A view on IEEE Board of Directors and the role of Division VII Director
This is my first opportunity to write an article in the P&E Newsletter. And I do so in my role of Division VII Director. The reader of this Newsletter may ask, as many members of the Power & Energy Society do: “But what is a Division VII Director?”
I will try to answer this here. In 2017, I was Division VII Director-Elect, when Al C.Rotz was Division Director. I take this opportunity to thank Al for his tremendous job at the Board of Directors of IEEE. He could inject his energy, which I suppose comes naturally for a PES person, but also his deep knowledge of IEEE during his mandate on the Board. I wish to thank Al for all he did more generally for PES, where he was a member of the Governing Board for 13 years (Treasurer, President-Elect, President and Past-President and Division VII Director), and what he did for IEEE as a whole.
My own discovery report
Just as when one changes job, after a few months, it is useful to share a “discovery report”. I wish to do this here, as I believe that readers of this column are more familiar with PES itself than the overall IEEE. I have been a member of IEEE PES for nearly 30 years. I view myself as having a good comprehension of PES from a technical perspective, have participated to conferences, published papers, been awarded the grade of Fellow in 2008, and have participated to its governing bodies, having been Chapter chair, member of the Governing Board from 2006 to 2009, or having been member of conference scientific committees.
All this made me think that when elected as Division VII Director-Elect for 2017, I would tread familiar ground.Well dear reader, I was surprised.
The notion of Organizational Unit (OU), the number of Committees, the issues that are transverse to regions, societies, activities, struck me as I went along. And always impressed by the quality of the volunteers who are willing and ready to bring the best of their knowledge and time.
Another discovery was the size of IEEE staff. Of course I knew well PES staff well. Pat Ryan, Executive Director of PES, always so knowledgeable about PES and IEEE and whom I wish to thank for his guidance, as well as his team for their help. But IEEE staff has about 1200 persons, with offices not only New Jersey and New York, but also in China, Singapore, Russia, and for its latest, in Austria, to cover European affairs. I cannot vouch on all of them, but those I’ve interacted with are great professionals.
Since January 2018, Stephen Welby is the new IEEE Executive Director (ED) and COO. Having had the chance to participate to a few meetings with Steve, I’m confident that his nomination was an excellent choice for our organization. Most recently, he has served as the US assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. In his role of chief technology officer for the US Department of Defense, he led one of the largest research, development and engineering organizations in the world.
The structure of the IEEE Board of Directors
As Division VII Director, I represent PES at the IEEE Board of Directors (BoD). After I was elected, many PES members came to ask me what this meant, what was the role of the BoD. Although the way IEEE operates, with its different boards, is transparent and available on www.ieee.org, I will take a few lines to underline its structure.
The BoD oversees the activities of IEEE. It is chaired by the President and CEO of IEEE who is elected by all IEEE members for one year; in 2018 James A. Jefferies is President. It comprises about 30 people: the three IEEE Presidents (President, President-Elect and immediate Past-President); the Vice Presidents and Presidents of the six major boards; the Secretary; the Treasurer; the ten Region Directors; the ten Division Directors; and the Director Emeritus.
The six VPs represent each a Board: Educational Activities (EAB), Publication Services and Products (PSPB), Member and Geographic Activities (MGA), Standards Association (SA), Technical Activities (TAB), and IEEE-USA.
The 10 Regions are well known by IEEE members. As for the 10 Divisions, it is not necessarily the case. They cover all 39 IEEE Societies.In the extremes, Divisions IV and X each represent 9 different societies. At the other end, Computer Society, which is the largest society in terms of members, is represented by two Directors (V and VIII). Power & Energy (which is the second largest with its 37 000 members), covers the whole of Division VII, just as Communications,(the third largest) with Division III.
Most part of the meetings is open to any IEEE member, and only specific issues requires executive sessions.
As BoD Director, I may, according to the issues at stake, be asked to vote having in sight the interests of IEEE overall, or else to focus on the interests of my “constituents”, in my case PES.
The BoD meetsin presence of IEEE Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer,and several members of IEEE Staff.
