one of the more difficult decisions, as scope monopolies seem to be a foundational idea of IEEE. However, in this case, it seemed counterproductive that a group of members should be prevented from working on some topic or be forced to join another community just because others were working on a similar idea. A Society like ours is very diverse, and each community within it could have something unique to contribute to the endeavor. This principle has generated a little controversy among groups that feel that an honest competition between two STCs might weaken one or both of them. However, it should be noted that no IEEE conference has a monopoly on any field, and indeed we see some advantages to having different groups working on the same problem.

As we accepted the no-scope monopoly principle, we also recognized that the communities need unique names or identifiers. We want to avoid the kind of confusion that comes with having five different cloud computing conferences with almost the same name. Each STC should have a name that distinguishes it from the others, even though they are working on similar topics.

- David Alan Grier, December 2013