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Ten on Tech: Spotlight on Lisa Lazareck-Asunta

Dr. Lisa Lazareck-Asunta is a 20-year Senior Member of the IEEE and has been an elected and appointed IEEE volunteer since 2003. She is currently the Chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Committee, and has held many IEEE leadership positions, including roles in the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, IEEE Technical Activities Board Strategic Planning Committee (TAB SPC), and IEEE Young Professionals Committee.

Lisa has multiple degrees in electrical engineering: a BSc and MSc from the University of Manitoba, Canada; and a PhD (or DPhil) from the University of Oxford, UK. Her academic expertise is in biomedical signal processing and includes investigating the Obstructive Sleep Apnea disorder by the processing of oxygen saturation signals for diagnostic purposes. Following her PhD, she worked for 6.5 years at the Wellcome Trust, UK – specializing in charitable grant funding and public engagement with science and engineering. Lisa still enjoys filming for the Discovery Channel every now and again, and is currently in a new role at the University of Reading, looking at the impact of research outside of academia.

What movies or live shows have you enjoyed the most in recent years?

Traveling for the IEEE is a real treat for me, as it typically means a few uninterrupted hours of film watching on flights around the world.  I had an inspirational trip to Atlanta recently (to attend the IEEE Board Series Meeting in June 2019) and watched a double header of “On the Basis of Sex” – a drama biopic about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, followed by her documentary “RBG.”  What an amazing woman, with her champion husband and incredible story.  We are also taking trips down memory lane in my household, re-watching Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, followed by our own spaghetti and meatball dinner.  My two year old daughter was over the moon with joy.  I have also loved live theatre my whole life, and my latest treat was Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, another inspirational story about a talented woman with an impressive career.

What about current technology worries you?

It isn’t current technology that worries me, but more so how people can use / misuse that technology.  There are social, ethical and legal ramifications for using technology – many issues that are being unpicked by our STEM engagement and impact communities – which is a step in the right direction.

What in recent years has surprised you the most?

I am surprised how the term “AI” is so ubiquitous these days, with very unsatisfying explanations about its meaning and context.  I am surprised how powerful my mobile phone is, and how quickly it then becomes unusable.  I am surprised how the number of women staying in engineering (in certain countries) is so slow to change despite the concerted efforts of so many to focus on STEM for children in their early years, etc.  I am surprised how much pink is still for girls, and blue is still for boys.  Oh, and my daughter – she surprises me daily.

What was the best advice anyone has given you?

Sometimes in life, you are put in a situation that you just wouldn’t have chosen for yourself.  How you behave in this situation, how you make the best out of this situation, is entirely up to you.  When I was given this advice, I didn’t realize that it was just a longer version of: when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.

What has been or is your favorite equation or concept in engineering, and why?

I love equations – the more complicated the better.  In engineering, I especially enjoyed taking the time to figure out the hardest equation and breaking it down into tangible bits that I could crack.  My background in electrical engineering included a lot of pattern recognition, signal processing, and complex mathematics.

What have been important life lessons for you that you might be able to share with us? 

Strive for excellence in all that you do.  Always try your best – because you just can’t do any better.  You must love what you do in life, because a job is just a job, and a passion is for a lifetime.

How many unread emails are in your inbox?

At the moment, five, but there will certainly be another thirty by the morning.  The beauty of working with volunteers around the world, is that you are guaranteed a full inbox every morning, and every night.  I was fortunate enough to stumble across a productivity course a few years ago, and I became an “email ninja” – only processing my inbox a few times a day, and working out a filing system that works most of the time.  I still need to work hard at responding to my emails, but more and more, I am trying to speak with colleagues instead, online and via phone, to avoid email overload and paperwork burnout.

What should IEEE be (more) involved in?  

I would love to see a higher public profile for the IEEE, that goes beyond our science/engineering/technical communities that already know about our strengths and hold our work to a high esteem.  I think that making IEEE accessible for the public (Who created the standard of IEEE 802.11x or Wi-Fi, used and loved everywhere?) would help breakdown the stereotype of ‘the engineer’ which exists in many countries still.  I believe this would help make our profession as diverse and inclusive as it needs to be in order to best advance technology for the benefit of humanity.

open access

IEEE Announces Call for Papers for New Open Access Journals

IEEE is now accepting paper submissions for its new gold fully open access journals spanning a wide range of technologies including telecommunications, biomedical engineering, automotive technology, signal processing, industrial applications, power and energy, and more. 

These new journals are targeting a rapid ten-week publishing schedule and will be fully compliant with funder mandates, including Plan S as all articles will be published under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) enabling authors to retain copyright. 

