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Computer Society Connection

Pages: pp. 70-75

IEEE President-Elect Candidates Address Computer Society Concerns

The IEEE Computer Society has established a reputation for excellence within the computing field. As a component of the IEEE, the Computer Society's activities parallel those of 42 other societies and councils serving the computing and engineering disciplines. Representing by far the largest IEEE society contingent, the Computer Society has approximately 90,000 members, nearly 56 percent of whom are full IEEE members.

Recognizing the influence and control the IEEE wields over the Society and in turn the power of Society members' votes to influence the selection of the IEEE leadership, we posed questions to this year's IEEE president-elect candidates. Because this election determines who will serve as president-elect in 2006, president in 2007, and past president in 2008—vital positions within the IEEE's governing body—our members must cast informed votes.

Our volunteer leaders have identified the following questions as essential to the Society, the IEEE, and the Society's relationship with the IEEE. The first response to each question states the Computer Society's position. These positions synthesize the views of our most senior leadership: the Society's current, past, and incoming presidents.

We present these questions and answers (limited to 150 words each) to help you make your decision in the IEEE election, which closes on 1 November 2005.

We also remind and encourage you to cast your vote for Computer Society leaders by 4 October 2005 in our Society election.

—Deborah M. Cooper, IEEE Computer Society President-Elect



Leah Jamieson (BS, MIT; PhD, Princeton) is the Ransburg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Associate Dean of Engineering for Undergraduate Education, and Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) director at Purdue University. Jamieson was elected an IEEE Fellow for her work in parallel signal processing algorithms and to the US National Academy of Engineering for innovations in engineering education.

An IEEE member for 30 years and a volunteer for 25 years, Jamieson's experience includes service as journal associate editor, conference program chair and treasurer, Signal Processing Society president, IEEE Technical Activities vice president, and IEEE Publication Services and Products vice president. She received the Computer Society's Golden Core Award and the Signal Processing Society's Meritorious Service Award.

For more about her candidacy, see



Gerald H. Peterson is a Senior Manager Emeritus at Lucent Bell Labs. In addition to his years of experience in hardware and software design and engineering management, Peterson has served in elected national, regional, and international standards leadership positions representing the telecommunications industry. In 2001, he was recognized as a "Who's Who" in THE BENT of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and received the American National Standards Institute's Finegan Standards Medal.

Peterson's IEEE experience includes president of the Standards Association, chair of the Board on Investment Policy ad hoc, member of the Communications Society and Education Boards, chair ad hoc of the Student Ethics Competition, cochair of the Standards in Education task force, and ABET EE program evaluator.

For more about his candidacy, see



With degrees in electrical, computer, and systems engineering from RPI and MIT, James M. Tien has been and continues to be active in both academia (RPI chaired professor, department chair, and dean) and industry (Bell Laboratories member of technical staff, RAND Corporation project leader, and—since 1974—Structured Decisions Corporation VP/ Principal). Internationally recognized for his extensive technical contributions, Tien is an IEEE Fellow and an elected member of the US National Academy of Engineering. Within the IEEE (including as vice president of both the Publication Services and Products Board and the Educational Activities Board), Tien has led efforts to enhance the quality, quantity, and viability of the IEEE's products and services.

For more information about his candidacy, see

Question 1: Structure of TAB

1. The IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) is a very large board consisting of representatives from a variety of disparate groups: small societies, large societies, presidents, and division directors. The IEEE TAB structure has been criticized as unwieldy and unproductive.

In your opinion, are there any alternative structures that would make the IEEE TAB more effective and productive. Why, or why not? Please explain any changes you would encourage and how you would persuade TAB to embrace these changes.

Computer Society Position

1. The Society supports developing alternative structures to accommodate the broad range of groups within TAB and to create a more effective decision-making process.

In the current model, TAB's voting membership includes 42 society/technical council presidents and 10 division directors, plus TAB committee chairs and officers. With such a large body, the decision-making process is slow and cumbersome. The equal votes of each TAB member do not always result in good business decisions for the entire IEEE.

The TAB voting process has produced more societies, some with questionable financial viability. The TAB process has also increased the financial subsidies to inefficient societies. Travel support and general infrastructure costs have grown as a result of the ever-expanding TAB structure.

These actions create a financial burden for societies that are striving to manage their finances prudently and efficiently. Unless TAB identifies an alternative model, these trends will continue to weaken TAB, the societies, and the IEEE.

Leah Jamieson

1. TAB should be measured against key values: ensuring vigorous technical activities that support individual and collaborative society efforts, supporting activities of societies and councils, expediting the IEEE's entry into new areas, and adopting sound financial models.

Although we have made recent progress, TAB spends too little time on strategic issues. Also, concerns about TAB's growth are inhibiting entry into new areas. Creation of new societies increases tension between a small number of large societies and a growing number of small societies.