The Board holds three yearly physical meetings during the “IEEE Series” and a couple of times by telephone or internet meetings.
IEEE Meeting Series
When the BoD meets, it is at the end of a nearly week long series of meetings, the “IEEE Meeting Series”. There, all the major OU Boards of IEEE meet simultaneously, as well a series of other Committees on a variety of topics, ranging from Financial Transparency (FinTran, to which I participate), to Audit or Industry Outreach.
Among these meetings, an important one if that of Technical Activities Board. TAB gathers all 39 Society Presidents (and hence PES) all Council Presidents, and all 10 Division Directors.
According to IEEE bylaws, TAB is responsible to the Board of Directors for directing the advancement of the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, and the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences and technologies, and their application for the benefit of IEEE members worldwide and for the general public. TAB shall encourage and support its Societies, Councils, and Committees to develop and deliver to their global customers appropriate and timely intellectual property products, in either printed or electronic form, or through meetings on current or emerging technologies.
Due to the coincidence of all these meetings taking place together, one surprise I had when attending my first IEEE series, was that it was not a few dozen participants that attended, as I would have expected, but a few hundreds. And from all fields that cover IEEE.
IEEE meeting series is a unique opportunity for BoD members to participate to other Committees, but also to meet people in-between meetings. It is thus very useful for a better understanding of major issues which are emerging within our organization, to push forward ideas coming from our own society (PES in my case).
How does the Board of Director interacts with PES?
The role of a Division Director and its constituents depends on the Division it belongs to. Obviously, for Divisions which cover 9 different societies, it is different from those, like Division VII, which cover one and only one society. As Division VII Director, I belong to both PES Governing Board and Executive Committee. This means that a Division VII Director keeps a close bond between the BoD and PES. Topics which PES wants to put forward to IEEE globally can be done in this fashion, on variety of issues, from technical topics to more financial questions.
My position is to serve IEEE, but most and foremost to serve PES. Hence the need to have these close interactions.
Concluding remarks on IEEE and membership
As stated on its site, with its more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries,IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities, IEEE is the trusted voice in a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers, and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power, and consumer electronics.
Globally, IEEE sponsors more than 1800 annual conferences and events and publishes nearly a third of the world’s technical literature in electrical engineering, computer science and electronics. IEEE is also a developer of international standards.
So a bright future lies ahead? Well, it depends on IEEE members, volunteers and staff. During its BoD meetings, strategic issues are raised. Major changes are taking place that affect IEEE. To name just a few, the model for publishing is undergoing a tremendous evolution with open access. Other not for profit associations but also for-profit companies are growing and could be looked at as competitors. Continuing education is changing fast. The marketing of IEEE products is competing with agile and new players. All this amongst other topics is being addressed but not one solution can be the right one.
Finally, let me focus on membership. Although IEEE membership has grown by 30% over the past two decades, 25% of members are student. This means new blood and could be good news, but retention rate is going down. Why? Students who have known what IEEE can bring them decide to leave us. We have to think of improvements. Initiative concerning Young Professionals (YP) exist and should help to increase attractiveness of young engineers and retention of student members.
Industry membership overall at IEEE level has declined from 67% in 2000 to 47% in 2016. This was not a strategy, and should be seen as a reason of concern. There are explanations for this.The early 2000s was the height of the Internet bubble, several companies joined which then went bust. Nevertheless. During the same period, PES membership has grown, but managing to keep about 2/3 of our members from industry.
Being an industry person myself, I do not want to be seen as a defending one category of members compared to another. I just feel the balance should be kept close to its original 2/3 industry. The richness of IEEE comes from a large participation of industry, and to have them exchange with the very best of the academic world.
To conclude, a lead which IEEE and PES have both identified as an urgent need to progress: 86% of IEEE members are male. This is probably even more than the percentage of male among engineers. Women in Engineering (at IEEE level) and Women in Power (PES) initiatives exist. They should in my view be strongly encouraged. Not only to increase IEEE membership, but to contribute to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.
IEEE Division VII Director