The new open access journals will follow IEEE’s established high standard of peer review, providing fully open access publications for high-quality, cutting-edge scientific and technical content accessible to researchers around the globe.  Independent editorial boards will be lead by an accomplished expert as editor-in-chief.  The call for submissions presents a unique opportunity for authors to benefit from the visibility each journal’s launch will generate and their published papers will be exposed to 5 million unique monthly users of the IEEE Xplore® Digital Library.

IEEE’s new gold fully open access journals include:

  • IEEE Open Journal of Antennas and Propagation
  • IEEE Open Journal of Circuits and Systems
  • IEEE Open Journal of the Communications Society
  • IEEE Open Journal of the Computer Society
  • IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology
  • IEEE Open Journal of Industry Applications
  • IEEE Open Journal of the Industrial Electronics Society
  • IEEE Open Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • IEEE Open Journal of Nanotechnology
  • IEEE Open Journal of Power Electronics
  • IEEE Open Journal of Signal Processing
  • IEEE Open Journal of Solid-State Circuits
  • IEEE Open Journal of Vehicular Technology

The Article Processing Charge (APC) is US$1750 with discounts or special offers available for IEEE and IEEE Society members.  For more information on of IEEE’s new gold fully open access journals, editorial boards, submission dates, and links to submit a paper, please visit http://open.ieee.org 

IEEE Access, IEEE’s broad scope open access journal, is also now accepting papers for six discipline-specific Sections aligned with the following technical communities:  IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Reliability Society, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and IEEE Power & Energy Society. 

To learn more about the IEEE Access Sections, please visit: https://ieeeaccess.ieee.org/special-sections/society-council-sections/

A Message from the 2019 Technical Activities Vice President (October)

Dear Colleagues,

I hope all had a productive and healthy third quarter of 2019.

In my last message, I highlighted the important work of the TAB Ad Hoc Committee on Global Society Interaction (GSI) and shared my enthusiasm for collaborating with leaders from other technical professional associations from across the globe. I am glad to report that, in conjunction with the June IEEE Board Series, the first GSI Summit successfully provided a platform for representatives from global societies with similar interests to the IEEE to discuss how we can work together to advance technology for the benefit of humanity. Planning for a second event, in 2020, will soon be underway.

While one facet of leading IEEE into the future is building global collaboration, yet another important aspect is identifying new ways to adapt to technological evolution. New technology opportunities are cross-cutting, and becoming more so, while Technical Activities is primarily a vertical organization. While IEEE’s 46 Societies and Technical Councils are first-class resources in their respective fields, can many of today’s newest technologies be owned by a single entity? How can we empower IEEE’s technical communities to ensure we are as nimble an organization as possible?

The 2019 TAB Ad Hoc Committee on TAB Structure and Constituents, chaired by Steve Diamond, has been working diligently to address these questions, beginning with a breakout discussion at the June 2019 TAB meeting. During this session, TAB members split into 5 groups to discuss whether Technical Activities should either reorganize or add options to its current structure. After deliberating potential options regarding existing Societies, Councils, Technical Communities, Divisions, and the addition of a Horizontal option, it became evident from the breakout session that there is enough support to add a new Horizontal component to TAB.

As a new, optional waypoint or destination to help cross-cutting technologies prosper within IEEE, this Horizontal component will ideally be available to both existing and future IEEE entities. By creating a simple, scalable organization, or by further giving FDC more mandate to incubate new technical communities, Technical Activities will be better prepared to break down past silos and build improved ways to support new and cross-cutting technologies. It will also provide a home for graduated initiatives that have progressed through the IEEE Future Directions lifecycle, ensuring that the newest and most ground-breaking technologies transition seamlessly into the fabric of the IEEE.

The TAB Ad Hoc Committee on TAB Structure and Constituents will continue to explore how Horizontals can most effectively serve the IEEE membership, and I look forward to sharing more about this important activity in future messages.

K.J. Ray Liu

2019 Vice President, Technical Activities

Powering Up through Education: IEEE Smart Village

Powering Up through Education: IEEE Smart Village

For nearly ten years, IEEE volunteers have been bringing reliable, low-cost electricity to off-grid communities through the IEEE Smart Village (ISV) program. Accompanying new power sources, ISV enables community-based education and entrepreneurial opportunities. ISV identifies energy, education, and entrepreneurship as three co-equal pillars needed in support of impoverished communities. As the second pillar, education ensures the long-term sustainability of community enterprise and knowledge acquisition.

ISV communities identify their priorities for sustainable development and improved livelihoods. This may begin with newly implemented electrical systems. It could also begin with education or enterprise, and then smartly apply access to renewable energy. Regardless of how a project starts, a goal is that these community projects go to scale. Sustainability and scalability are necessarily related.