TAB would be better served by a leaner representative body that addresses TAB's operational issues and an all-societies Presidents' Forum that debates critical issues of how to create the world's premier technical presence. This can be implemented in stages to gain the confidence of TAB: elect an Operations Board and review its decisions in TAB; convene a strategy-focused Presidents' Forum; evaluate and tune the experimental structures; then make formal changes.

Gerald H. Peterson

1. Weighted voting and splitting into shared interest groups are two models that have been applied successfully in complex organizations. It has been my experience that an interest group structure provides an effective forum to focus and build consensus on group needs and interests. This process can add further refinement of consensus via an advisory or executive process in which elected interest group representatives come together to seek recommendations for plenary action.

Weighted voting (based on size or financial contribution) can also be applied at the plenary level to ensure that all Society members have an equal voice on plenary issues and policies.

These goals must be driven from and supported by the IEEE Board and the IEEE Strategic Plan. I believe the best structure will be derived from a deliberative process that looks at both current and future goals.

James M. Tien

1. TAB suffers from the same representational issues that faced the US founders: With great foresight, they resolved these issues by creating both a Senate (now composed of 100 senators, two from each state) and a House of Representatives (now composed of 435 representatives, each representing a district of about equal population).

To a large extent, the IEEE Board of Directors reflects the Senate structure (with its directors, vice presidents, and presidents); consequently, the other two major Boards—TAB and RAB (Regional Activities Board)—should each reflect the House of Representatives in structure.

To facilitate TAB's adoption of this model, I would suggest that the current number of TAB members remain the same but that only society presidents can vote and that their votes be counted in proportion to the size of the membership they respectively represent. In this age of advanced electronics, each president's vote can be easily identified and appropriately weighted.

Question 2: IEEE Spending

2. The IEEE faced financial deficits when its investment returns fell short and it was no longer capable of maintaining its practice of deficit spending. The IEEE Board revised its investment policies, cut expenses, and held the line on spending. As a result, the IEEE returned to a positive financial position. However, pressure to renew old spending habits is re-emerging.

How would you ensure that the IEEE follows prudent financial management practices? How would you evaluate funding proposals and require accountability for funds spent?

Computer Society Position

2. The Society encourages the IEEE president to lead the IEEE Board in limiting corporate spending. Increases in IEEE corporate spending decrease IEEE societies' funding allocations and therefore decrease the societies' capacity to offer services tailored to the technical needs of members.

The IEEE president should work with volunteers and staff to ensure that spending proposals have prudent and realistic goals and are thoroughly reviewed for financial soundness. Spending decisions should not result in a deficit budget. Each proposal should have a periodic evaluation and a final assessment report reviewed by the IEEE Board of Directors.

The IEEE president should support current efforts to have transparency in corporate financial statements so that volunteers and staff can better understand IEEE revenue and expense structures and be able to establish appropriate financial controls.

Leah Jamieson

2. Faced with crisis, the IEEE identified bad practices and mandated more sound policies: an annual operational budget that does not rely on investment income, a formal investment policy, and minimum-risk investment of funds against which there are obligations. These policies must not be viewed as optional. Any deviation should be reported to, reviewed by, and rejected by the Board of Directors. Moreover, we should be continually reviewing the IEEE's financial practices. Continued attention is needed to minimize overhead/infrastructure charges that are unattributable and therefore charged by formula to IEEE organizations.

The IEEE has reached the goal of reserves that exceed 50 percent of the annual operating budget. This should become an opportunity to initiate new projects at the grassroots level rather than an excuse for increasing the infrastructure.

The review of funding proposals and annual reporting and evaluation of initiatives should be guided by strategic priorities, both within TAB and at the level of the IEEE Executive Committee.

Gerald H. Peterson

2. As Chair of the IEEE Board Investment Policy ad hoc committee that produced our first Investment Operations Manual in 2003, I am committed to supporting the investment strategies set forth in that OM. Combined with sound financial operations, these strategies have driven the IEEE investment reserves to the benchmark objective of 50 percent of the annual cash flow this year. This effort must be continued while balancing the need to build reserves with the need to reinvest in the IEEE.

As a member of the New Initiatives Committee from 2002 to 2004, I participated in its evaluation and tracking of funding. I believe the NIC process can be made more robust and the methodology applied in other spending areas. I believe the Finance Committee is an effective management structure, and FinCom will receive my full support. Strengthening NIC and FinCom will improve accountability and return on investment.

James M. Tien

2. Clearly, the IEEE lacks discipline: We overspend in good times and we underspend in bad times. Understandably, this is human nature. However, despite our individual proclivities, we must realize that we are responsible for a $250 million business that underpins the viability of a global and highly esteemed learned society.

