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Impact and Action

Pages: pp. 2-4


This is my first editorial as I take over as the new editor in chief. In addition to thanking my predecessor (which I'll return to in a moment), I'd like to use this opportunity to tell you some of my plans for this publication. I also have some things for you to do, but I'll save that for the end. First, let's talk about the publication you're reading.

As you know, IEEE Intelligent Systems isn't a journal in the traditional sense, but we're not a traditional magazine, either. What we are is a high- impact publication in the area of artificial intelligence and intelligent systems. When I say "impact," I mean it in the technical sense—that is, how many citations a publication receives multiplied by a factor representing how soon the citations appear. If you look in a reputable journal-ranking service, such as the ISI Web of Knowledge (, you can see that the top-ranked publications in terms of impact include such household names as Science and Nature, both of which use magazine formats. So by viewing us as a high-impact publication, I mean that I want us to be the Nature of AI.

Now, that might appear to be an overly lofty goal, but in fact, thanks to the amazing work of our former editor in chief, Nigel Shadbolt, it seems that we are nearly there! Currently, the ISI Web of Knowledge ranks IEEE Intelligent Systems as fourth in impact among artificial intelligence publications (third, if you don't include the Journal of Medical Image Analysis, which, although ranked first in impact, might not be considered a mainstream AI publication by many). Yow! Nigel has shown an uncanny knack for picking the best research in some of the hottest areas and getting them into publication fast. Great job, Nigel!

Now to the hard part—what's my goal for this publication? It's easy to state—I want us to be number one! What's more, I think this is achievable—but it can't happen if we simply maintain the status quo. Nigel has put us on a great trajectory, but in a fast-changing field such as ours, staying the course isn't sufficient. It's like the Red Queen said to Alice, "Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" So, my job is to figure out how to run twice as fast as Nigel, which will be awfully difficult, as he set one heck of a pace! (I am, however, hedging my bets in one way—Nigel has agreed to stay on as "Editor in Chief Emeritus," so we can continue to exploit his talents and energy!)

So, what's the next step? By definition, making an impact requires taking some action, so here are some "actions" that I feel will be incumbent on me, as the new editor in chief, if we're going to make it to first place and show those medical imagers what's what. (I start with what I see as my actions, but I promise, I'll get back to yours in a bit—keep reading!)


Part of our recent success is that Nigel saw the Semantic Web trend coming and got IEEE IS there to grow with it. We had Trends & Controversies articles on related topics, created a Semantic Web column, published special issues, presented some early (and now highly cited) articles, and established ourselves as the place to get that work noticed. Now, however, the field is starting to develop its own journals, and other outlets are becoming available for papers. While I don't intend to abandon the Semantic Web, we need to start looking for other emerging fields where we can establish our leadership and continue to be seen as the place for high-impact new work.


A few years back I had an editorial in this publication where I discussed the need for us to bring the "blind men" together to see if we could better understand the "elephant" that's modern artificial intelligence. As editor in chief, I'll be devoted to fighting the splintering of AI and to breaking down the walls between subareas. One way that Intelligent Systems has been able to do this in the past is by having special issues focused on AI goals rather than on specific methodologies. These issues stressed the commonality in what people were doing, not the differences in how they were doing it. I want to see more of this, and I want to push our columns, especially Trends & Controversies, to do more topics that cross subdiscipline boundaries. I also want to enlist some new editorial board members to strengthen areas where we need to attract more papers, but I'll return to that later.


One of our greatest advantages has been the ability to bring important work into print quickly—in fact, this is the primary reason our impact factor is so high. Our ability to get articles and columns into the hands of a large readership very quickly is crucial, and the editor in chief must be committed to making sure we're tracking the best of the field. This was a major key to Nigel's success, and I'm committed to making sure we keep backlogs and queues short, without sacrificing quality. Indeed, coupled with a proactive search for new and exciting topics, this is where I expect a lot of my "creative" resources will need to be spent.