Teachers are trained in the use of laptops and tablets for accessing lesson plans in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Maa Trust.

“Our goal is not simply providing- access to electricity. We want communities to make the most productive use of it. The majority of people in a newly-electrified community frequently need not only technical knowledge and business skills but also education including basic literacy and numeracy. We can’t just satisfy the needs for electricity. We have to make life more sustainable,” says Olga Anderson, ISV Education Committee Chair.

ISV aids self-empowerment and economic growth of villages by providing reliable, market-based electrification, instituting community-based education, and enabling local entrepreneurship. This educational platform includes online and classroom curricula for Pre-K to 12th-grade education, vocational training, and life skills for adults.

“Our multi-faceted approach to community development includes a range of support from solar power design and operation to vocational training and job creation. The ultimate objective is to empower local entrepreneurs. This philosophy of local ownership is sustainable and life-changing,” says Dan Estes, ISV Marketing Committee Chair.

Project Obstacles and Successes

“Every project started with a dream and a dedicated group of entrepreneurs, volunteers, and community leaders on the ground. Many of our ISV projects are located in some of the most challenging environments, and the extraordinary teamwork of our entrepreneurs has led to the successes we are celebrating now,” says Anderson.

According to Estes, here are projects that faced tremendous obstacles to make a real difference in the lives that we touch.

“The first is Shakti Empowerment Solutions in Uttar Pradesh, India. Tara McCartney has established a community culture of learning, spanning from the women who have learned to read and write to the after-school program for teenagers to learn robotics. Our kick-starter investment in power and classrooms has allowed Tara to truly influence the area in hygiene, clean water, job creation, and pride in the community.

Robin Podmore (Right) delivered tablets preloaded with lessons and books to the students at Maa Trust. Portable solar panels keep the units charged for easy use. Photo courtesy of Maa Trust.

“Another project is The Maa Trust in Kenya. Crystal Courtney Morgenstern is using a multi-phased approach beginning with over 500 women being employed in bead making with training in quality production, marketing, and logistics. Our solar power is increasing their production capacity allowing them to market their wares on a global basis. The next phase is brick making and building construction training, which will allow people in the area to have gainful employment, start their own companies, and build long-lasting houses and businesses. The third phase is software development and programming. With the core power infrastructure from ISV, they can establish an IT lab, have Internet connectivity, and begin insourcing software development on an international front.

“A further example is the work of Paras Loomba with Global Himalayan Expedition. Paras has trekked hundreds of kilometers to provide the very first sustainable microgrid to over 250 communities high in the Himalayan mountains. He taught the villagers how to use electricity to attract tourists, which in turn provides incremental cash flow to the area. Giving the local people the knowledge and marketing skills is a powerful lesson in sustainable community development.”

“Another example derives from a post-war and climate-challenged context, Bending Bamboo in Vietnam,” adds Dan Wessner, ISV Operations Committee member. An immediate need after six 20th Century wars was for Vietnam to use fossil fuel to build out its national grid.

“But soon into its course of peacetime development, Vietnam realized a need to focus on sustainability. Since Vietnam faces daunting challenges from climate change, its energy goal is to build a country reliant on just renewable energy and sustainability practices. National policies challenge communities and provinces to address poverty; embed sustainability knowledge and skills from pre-school through high school; convert to solar, thermal, wind, and hydro power; and stress Vietnamese-English bilingualism so that the country has a voice in development discourse near and far,” says Wessner.

Here access to basic provision of electricity is not a stand-alone goal; rather, it is part of a spectrum of sustainability goals that inform community and national development decisions. Vietnam’s forward-looking choice is to think and live “sustainability” from the earliest grade level.

Technical Training for Sustainability

“Providing a parachute drop of solar panels into a village is foolhardy and short-lived. Long-term success requires the local community to know solar power design, basic business operations, customer service and how using electricity can make their lives easier,” says Estes.

Technical education is developed by local subject matter experts and tailored to the local environment, culture, and language. This education is necessary for the maintenance, operation, and scaling of the electric systems. The training is customized to the needs in that location and could include installation, operation, and maintenance of mini-grids; sitting and sizing of solar arrays, hydro turbines, or wind turbines; battery system configuration and maintenance; use of customer billing/payment systems; computer-aided design; and development of computer software and apps.

