OES Beacon

The Times They are A Changin’

Jim Collins, Vice President for Professional Activities

When Bob Dylan first released this song and album in 1964, mass market digital computers were a novelty, the internet was not yet on the horizon and e-publications and Social Media were even more distant. Around 2008, the IEEE created Earthzine and was the primary supporter at its origin. Earthzine was focused on Earth Observation and GEO. NASA, with its interest in GEO, agreed to support Earthzine via a series of grants managed by IEEE.

A key vote was taken by the OES Administrative Committee in 2013 where a motion was approved by a 16 to 9 vote to endorse two existing NASA grants for Earthzine under the following conditions, “OES assumes no responsibility for any charges that may exceed the remaining grant funds or be liabilities connected to these grants. Such liabilities remain the responsibility of IEEE.”

Earthzine was directed by OES need for relevance to have increasing content and focus on oceans which reduced the interest of NASA. In January 2018, NASA Earthzine funding ended and the founding Editor in Chief (EiC) resigned. The IEEE OES now must decide whether or not to continue Earthzine with a volunteer EiC and writers in its current form in these changin’ times.

Indeed, Earthzine received support from OES through various initiatives over the last few years, but as warned by the EiC in 2017, the NASA grant wasn’t renewed and we arrived at the current situation where IEEE OES is the sole supporting organization. It must be noted that even if NASA or other governmental organization was interested, IEEE is no longer accepting US government grants. Therefore, Earthzine found itself in an unfunded situation as of the end of April 2018.

It is interesting to note that although NASA was the primary financial support of Earthzine, and while NASA’s budget went up this year from $19.6 Billion to $20.7 Billion, NASA saw fit to cease funding Earthzine.  A visit to the website, https://www.nasa.gov/socialmedia, shows that one can currently follow NASA activity on eighteen different social media sites. Priorities change.

In a widely broadcast resignation email of April 16th, 2018, the former EiC solicited for interest in the EiC position: “If you are interested in either volunteering or applying for the EiC, please contact Jim Collins.”  Reaction has been minimal.  I received four immediate responses to this email, only one from a person interested in the EiC position. There has been no further response. A repeat call for a new EiC, included in this issue of OES BEACON, may change this.

Because of this lack of financial support and the minimal response to the call for a new Earthzine EiC, I think it wise to evaluate our publications (aside from conference proceedings and the OES Journal of Oceanic Engineering) to see how they can better serve our members and how they might attract new members. The period looking for a new EiC can also serve as an opportunity to review the mix of media and publications we need.

Presently, all OES publications are available in on-line versions with only the IEEE OES Beacon Newsletter available additionally in printed form. Aside from OES conference proceedings and the Journal, the OES publications available are the OES Beacon, the www.ieeeoes.org website, e-news, and Earthzine. In addition to IEEE Collabratec and regular OES email communications, we are moving towards incorporating 3 or 4 social media links on our website. With these 8 or 9 sources of information available (plus conferences and JOE) it is time to prioritize and pick the ones most valuable to OES members.

Maybe all of this means combining the OES Beacon, the Earthzine and the e-News into one or two e-publications. While deciding this let us do our best to find a volunteer EiC for Earthzine or perhaps its successor. Please send me your suggestions.

What do you think? Let me know at j.s.collins@ieee.org. The Times They Are A Changin’.