Venugopalan Pallayil, Vice President for Technical Activities, IEEE OES
As my term as VPTA ends on 31 December 2022, it is appropriate that I provide a summary of the OES activities under my care during this period and reflect on how we can, as a society, do better in the future towards achieving our goals and mission. The activities that VPTA currently leads include DL programme, Chapter activities and Technology Committee activities. VPTA is assisted by the TC Coordinator and Chapter Coordinator for the associated activities. TCs are expected to assist VPTA in identifying and recommending DLs under the DL programme.
Distinguished Lecturer Programme (DLP)
Distinguished Lecturers are experts in their fields of study and the purpose of the DL Programme is knowledge dissemination among the OES community through lectures given by the DLs. DLs have been organized in the past through in-person lectures at the request of chapters or OES members. Often, this is clubbed with the travel by the Distinguished Lecturers to a conference or some technical event and delivered to a select group. However, last two years this has not been possible as most of the technical activities have been through virtual platforms owing to the restrictions imposed by the Pandemic. Some DLs utilized this opportunity to reach out to a larger OES community by giving virtual talks.
Currently, OES has 13 Distinguished Lecturers who are experts from various fields of oceanic engineering including underwater acoustics. A record five appointments were made in the year 2021, but only two DLs expressed interest to join the programme in 2022. Despite the large number of DLs, the DL activities were limited to a select few in the last two years. Both virtual and hybrid DLs delivered were well attended, and all the talks were recorded and made available on the OES YouTube Channel. To make this programme more attractive and relevant to OES members, it is recommended that DLs reach out to the OES community by announcing the titles of their talk and their availability on the OES website rather than having to wait for an interest from OES members/chapters. DLs are more aware of emerging and cutting-edge research topics in their own fields of study and hence in a better position to understand the need to disseminate such knowledge among the OES community. Such an approach would make the programme more meaningful and generate sufficient interest among the members. Chapter coordinator can also help to facilitate DL programme by announcing them to the chapter chairs. DLs are encouraged to continue delivering virtual talks, whenever an in-person talk is not feasible. There are many new student branch chapters (SBC) who might also be interested in organizing DLs. This is an area less explored. With travel possibilities opening up, there may be more opportunities for engagement between the DLs and OES members in future during conferences and symposia. Thanks to all the DLs for continuing to support the DL programme.
There are 23 chapters, 16 joint chapters and 14 SBCs as listed under the IEEE Organisational Unit (OU) Analytics. This is somewhat different from the statistics we have on our OES website. Neither Australia nor Japan is listed under OES Chapters but are figuring out under joint chapters. Japan has 8 to 9 joint chapters under various Sections. I would recommend the Chapter coordinator to work with IEEE to understand how this classification has been arrived at. Is there a way we can merge members of some of the joint chapters in Japan to form a proper OES Chapter? Something to be pursued for our future operations.
Not all chapters have been very active during 2021-22 period as per the activity reports available via IEEE vTool. It is possible that some chapters would have organized activities, but were not reported under the vTools, which is necessary for recognizing a technical event. Chapter coordinators may also want to follow up regularly on this and ensure these are updated so that relevant chapters get both the chapter rebate as well as the chapter funding support from OES. This year chapter funds to the tune of $20K are available for disbursement. As per the current technical activity Policy and Procedures (PnP), proposals for technical events were to be sought from the chapters and funding was then provided to accepted proposals on completion of the event. Due to uncertainties associated with funding availability for the last two years (with no funds available for 2021), it was not possible to follow this approach. Hence, it has been decided that funds currently available could be distributed to chapters who have been proactive during 2022 in the organization of events. An amount of $5K has been provided to Houston Chapter (towards OTC contribution) and $2K to Providence Chapter to the Alvin Milestone event. The balance of $13K will be distributed to chapters based on the technical events they have organized in 2022 and reported both in IEEE vTool and the Beacon Newsletter. This exercise is planned to be completed by 30 Nov 2022.
Chapter Engagement on IEEE OES UN Decade of Ocean Initiative (New Activity)
Proposals were sought from Chapters towards UN Decade of Oceans Initiative funding 2022. The objective was to get the chapters engaged in the theme ‘The science we need for the oceans we want’ and contribute to the UN Decade 2021-30 objectives. The following chapters put up their proposals and were funded
Singapore Chapter ($2k) – UN Decade of Oceans discussion panel during AUV 2022 symposium
Canadian Atlantic Section Chapter ($2k) – Panel discussion to increase visibility of ocean decade in Halifax and CCECE professionals (workshop)
ETITC, Columbia ($1.95k) – Challenges in implementing Ocean Decade solutions for Columbia
IIT Delhi SBC ($2k) – Student hackathon on ocean sustainability (marine pollution as specific topic)
Funding is also expected for 2023 and proposals for the same will be called by late 2022 or early 2023.