“We take a community-based, bottom-up approach to education and training. The community identifies specific needs, potential jobs, availability of trainers, and so on. Our entrepreneurs conduct a survey of the community with questions developed by a collaborative team of on-the-ground educations from our projects, such as what is most important for the community right now, what jobs could you create, how far do students walk to school, do they have textbooks / light / water / toilets / desks / etc. in schools. Then, we design a systematic approach to training based on the survey. This includes K -12 education, adult numeracy and literacy, and vocational training. It might be sewing, beekeeping, construction, or advanced technical training.  For example in Nigeria, the Shaybis Light Up Kwara project has opened the first AutoCAD certified training center in North Nigeria.” says Anderson.

The course offerings combine hands-on activities with basic business skills and fundamental literacy, numeracy, and social skills.

According to Anderson, “we take a holistic approach to education. The question is how our entrepreneurs can deliver a 21st century education to children, youth, and adults. Our focus goes far beyond training how to operate mini grids to how to create economic and social prosperity in every community. The bigger question is how can you teach people to be entrepreneurs, how can we get them access to the digital economy, how can we bring gender equality? This requires providing the whole community access to educational resources and economic opportunities.

“Because each project is specific to the context of a community, we learn something new every time. We constantly develop and grow our approach. We can’t stick to a rigid plan because we adapt according to community needs. For example, we were going to teach English in Kenya but the community quickly informed us that it would also be beneficial for the students to learn Swahili. So, we modified the education program to teach in both languages.”

Educating the Next Generation

“According to our entrepreneurs, the majority of schools urgently need critical education resources. The support that the ISV Education program has provided has already made great progress in fulfilling those needs. This year, we have provided $50k USD per community to provide much needed computers, curricula, staff, and other technology, such as voltmeters, soldering irons, welding machines, sewing machines, etc.” says Anderson. “Access to electricity from mini grids enables the creation of digital classrooms with electronic copies of government curricula, textbooks, and scripted daily classes to assist teachers. Books can become outdated, but a tablet is in an instant library.”

Students in Kenya are jumping for joy at the prospect of having advance curricula available. Photo courtesy of Maa Trust.

The addition of electricity not only improves access to education material but allows children to connect the curriculum to real-world applications that are being developed in their communities.

“Education should immediately spark interest in children. They should see a brighter future,” says Anderson.

Bending Bamboo – Expanding Educational Opportunities in Vietnam

“Smart development is social engineering in a regardful, reciprocal, and resilient way,” says Wessner. The Bending Bamboo project in Vietnam demonstrates how local Vietnamese partners drive progressive in-country educational reform with lessons for us all.

“One, the country knows that fluency in other languages is essential to the post-war redevelopment and reimagining of its economy, science, trade, and social dynamism. The government has made it a 2025 goal for the country to be bilingual. Imagine. That is a huge goal for a population of nearly 100 million people. Vietnam has been colonized many times. Now it chooses to be bilingual to be at the heart of development discourse through education, business, science, and renewable energy policy.

“Two, the country concurs whole-heartedly with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and has set a 2030 goal to incorporate applied knowledge of the SDGs in primary through tertiary education. Again, just imagine! Public and private school systems from pre-K through high school are challenged to develop Vietnamese-pertinent materials (of, by, for Vietnam) that teach applied knowledge of living sustainably in the face of climate change, a rising sea level, consequently salinated rice paddies and contaminated aquifers, and unsupportable rural-to-city migration.

“Three, while smart energy solutions and resilient village-to-city infrastructure are very worthwhile goals, they are part of a larger challenge. Hence the United Nations SDGs integrate seventeen goals from energy to climate and hunger. Provision of renewable electricity, support for entrepreneurs and teachers, and holistic education concerning sustainability and resilience address Vietnam’s context. The country doesn’t have the luxury to contemplate and debate climate change, but must equip its youth, farmers, and industry to learn and live responsibly now.

“I’m convinced that Vietnam is constructively moving ahead with engineering that smartly embraces the right technology, renewable energy (aiming to convert to 60% renewables by 2030), and the enterprising role of teachers, who are at the heart and center of every community. Step by step, ‘leaning forward’ with all three legs of ISV’s approach.”

Get Involved with Smart Village

When asked what success looks like for ISV, Anderson replied, “that it exists. Behind every community is the dream to make their world a better, happier place. If people can stay in the villages, where their roots and hearts are, they will be able to preserve their land, culture, families, and social fabric.”

“ISV is a Signature Program of the IEEE Foundation. It allows IEEE members worldwide to have pride in truly using technology to serve humanity,” says Estes.

“IEEE has lots of members who can offer their experience to further our cause,” says Anderson.

“Engineers are invaluable to problem solving. Their imaginative, innovative breakthroughs in technology to serve humanity is a pillar of just and sustainable development,” says Wessner.

