June 2019 OES Beacon

Life as Past President

René Garello, OES Junior Past President

I am often asked the question of “what is it to be ‘past president?” To the opposite of politicians, the past president has a role to play in the structure of the IEEE Society (Oceanic Engineering, in this case) as indicated in the Constitution. The OES is a bit peculiar as we not only have an immediate past president (junior), but as well the former one (senior). Both are ExCom members, implying that their experience and opinion are still valuable (I hope) and important in all discussions.

The role of JPP (Junior Past President) and SPP (Senior Past President) is different. JPP is in charge of some shaping aspects of the Society, such as the elections (Administrative Committee, Executive Committee) or the Awards (Distinguished Service, Distinguished Technical Achievement, Institution/­Company, Presidential, Emeritus).

This is, of course, much less time consuming than being President, meaning that I can devote more to research activities related (or not) to the Society, provided that I’m still active (that is, not retired). And as an active member I can propose to organize and possibly run OES seminars and workshops. Being Past President still offers some level of recognition, allowing me to be present as the OES (or IEEE) representative in diverse entities (provided that these activities are recognized and within the scope of the society). For instance, I’m a member of the Executive Committee of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO, www.earthobservations.org). And having been President is also an asset when applying for some IEEE Committees. There are plenty of them dealing with all aspects of the IEEE, and to name a few—publications, conferences, finances, standards, society reviews, member elevation (senior, fellow), etc., not mentioning several ad hoc committees.

For the last two years I have been participating on the TAB Strategic Planning Committee, which is quite instructive. This leads to questions such as “Are the TA (Technical Activities) mission and vision aligned with the IEEE mission and vision?” This has a direct impact on the Societies as it encompasses the complete publication process, for instance. And just to name a few subjects of discussions concerning the Technical Activities, let me list some of the recent ones:

  • IEEE is chartered for the public good as an organization, aka “for the good of humanity,” but not as a humanitarian group?
    ◦ Who are we supporting? Members, engineers, the public—all the above?
    ◦ The TA mission statement needs to be broader—we are more than building communities
    ◦ What does IEEE mean to our members? What is the impact of including “for the benefit of humanity”
  • Could TAB partner with other non-IEEE organizations to achieve what we want to stay competitive and should that be part of our vision?
  • There is not an individual member connection to TAB or TA—there is a connection to their personal community(ies)—S/C/TC. And the way TAB governs itself is designed to protect ourselves from short-term disruption and for long-term management:
    ◦ We may need to look at the entire way in which the Societies and TAB organize to move away from slow change,
    ◦ New technologies will not be new foundational Societies—they will be horizontal, not vertical, or application focus,
    ◦ We need to be more than just a federation of vertical Societies—we are a matrix of vertical and horizontal.

Clearly, a lot of work is in front of us (“on the table”, as we say in French)!Several ad hoc subcommittees are working on all these topics and more (and beyond as well). We will deliver statements during the year and I’ll present some of the resulting documents in a future issue of the BEACON.

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