We must adopt sound financial management practices, including understanding which functions are and are not core to being a learned society. We should consider outsourcing our noncore functions. We should empower our various Finance Committees both to evaluate budgets (from an IEEE mission perspective) and to monitor expenditures (from an accountability perspective).

However, flexibility must be built into the budgeting process to allow for new initiatives and entrepreneurial actions by our knowledgeable societies and sections. We must develop and adhere to rolling three-year budgets, thus allowing our entities to plan and not be annually whiplashed by end-of-year surprises.

Question 3: Approach to New Markets

3. The IEEE has initiated efforts to develop stronger ties with industry and is also preparing to reach out to the Asia Pacific marketplace.

Explain how the IEEE can best engage industry leaders to market our products and services. What role do IEEE societies play in reaching out to industry? What role do societies have in exploring new markets in the Asia Pacific region, particularly China?

Computer Society Position

3. The most effective approach to new market development will be a collaborative, coordinated effort between the societies and the IEEE.

IEEE societies should take the lead in exploring new markets. Societies are best equipped to do so as they have traditionally been responsible for creating products and services for the IEEE.

Through their volunteer leader and member networks, societies have ties to industry leaders who can offer insights into the needs of industry practitioners for new product development. Societies can also rely on their industry contacts for advice and assistance in accessing new markets in China and other Asia Pacific countries.

The IEEE should take the lead in coordinating the activities of different societies and other entities within the IEEE. Careful coordination will avoid duplication of effort and avoid creating confusion with potential partners. The IEEE can also support the societies' market development efforts by providing resources as needed.

Leah Jamieson

3. The key is understanding what products and services are wanted and needed by industry and in new markets such as China. We should be holding discussions with industry technical leaders, managers, practitioners, and consultants. What are the areas of greatest interest: applications, tutorials, new technologies, standards, tool-kits, education, certification?

In exploring markets in the Asia Pacific region, societies play an important role: 42 percent of 2004 IEEE-sponsored or cosponsored conferences were in Regions 7-10 (that is, outside the US); R7-10 have 80 percent of IEEE Electronic Library subscribers, with 45 percent in R10 (Asia Pacific); 66 percent of authors are from R7-10, with 27 percent from R10. Societies have many of the contacts needed to develop relationships in the Asia Pacific region. Specific partnerships such as the agreements with Boeing and Areva and the Computer Society's partnership with Samsung will help us learn how the IEEE can partner with industry and in Asia.

Gerald H. Peterson

3. As a past president of the IEEE Standards Association, I have direct experience implementing a successful program that engages leaders from dues-paying companies in the governance of IEEE standards development. I will work to expand this model's value and applicability to industry through continued efforts to couple industry-driven standards development and marketing with value derived from society programs: workshops, conferences, and publications.

Using coordinated resources and ongoing global educational efforts, the Standards Association, societies, and regions will play a critical role in expanding the outreach to global industry and markets. This outreach must address large, small, and start-up businesses as well as quasi-governmental organizations engaged in everything from research to manufacturing. Our model must be flexible and the value must be tailored to specific industry and membership needs in Asia and worldwide.

James M. Tien

3. As a president-elect candidate whose focus is to "Advance the IEEE's Global Value," I fully support the fact that the IEEE "has initiated efforts to develop stronger ties with industry and to reach out to the Asia Pacific marketplace." Indeed, one of these efforts was my establishment in 2003 of a standing Public Awareness Committee within the EAB (Educational Activities Board); the Committee seeks collaboration with other engineering entities and companies to enhance the public's understanding and awareness of the contributions of engineering and engineers to the global economy and to our quality of life.

In many respects, it might be easier for the IEEE to engage industry, government, and academia in the Asia Pacific region, where they greatly value engineering—and IEEE products and services in particular (including our awards and recognitions)—and they fully underwrite their employees' IEEE membership. Given this reality, the IEEE and our societies should consider attracting individual members by working directly with employers.

Question 4: Presidential Candidates

4. What are your three most important priorities for your presidential year? What specific leadership skills do you have to help accomplish these priorities?

Computer Society Position

4. No IEEE Computer Society position.

Leah Jamieson

4. My priorities are to

  • provide career-long support: affordable membership; services that bridge career transitions; lifelong learning.
  • increase nimbleness in new technologies: interdisciplinary communities; entry-level content in new technology areas; use of the Web to coalesce our activities in new areas.
  • develop innovative information delivery tools: better understanding of how people—especially young people—access, use, organize, and share information; an ability to test new products and services through "rapid deployment" experiments that foster an entrepreneurial culture.

In all of these areas, we must build on the IEEE's transnational nature to enhance members' success in the global profession while meeting local needs in education, accreditation, professional development, information, and technology development and policy.

I bring a deep understanding of the IEEE, a record of leadership and service, and a commitment to key principles: strategic focus, teamwork, communication, collaboration, consensus-building, and an appreciation of volunteers and staff.