For more information on IEEE Smart Village and how you can get involved, visit https://smartvillage.ieee.org/

According to Estes, “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how hard it is to fund programs of this scale around the world. We have more requests in our pipeline than we have the resources to fund. We take this financial responsibility very seriously. We vet each applicant and have high expectations that they will be successful and reinvest in the communities that they serve, from both a business and a community development standpoint. Our fundraising has been enough to reach 50% of our goal.”

Donations to ISV through the IEEE Foundation are instrumental in ensuring the future success of the program and can help ISV reach the remaining 50% of its goal. More information about how to donate can be found on the IEEE Foundation’s ISV page.

ISV is possible thanks to the IEEE Foundation, corporate donations, and individual donations, as well as financial and volunteer support from IEEE organization units including Power and Energy Society (PES); Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS); Power Electronics Society (PELS); Industry Applications Society (IAS); Industrial Electronics Society (IES); Consumer Electronics Society (CES); Systems Man, and Cybernetics Society (SMCS); and the Council on SuperConductivity (CSC).

open access

IEEE Launching New Open Access Journals

IEEE is launching 14 new gold fully open access journals spanning a wide range of technologies including telecommunications, computing, biomedical engineering, automotive technology, signal processing, industrial applications, power and energy and more. The new journals will begin accepting submissions in the fall of 2019 and publish their first articles in early 2020.  

Independent editorial boards will drive IEEE’s commitment to publish high-quality articles including cutting-edge studies and breakthroughs in technology innovation.  Each new journal will follow IEEE’s established high standard of peer review, drawing on expert technical communities to continue to publish the most highly cited content in numerous technology fields.  Each journal will have an accomplished expert as editor-in-chief.

For a list of IEEE’s new gold fully open access journals, please visit: open.ieee.org.  

Establishing new topical sections in IEEE Access(R)

IEEE Access, IEEE’s broad-scope open access journal, will also soon launch discipline-specific subsections aligned with the following technical communities:  IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Reliability Society, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and IEEE Power & Energy Society.

Other new additions

IEEE will also be transitioning the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing to a fully open access title in 2020.

All of the new open access options will be fully compliant with funder mandates including Plan S, as all articles will be published under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) enabling authors to retain copyright.  

Diversity, Inclusion, and Globalization: Creating a Valuable Community for All

Through its ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts, the IEEE Photonics Society is building a global photonics community and bringing increased value back to its members. The Society is enabling practices that give its volunteer leaders more oversight on how to better welcome people from diverse backgrounds, develop partnerships with like social impact organizations and increase opportunities to engage with prospective members across the globe.

“The IEEE Photonics Society believes that equality, diversity and inclusion issues within the field are community issues, as well as culture issues. As such, the IEEE Photonics Society is committed to taking proactive steps to highlight how diversity is essential to innovation,” says Niamh Kavanagh, IEEE Photonics Society Diversity Oversight Committee Student Representative.

“Our Society seeks to ensure that its decision-makers are diverse. People of different experiences bring new ways of thinking to the table, which sparks creativity,” says Arti Agrawal, IEEE Photonics Society Associate Vice-President of Diversity.

As its first step in achieving a more diverse community, the Society’s Board of Governors created a ‘Diversity Oversight Committee’ to ensure that the global diversity of the community the Society serves is represented in all aspects of the organization and that the Society’s leaders are addressing diversity needs and concerns appropriately. For example, speaker composition guidelines, inclusion checklists, data collection standards, accommodation considerations and codes of conduct have been created by the Committee to aide chairs addressing diversity at conferences. The intent isn’t to intimidate with rules or enforce change, but rather to have principles in place to ensure productive, inclusive collaboration.

The Committee believes that the lack of diversity in engineering and physics contributes to a loss of talent and potential innovation in the field. The more the organization understands, the more it can address socioeconomic problems. Every member brings a diverse set of experiences, whether personal and/or scientific. The goal is to include more voices to shape the direction of present and future technological needs.

“When we actively engage people from different backgrounds, genders, and lifestyles, we are able to address the problems at hand more efficiently rather than reflecting the particular view of a few people. IEEE is a global body and it’s important that we look at this with a global perspective. The way we can have that global outlook is to include people from different communities. It is important that we offer all people a way to flourish,” says Chennupati Jagadish, IEEE Photonics Society President.

The outreach strategies of the Committee focus on reaching underrepresented minorities, women in photonics, multicultural groups, developing nations, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups interested in the fields of optics and photonics. The Society is also looking at its own makeup and, in turn, forming additional committees on Industry Engagement and Globalization in order to further diversify.

