Issue No. 02 - March/April (2007 vol. 22)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MIS.2007.27
James Hendler , Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
In this issue, you will see the first article in our new Applications: Homeland Security department, as well as several continuing departments including this editorial, a Histories & Futures article by John Sowa, In the News, and more. The departments are, of course, an important part of our magazine and part of what separates IEEE Computer Society magazines from transactions and other journals. Departments, at their best, let us present important pieces of work more quickly than if they went through standard peer review, in a more readable way that can reach a wider audience. At their worst, however, they become unnecessary bulk and a disincentive to subscription.
One goal for my second term as editor in chief is to revamp our news and department foci. Fei-Yue Wang, of the Chinese Academy of Science, has volunteered to be an associate editor in chief helping with the Trends & Controversies and In the News departments. He previously ran our Intelligent Transportation Systems department and was very successful at attracting articles from well-known researchers around the world. (Daniel Zeng, of the University of Arizona, has joined our editorial board and is that department's new editor.)
While Fei-Yue sees to those departments, I plan to look for new areas in which our other departments could present important work that's currently going unpublished. The Applications: Homeland Security department is one example. A lot of research is going on in that area (although it goes by different names in different countries—more on that later), and that research is spread through a wide variety of publications. We ran an AI for Homeland Security special issue in Sept./Oct. 2005, which was well received, but we've not received many submitted articles in that area since. So, Homeland Security seemed a good topic for a department, and I solicited the article appearing in this issue to kick it off.
What's in a name?
Naming the department was harder. One idea was to have a department on AI and counterterrorism, which has been an important part of our field in the past few years (both in the US and EU, a bit less so in Asia). However, a much wider focus seemed to me to be better, including handling of disasters (natural or manmade), cultural modeling, robotic rescue, and other related topics. We couldn't come up with a category that included all those topics. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security takes charge of these issues, so Applications: Homeland Security seemed like a good title. But I realized that in other countries, the term is less meaningful. I discussed several names with colleagues, such as "infrastructure protection" (as it's called in Japan) and "national security" (the UK name for MI5's mission). The problem remained, however. Each of these names seemed to resonate strongly in some part of the world, but none had global appeal.
Finally, I realized that postponing the column while searching for a name made little sense; it would make more sense to just pick a title and go with it. Since we had chosen Homeland Security for the special issue's title, I decided to stick with it. I did, however, solicit some initial columns that, like the one in this issue, show that we're talking about a much wider range of concerns than preventing terrorism, in the hope that these will exemplify what we're seeking. If you work in this area and have an idea for an article, please let me know.
Looking for new ideas
We're also discussing other ideas for new departments. These are based on looking at where new work is going on in our field and exploring how to invite articles in these areas that will be of wide interest. We're also looking for areas that don't already have a well-known AI-oriented magazine.
One suggestion, on which I'd welcome your feedback, is an Integrated AI Systems department. This area has seen considerable investment in the US in recent years, and much exciting work is going on. It's less clear, however, how this would play with our European and Asian colleagues; the magazine isn't just a mouthpiece for DARPA research, and we don't want it to seem that way.
Conversely, a lot of European research in cultural heritage is very exciting, but there's less of that in the US. Korea has recently announced major new research efforts in AI, with robotics for the home as an area of special interest. This list could go on and on—many different AI areas are ripe for publication.
To explore these topics' global appeal, whatever they might be called locally, I've been soliciting ideas for special issues that explore their intelligent-systems aspects. We've found special issues to be a great way to explore new department ideas. This isn't just because of the feedback we get when the special issues appear but also because the submission rates for these issues let us judge an area's popularity. When we get dozens of submissions from all around the world, as we did for forthcoming issues on recommender and intelligent education systems, we know we're in an area with a lot of work going on. These areas become possible topics for new departments.
If you have an idea for a new department or if you think one of the areas I've mentioned sounds exciting, please let me know. Also, if there's a current department you think we could live without or a topic you think we're overstressing, let me know that as well. I want to make this magazine as responsive as I can to new areas in the field, and the only way to do that is with your help.