Two virtual meetings (to cover the time zones) with the chapter chairs were organized by the chapter coordinator, Gerardo Acosta, and OES volunteer Amy Deeb. During these meetings the Chapters were briefed about various activities they can be part of and different funding opportunities. Both meetings were well attended. There needs to be more engagement with the Chapters. Chapters come under Sections for operational purpose. It has been noticed that there is a disconnect between some of the chapters and their sections. For example, some chapters are unaware of chapter rebates and incentives that are being received into the Sections for the use of their activities. Similarly, sections have a responsibility to monitor and manage the chapter activities and support them. Sections are also responsible for making sure that the annual election for the administrative office of the chapters are held and the same is reported to IEEE. I would like to recommend that the chapter coordinator work with the Section and Chapter Chairs to bridge this gap. If need be, the VPTA/VPPA or the President of the Society could step in to facilitate this interaction. It is recommended that at-least two to three meetings are held annually to engage the chapters on OES technical activities and promote interaction of chapter members at an international level.
There are 11 TCs at present under OES. One of the TCs, Underwater Cables and Connectors, has been inactive for few years and hence was decided to be dissolved by VPTA in discussion with TC Coordinator and the relevant TC Chair. But this is yet to be implemented. Two virtual meetings of the TCs were held to discuss activities for the year 2022. It has been observed that all the TCs have seen a significant increase in the number of sign-ups by the society members. However, these members are required to be engaged with TC activities such as in the organization of workshops and symposia more regularly if we would like to build a stronger technical community. Their services could be used in the review of conference manuscripts, organizing special sessions at OCEANS, etc. Many TCs have identified co-chairs, who could also succeed as future chairs. TCs play an important role in identifying DLs and I would like to request an active participation of all TCs in this regard. This is an area of activity that needs improvement.
Ocean Science Meeting (OSM22) (New Activity)
This year some TCs were active in organizing virtual technical sessions and plenaries at the Ocean Science Meeting (OSM) and all the sessions were well organized and attended. The theme for the technical sessions was in support of the UN Decade of Oceans where the science meets engineering. More TCs could explore this avenue to engage with ocean scientists who may have an interest in oceanic engineering and eventually become members of OES. OSM2024 may be the next opportunity to connect with OSM community in-person.
A call for new TC Chairs has been sent out to the OES community as the term of the current TC chairs expire by the end of this year. The responses received so far have been lukewarm. This is concerning as the TCs are considered as the driving force for the technology areas for our society and they form the science and engineering foundation of OES. The policy allows the current TC Chairs to be considered for another term if they had expressed interest in continuing. Alternatively, they could propose names of their co-chairs or other suitable candidates from their TC members list. Self-nomination of OES members is also encouraged if they meet the requirements for the TC chair. A list of new TC chairs will be finalized by the end of this year and after approval from AdCom will be appointed for a period of 3 years starting from 01 Jan 2023.
Before I close this report, a word about volunteering. Why should we volunteer? First and foremost, it is a unique opportunity for engagement with your OES community at a personal level. It is an opportunity to serve them and support the society activities. You agreed to volunteer because you have identified availability of some of your time for the said purpose and one would expect you to honour that decision. To me, taking up a volunteer position is a commitment as well and not something ‘I will do if I have the time.’ We all have a job, which pays us, and a family that needs your valuable time. This could at times compete with your volunteering time. But if this happens regularly, then there is an issue with your time management, which you need to fix. You do not need to be a member of AdCom or ExCom to serve your OES community. There is a whole suite of other avenues where OES needs help from volunteers. You can serve on the Chapter committee, OES Ocean decade initiative activities, YP Boost, WIE, many workshops and symposia which we organise, Beacon and Earthzine publications, etc. ExCom and AdCom are leadership positions, and one should expect to shoulder more responsibilities than merely attending the meetings. You may want to reflect on how you have been valuable to OES as an AdCom member and what more you can do to serve the OES community.
Finally, I would like to welcome Dr. Shyam Madhusudhana, the new VPTA for the period 2023-24. As the newly elected VP for OCEANS, I shall now turn my attention towards helping organising OCEANS in more useful ways. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the OES members for supporting me during my time as VPTA and look forward to even more support in my new role.