In the continuing drive to build our audience, we must be willing to get out of our comfort zone on more occasions and to try new things. This will involve taking a little risk and trying something new, but the payoffs could be huge. For example, I'd like to see us try a couple of "edgier" special issues. While the topics we've chosen have been good, we still almost always use the "three to four papers, an editorial, and a related column or two" format. I'd love to see, occasionally, something different—perhaps an issue that looked more like Wired, consisting of short reports on the hottest stuff across the field. In fact, I'd like to push on that button a bit more—for example, I'd love to see a yearly piece on the "AI Top 10" or something like that. I don't want to do this sort of thing too often, which could threaten the reputation we've gained as a credible scientific publication, but an occasional bit of spice sure would be fun.


On occasion, seeing a big name, famous scientist, or "guest star" appear in our columns would be great. I'd love to see an interview with Tim Berners-Lee in our Semantic Web spaces, perhaps an interview with Eric Horvitz (with quotes from Bill Gates) on Microsoft's plans in the intelligent systems area, a visit with the various Turing Award winners, or a "What are they doing now?" with some early Computers and Thought Award winners.

In fact, one opportunity that I immediately want to get to work on is that the summer of 2006 will be the 50th anniversary of the Dartmouth workshop, one of the seminal events in the founding of our field. I hope we can create an "AI at 50(ish)" issue that will be a collectors' item—double thickness, distributed at many conferences, and full of interviews, comments, and provocative thoughts by AI scientists old and new. I'm going to assign one of the most creative members of our editorial board the task of starting immediately on assembling this, and I hope we'll publish it with a big splash. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we should embrace it completely.


We have an excellent editorial board, but we need to change a little if we're to progress as a publication. In particular, we need to bring in new members in a few areas:

  • As strange as it might sound coming from me, I'd like to bring in a hard-core logical theorist. IEEE Expert, as IEEE Intelligent Systems was originally known, started partly as a reaction to the fact that the logicians had essentially taken over key journals in the field such as Artificial Intelligence ( AIJ) and the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Matching and Machine Intelligence, and there was a strong feeling that the more applied side of AI needed a place to publish. Now, however, we're established enough that we can do more outreach to the rest of the AI community, and doing so requires having one or two hard-core logicians on the board.
  • I'd like to bring in someone working squarely on e-commerce issues. New growth is occurring in the relationship between AI and e-commerce (Semantic Web Services, the application of auction-based materials, AI techniques used in search engine technologies, and so on), and I'd like someone on the board explicitly tracking that work.
  • I'd like to bring in someone from information assurance—another area where new work is bringing AI and an important application space together. This area needs a special issue, and it needs someone on our board who knows the players and can help us reach out to that community.
  • I'd like to get someone from the privacy area onto the board. As much as I love AI and have had a key role in making the Semantic Web happen, the powerful technologies we're bringing into existence create deep threats to privacy. I'd like someone who's connected to the Computer Profession for Social Responsibility or the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help us create a feature, and hopefully a column, on this critical area.
  • An emerging area of great interest to intelligent systems is that of "social networks" on the Web. Researchers are investigating using social-networking information in machine learning, in exploring issues of trust and reputation, and even in spam filtering. This is an important area for us to be aware of, and there are strong editorial board candidates we could bring in for this area. In fact, social networks might be one of those emerging areas where we should be establishing a presence—I bet many editorial board members are already connected to LinkedIn or Orkut or a similar community yet haven't thought about the AI opportunities that abound in this space.

Unfortunately, our board is already quite large—33 members, if I've counted right, but some turnover is always healthy, and we need to prune a bit if we want to continue to grow. Thus, I think as the new EIC I'll need to make a few hard decisions. So if you notice some changes, please join me in thanking those who are stepping down and welcoming those who'll be coming aboard to help us grow.


Okay, so much for what I'm going to do—but what about you? You, the readers, are the most important part of our success, and if we're going to get to number one, I need your help. Please send me comments on what I've just discussed and suggestions for the publication, and share any thoughts you might have as I go along. But most important of all—keep those great articles coming in! What really increases our impact is you sending us your hottest work so that we can get it into print faster than the competition. I want to keep that happening, and I'll do my part if you'll do yours. Is it a deal? Great, then together let's make this the place to be seen!

So thanks again, Nigel; thanks, editorial Board; and thanks to all of you who are reading this.



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