“We do not see inclusion as a hierarchy of underrepresented groups. We think all groups and needs have to be addressed. For that reason, we expanded our Diversity Oversight committee and added volunteers to address gender, race, disability, and other identifiers. Through collaboration, training, and engaging with our diverse membership, we keep learning about issues of various underrepresented groups,” says Agrawal.

Some outputs from the Society’s efforts include its own Commitment to Diversity Statement, a speaker database of diverse technical experts, educational materials, trainings, unconscious bias and equality awareness resources, and ‘ally education’ workshops, which empower allies to advocate for injustices and address resistance statements.

“Our hope is to educate our leadership to understand that recognizing inconsistencies is the first step to having an awareness of the obstacles one may face in the field,” says Lauren Mecum, Community Outreach and Development Manager for the IEEE Photonics Society.

“There needs to be a real commitment to changing the culture of our organization to be more diverse, equal and inclusive. Questions like, ‘Is everyone safe in this space?’, need to be asked. You cannot keep bringing fish into shark-infested waters and be surprised when they keep disappearing,” says Kavanagh.

“As a queer woman in Physics, I have felt very isolated throughout my career. I have seen the effects of systematic barriers, sexual harassment and discrimination, etc. I have seen talented peers disproportionately pushed out despite their ability, resilience and commitment. I think we need to change the culture of STEM so that people from different backgrounds can be truly included, valued and supported to reach their full potential,” says Kavanagh.

Additionally, the IEEE Photonics Society believes in the importance of partnership. The Society works with other professional associations, groups and diversity coalitions, like the National Society of Black Physicists, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), Physics 4 All, LGBT+ Physicists, GoPhoton, and other IEEE sister societies, to address how intersectional change can occur. Together the associations invite those who work in the diversity space in STEM to become a part of the decision-making process and share their knowledge on what the true needs are of marginalized groups.

The Society’s Diversity Oversight Committee refers closely to the IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, which ultimately advises IEEE boards on ethics policy and concerns and makes recommendations for educational programs to promote the ethical behavior of members and staff, among other activities.

The Society has also worked in partnership with other professional societies like the Optical Society (OSA), Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), and American Physical Society (APS) to bring its diversity programming to scientific conferences. To date, the Society has held over 1200 large-scale and grassroots driven diversity and inclusion activities globally, through coalition campaigns, chapter challenges, leadership workshops, soft skills trainings, and public awareness projects.

“Our joint efforts with our partners bring value to the overall photonics community. We become a more inclusive body and can achieve more together,” says Agrawal.

“The IEEE Photonics Society has also made new roads in globalization. We are signing Sister Society Agreements with national consortia, like the Brazilian Society of Optics and Photonics (SBFoton), Australian Optical Society (AOS), Taiwan Photonics Society (TPS), Società Italiana di Ottica e Fotonica (SIOF) and the Optical Society of Korea (OSK). We are showing people that we want to work with them. It’s not us versus them. They’re our partner. We share resources, provide travel grants for our conferences, and become technical sponsors of their conferences.” says Jagadish. 

The IEEE Photonics Society encourages other groups, including IEEE as a whole, to consider taking on similar initiatives. Here are some insights and suggestions for those interested:

“Create committees, find passionate champions, and realize that it takes time. It’s not something you can do for two or three years and then stop. The entire leadership community needs to come onboard and be engaged. Start with small, tangible items that can be measured. For example, the IEEE Photonics Society started an Industry Engagement Committee to determine if we are providing value to industry members. We found that since industry professionals don’t usually publish, the Society didn’t offer them many opportunities for recognition. So, we are devising awards and programs that better suit our industry members’ needs,” says Jagadish.

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I know it is tempting to jump right into action, but there are many groups working on this. Take time to read the research that is out there, make connections with other groups that share your goals, and learn how you can make the most impactful change. Truly embracing diversity and inclusion is an ongoing commitment that takes a lot of hard work, difficult conversations, and self-assessment,” says Kavanagh.

“The more we support and build each other up, the more we will understand the inclusive needs of our community. The more we can then advance technology for the betterment of humanity, IEEE’s core mission. For example, the Society created a ‘Mentor Match’ program. It was designed to help our diverse young professionals and mid-career members find allies and support systems. This program helps expand professional networks while at the conferences, gain personalized career insights and receive guidance from senior professionals in photonics,” says Agrawal.

“I started my life in a small village in India and studied in front of a kerosene lamp until I finished primary school. I never imagined that one day I would be the President of a Society. I started as a Chapter Chair. The Society provided me a home and opportunities to develop leadership. Don’t think that chapters are small. Many of us started as Chapter Chairs and became a Society President. Use these examples to inspire and motivate people, globally,” says Jagadish.

