March 2023 Beacon

‘Changing’ OCEANS (March 2023)

Venugopalan Pallayil, Vice President for OCEANS (VPO)

Hello OES Colleagues,

Welcome to the new VPO column. After a 2-year stint as Vice-President for Technical Activities (VPTA), I have moved on to the new portfolio as Vice-President for OCEANS (VPO) conferences. This is a two-year appointment for the period 2023-24. I would like to use this column to give you a brief of what is in the air about OCEANS conferences and share my ideas on how we can make it better; technically and financially. I value your ideas as much as mine and so please do send me your suggestions and support so that we can together continue to make our OCEANS great.

As most of you know OCEANS is our flagship conference and is being organized jointly with Marine Technology Society (MTS) with equal partnership. Every year two OCEANS conferences are being held, one in North America (NA) and the other either in Asia or Europe (often referred as Rest of the World or RoW OCEANS conferences). Below is a table showing some of the forthcoming OCEANS conferences with their location and dates. OCEANS in NA generally attracts 1000 to 1400 delegates and 80 to 100 exhibitors. While those held in RoW will have an attendance of 600 to 700 delegates and 40 to 60 exhibitors.  In this new role my primary responsibility in its shortest form will be to ensure a smooth running of the OCEANS conferences in association with other stake holders.

OCEANS Restructuring

As some of you are aware we are in the process of restructuring our OCEANS conference operations. A Joint Conference Committee (JCC) will soon take over the duties of Reconnaissance Committee (RECON), which had been disbanded in 2022, and Joint OCEANS Advisory Board (JOAB), which will soon find its way out. The OCEANS Steering Committee (OSC) has set an ambitious goal of doubling the number of attendees for our OCEANS conferences over a period of 2 to 3 years with an ultimate goal of reaching 3000 to 5000 strong participants. The new conference committee is being setup to achieve this goal. The makeup of the conference committee consists of a conference manager, being hired as a paid position, 5 to 6 members each from the OES and MTS societies. A notable point here is that one of the committee members would be a Young Professional, (YP under OES) or Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOP under MTS), from the respective societies. This approach would build some continuity into the knowledge sharing process on the conference organization to the next generation of leaders. The YP/ECOP representative would also be the voice of future at the OSC. The conference committee would be co-chaired by an Administrative Committee member from OES and Board of Directors member from MTS. The tenure of the Joint Conference Committee would be 2 years with an option to extend for a second term.

Another area that needs attention is an increase in the participation of exhibitors. We have to do this judiciously as there are big trade shows already in the offing. Oceanology International, Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and Ocean Business, etc., are some. The objective of exhibition at OCEANS is largely different from those being hosted by the above-listed trade shows. Exhibitors are at OCEANS usually not to market their products and sign contracts, but to build a business rapport with the scientific community and academics. To let the delegates know what tools and equipment are available to them to pursue their scientific goals. I have heard from some exhibitors that the smaller size of the exhibition at OCEANS, as compared to other trade shows, gets them more attention, especially for those companies who are either growing or start-ups. So, we should keep an eye on not sizing up the exhibition too big. We need to build the RoW OCEANS exhibitor participation at par with the NA conferences.

Strategic Discussions on OCEANS

The recently concluded AdCom in London had a breakout session on ‘OCEANS future strategies.’ I shall share some of those discussion points here so that if you have further input or have other suggestions you can raise them with VPO.

  1. The Technology Committee (TC) Chairs are to be default members of the Technical Program Committee for OCEANS conferences. They take lead in organizing special sessions. These include inviting papers, reviewing them, and organizing the sessions, including chairing the sessions.
  2. The Local Organising Committee (LOC) must build a wider and stronger technical collaboration with other societies within and outside of IEEE and invite them to organize sessions that would help to bridge connections. Some examples are Robotic Automation Society (RAS), Signal Processing Society (SPS), Power Engineering Society (PES), etc.
  3. Widen the scope of OCEANS conferences to include topics like marine biology and ecology, seabed mapping, maritime defence, etc. At present these areas are not well represented at OCEANS.
  4. Work through chapters across the world and also send invitations to universities and research institutes (RIs) for conference participation. University professors and scientists in the various RIs would be of help.
  5. Make general poster sessions a feature of OCEANS technical programme. Possibly, a separate set of posters on each day would bring in more participants.
  6. One of the observations is that only a small number (15 to 20%) of student poster submissions under SPC makes into the conference due to the limited travel grant support available. It is worth considering offering those papers, which are reviewed and accepted, but cannot be funded, be presented as posters at a student rate.
  7. Affordable and reduced conference fee for delegates from developing and third-world countries.

I plan to setup a sharing platform for ideas and suggestions in making OCEANS more attractive to participants, which I would then bring up to OSC. OSC will evaluate the merits of these recommendations before they are accepted and implemented.

Targeted Marketing

As part of expanding OCEANS reach, OSC is exploring targeted marketing through social media and also at specific events to attract people’s attention. The focus will be on RoW OCEANS to bring it up to some level with the NA OCEANS conferences. To test out this idea MCI-USA will be engaged for both Limerick and Singapore conferences, while IEEE MCE will launch a marketing campaign for Limerick OCEANS alone.

In conclusion, OSC is looking at different ways to upgrade the OCEANS conference operations and engage with more communities globally. I invite your strong participation and support in this venture.

Updates on Limerick and Gulf Coast OCEANS

The preparations for both Limerick and Gulf Coast OCEANS are progressing well. As per the latest information available with me, the Limerick OCEANS has received 576 abstract submissions of which 455 are regular submissions, 84 are for the Student Poster Competitions, 35 poster presentations and two are in the commercial category. We anticipate 400 to 450 presentations at the conference. There are great plenaries lined up such as Offshore Wind, Carbon Neutrality by 2050 and Ocean Health and Resiliency. The exhibitor booths are being filled up slowly, but steadily. Overall, a great conference is in the offing. For the YP/ECOP, I hope to see many of you in the OCEANS 2022 Limerick.

Three months after Limerick we have the Gulf Coast OCEANS. You may recall that Gulf Coast was scheduled to host the conference in 2020, which due to the pandemic was held as virtual conference jointly with OCEANS 2020 Singapore. This report is getting longer than expected and so I shall provide more updates on the Gulf Coast OCEANS in the next edition. I wish you all a great year ahead.