Gerald H. Peterson

4. My three most important priorities are

  • expand global membership and participation,
  • strengthen value to industry and academia, and
  • drive strategic planning and implementation to evolve our organizational structure.

To accomplish these priorities, I will draw on my leadership experience in industry and the IEEE, where I have a successful track record of driving agreement in diverse technical and cultural environments. I will draw from my experience in industry-elected national and international leadership positions that delivered global technical standards and fostered increased global cooperation. In these roles, I have worked directly with governmental agencies in the US and as a technical and leadership interface with private and governmental processes worldwide.

As a practicing engineer and engineering manager, I have managed dramatic change in the corporate environment and have first-hand experience with the level of restructure and cost-effective management necessary to meet the rapidly changing market and environment.

James M. Tien

4. Under the overarching goal of advancing the IEEE's global value, I would

  • work with our Membership Development Committee to establish a cafeteria of unbundled benefits and allow members to annually self-customize or personalize their benefits or membership advantage by employing up to a fixed number of member benefit credits;
  • challenge our Board of Directors to strategize and advance our profession globally while allowing our technical and regional entities (including IEEE-USA) to act locally in support of their members' careers; and
  • continue working with the EAB to help our entities put the best of their conference tutorials and short courses into IEEE/ Thomson's forthcoming Expert Now Web-based learning library (thus meeting our continuing education needs and replacing four years of cost-cutting with a new source of revenue).

I have demonstrated leadership skills: Within the IEEE, I have led by example, by motivating staff and volunteers, by thoughtful persistence, and by making things happen.

Queston 5: Managing New Technology

5. An increasing number of emerging technologies either cross or encroach on the traditional boundaries of specific electrical and computing engineering fields. Groups representing new technologies compete with existing IEEE organizational units for scarce resources.

What is your model for integrating emerging technologies into the current IEEE structure? How would you encourage new groups to cooperate with or be adopted by existing units rather than competing with them? How can the IEEE encourage and support the inclusion of new technologies without diverting support from existing entities?

Computer Society Position

5. It is important for the IEEE to identify emerging technologies to keep its members informed of the latest technical developments. However, the identification of new technologies should not automatically lead to the creation of new separate entities to support activities in the emerging areas. Expanding the number of independent groups within TAB leads to an unworkable governance structure and increased overhead charges for existing societies.

The IEEE president should lead the IEEE Executive Committee in developing effective mechanisms to determine the viability of new groups and then help viable groups integrate into existing entities. The IEEE should provide financial incentives for new groups to establish themselves as part of an existing society rather than creating a stand-alone entity.

Leah Jamieson

5. Adding new technology communities is a positive-sum endeavor for the IEEE: It is our future. Moreover, we've heard from industry that they want to see our technologies, not our organizational chart. It is therefore essential that the IEEE be agile in developing new technology communities. We need lightweight structures to allow formation of technical communities that develop Web portals, virtual communities, workshops, conferences and conference tracks, tutorials, experts' guides, glossaries, special issues, and periodicals.

Under the New Technologies initiative, we're developing software tools to help groups present a technology-centered face to the world. Expanding the IEEE's scope and presence into new areas should result in new revenue streams and resources, new markets, and new ties with industry. Societies/councils that grow new technology communities and that participate in new technology collaborations, both within and beyond the IEEE, should have access to seed funds for new technology initiatives and should share in the resulting revenue.

Gerald H. Peterson

5. Integrating and managing emerging technologies must be done with business case-driven goals that recognize investment in the future while terminating programs that are not delivering value. We must remain competitive.

I will continue to work for the IEEE to expand into any technical area that can deliver benefit to collective and individual IEEE goals. This must be accomplished based on firm business management principles that measure economic goals and results. This model ensures that funds are available to expand any needed additional support services.

This tough, business-driven approach must still provide means for the IEEE to fund programs that add to the IEEE's infrastructure value. These activities must always be managed with an eye to soft value and to affordability. For example, public relations programs are cost centers, but they are the avenue down which new business opportunities may emerge.

James M. Tien

5. Working with TAB, I would establish new and fair guidelines that would both welcome emerging technologies and avoid diverting resources from existing technical societies and councils.

While additional thought and discussion are still required, one way to accomplish this delicate balancing act is to require any emerging technology group to first demonstrate that they have actively and sincerely tried to be a part of an existing technical entity, including possibly allowing for the entity's scope of interest to be appropriately expanded.

Failing this step, the group must then convince two or more existing societies to not only technically sponsor them to become a technical council but also to provide financial sponsorship for at least two years. TAB must then vote on the thus-sponsored group. In this manner, critical emerging technologies can be captured, and existing technical entities can evolve and retain their technical and financial viability.

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