“It is very important that we all reflect on our own implicit biases. Everyone has privilege in different ways in different spaces and each of us should be aware of how we can use that privilege for good. There are resources out there that can help and allies can be true champions in this space,” says Kavanagh.

A Message from the 2019 Technical Activities Vice President

Dear Colleagues,

Each year, the Technical Activities Vice President has the opportunity to appoint ad hoc committees tasked with addressing current challenges, creating sustainable initiatives and projects, examining strategic implications, and/or building relationships with other organizational units. During my term as Technical Activities Vice President, I have established three volunteer-driven committees:

  • Ad Hoc Committee on TAB Structure and Constituents (Chair: Steve Diamond)
  • “Powered by IEEE” Entrepreneurial Project (Chair: John Verboncoeur)
  • Global Society Interaction (Chair: Maciej Ogorzalek)

Throughout the second quarter of 2019, committee members have been working diligently to complete their chartered deliverables, and I am looking forward to hearing updates about their work at the June Board Series, and highlighting an ad hoc committee in each of my quarterly TA Spotlight updates.

The 2019 Technical Activities Board Ad Hoc Committee on Global Society Interaction was launched this year to encourage global collaboration across technical societies. IEEE provides a platform for leaders from technical organizations across the globe to collaborate on topics and projects to advance technology for humanity. Participants include technical leaders from global societies within IEEE fields of interest, including global societies with both specialized and applied areas of interest, representing both academia and industry.

IEEE and the Technical Activities Board creates an environment where members collaborate on world-changing technologies, from computing and sustainable energy systems to aerospace, communications, robotics, healthcare, and more. In order to foster better global coordination, volunteer leaders of other global technical societies have been invited to participate in the Global Society Interaction program, and benefit from the collaborative networking environment.

Ten professionals from organizations around the globe will be attending the inaugural Global Society Interaction program event during the June IEEE Meeting Series, which will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. These volunteers, coming from India, Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy, will be invited to attend pertinent committee meetings to add a global perspective. They will also be invited to a program lunch and dinner meeting to discuss topics of common interest, share feedback on meetings they attended, and brainstorm how their organizations can collaborate with IEEE and the other Global Society Interaction program partners.

I am happy to welcome these collaborators to the Global Society Interaction program, and am looking forward to the inaugural event in June, and sharing more about this exciting venture (as well as highlights from the June Technical Activities Board meeting) in the future. I encourage you all to find ways to foster global dialogue in your respective technical communities.

K.J. Ray Liu

2019 Vice President, Technical Activities

A Message from the 2019 Technical Activities Vice President

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your membership in IEEE. This year, through the work of volunteer-identified ad hoc committees, IEEE Technical Activities will position itself as an organization that is prepared to carry its members into the future. By examining the needs of IEEE members, as well proactively understanding a changing technical landscape, 2019 will be focused on building an IEEE best equipped to lead for many years to come.

TAB accomplished much to further its goals during the first meeting of the 2019 Technical Activities Board (TAB) Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel, Tampa, Florida, USA on Friday, 15 February and Saturday, 16 February 2019.

In addition to hearing from 2019 TAB ad hoc committees designed to further IEEE’s engagement with both the entrepreneurial community, and with other global technical societies, TAB also approved the IEEE Accelerated Open Access Plan to provide Plan S compliant publications which meet their deadlines and allows for a timely acquisition of an impact factor.

A highlight of the recent TAB Meeting was the IEEE DataPort Workshop, which was held to ensure all TAB leaders could engage and help drive the IEEE Dataport strategy forward in 2019, and discussed data as the next big thing beyond IEEE Xplore™. Six break-out sessions were held to enable TAB leaders to discuss specific ways IEEE can address data needs in each of these areas:

  • Data Storage and Open Access
  • Data Needed to Support Academic Research
  • Supporting Industry Applications
  • Building Data Communities & Running Data Challenges
  • Enhancing Journal Papers & Conferences
  • How to promote IEEE DataPort

The breakout groups identified many benefits and differentiators that IEEE Dataport offers to both IEEE members and non-members.

I am certain those who participated in the TAB breakout session will join me in saying IEEE is proud to introduce IEEE Dataport, a new, valuable, easily accessible data platform that can significantly enhance your research efforts, and which is already being used by over 40,000 individuals across the globe.

Using IEEE DataPort™, you can upload and store datasets for free, independently of or in conjunction with paper submission to more than 64 IEEE journals already.

Further benefits include:

  • Backed by IEEE – reputable and trusted
  • Can store datasets indefinitely up to 2TB each
  • Datasets can be linked to Xplore articles (64 journals/magazines now integrated with IEEE DataPort)
  • Users can send email to dataset owners to provide feedback, make inquiries, collaborate, or provide feedback on a specific dataset
  • Integrated with ORCID; users can optionally have the IEEE DataPort dataset asset automatically added to their ORCID asset list
  • Fully integrated with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to facilitate data analytics
  • Provides Digital Object Identifier (DOI) automatically for each dataset
  • Citations are formulated and provided in multiple formats for users
  • Metadata provided with each dataset and expandable; IEEE SA working to standardize metadata
  • Can support and facilitate Data Challenges
  • Can store and link related documentation – scripts, visualizations, related documentation
  • Fully integrated with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to facilitate data analytics
  • Help meet funding agency requirements for data management

The platform is designed to accept all types of datasets, and it provides both downloading capabilities and access to Amazon Web Services to facilitate data analysis in the cloud. Learn more by visiting https://ieee-dataport.org

If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to the IEEE Dataport team by visiting https://ieee-dataport.org/contact

I hope you will agree with me that IEEE Dataport can be a valuable capability to enhance your research efforts, because it could:

  • Establish personal impact and support research reproducibility by making your research data available with your research results
  • Enhance your individual research efforts using available datasets
  • Participate in an interactive data community
  • Store data indefinitely for later use

Thank you again for all that you do to make IEEE a vibrant community. I look forward to working with you this year as we work intelligently in the present to ensure the IEEE is equipped for the future.

K.J. Ray Liu

2019 Vice President, Technical Activities

Point/Counterpoint: To Innovate or Maintain?

We live in the era of SpaceX and Blue Origin, often prioritizing breakthroughs over preserving the foundation of our existing technologies. As we devote quantifiable focus and media bandwidth to the next great technical disruption, we hear markedly less about what is being done to sustain what we already have. Is it enough to fund the dreamers, or should we be focusing more on maintaining our critical infrastructures? Is there a way to healthily mix both, to ensure that we can adequately innovate and maintain? The technical community weighs in below.

Have you had enough with the innovation-only mantra, or do you believe most investment should be made in R&D? Let others know.

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The Maintenance Habit: Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel

Does “innovation” really need any more advocates?  Our culture is saturated by innovation-speak: it has seeped into the mission statements and branding strategies of corporations, cities, and universities.  Seen in a critical light, the popularity of “innovation” and its conceptual sidekicks—“disruption” and “creative destruction”—reveals a culture lost in its myopia.  Why do we valorize innovation, disruption, and creation, but fail to sustain and nurture the benefits they generate?

Americans are among world leaders in innovation—and certainly in innovation hype—but our national infrastructure is an embarrassment.  Experts convened by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Americans an overall grade of D+ for the decrepit and underfunded condition of our roads, schools, dams, and drinking water. To put the problem in a nutshell: Elon Musk makes headlines promoting futuristic hyperloops, while Americans lose $3 billion annually because of damage from potholes. Potholes!

What’s the alternative?  In his 1958 book The Strategy of Economic Development, the economist Albert O. Hirschman proposed the cultivation of the “maintenance habit.” We would be wise to follow this suggestion, for two reasons.  First, today’s innovation is tomorrow’s maintenance liability: think about the landmark achievements of past generations, such as Grand Central Station and the Hoover Dam, that need continual upkeep and repair. Second, public celebration of a maintenance habit would simply recognize work that we already know is important—whether it’s the maintenance of our bodies, our relationships, our homes, or our technologies.  “Innovation” doesn’t need any more acclaim; it’s time to give maintenance its due.

Andrew Russell is a professor of history and the dean of arts and sciences at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Lee Vinsel is a professor in the department of science and technology in society at Virginia Tech. For more from Russell and Vinsel, please read: “Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance!” (The New York Times, July 2017) and “Hail the Maintainers” (Aeon, April 2016).

Innovate: Ella Atkins

The human mind thrives on stimulating challenges. The most remarkable inventions ranging from the wheel to the motor to the digital computer have required a combination of persistent innovation and identified need. “First flight” sparked our imaginations and enabled us to travel the world. The US still holds a competitive edge in aviation-related product development and sales.

Students at all levels need to struggle to achieve and dream of creating the next big thing. Parents need to dream of a better future for their children and realize that persistence and creative thought are keys. Embracing and supporting R&D is essential to engage our minds, offer new products, and realize our dreams of a better future. What was innovative decades ago may be better to replace than repair.

The caretaker will fix potholes, treat disease symptoms, and find food, water, and energy for today.  The innovator will tirelessly seek fatality-free transportation, cyber-secure information on demand, and a truly sustainable planet. Don’t settle and grow tired. Continue to dream and don’t give up.

Ella Atkins is an IEEE Senior Member and a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan.