IEEE Communications Magazine 6 • February 2013
THE PRESIDENT'S PAGE
PLUS ÇA CHANGE, PLUS C'EST LA MÊME CHOSE
The title of this President's Page is an
epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
(1808-1890) who served as an Editor of Le
Figaro, a news paper published in Paris. It is
usually translated as "the more things change,
the more they stay the same." To illustrate
this I thought it might be instructive to take a
look at the July 1978 "Message from the
President" written by Bob Lucky. He was our
1978-79 President and needs no introduction
Read and enjoy, we haven't changed that
"I've been President of the Communications Society
now for several months. So far
I've had very little chance to issue the necessary proclama -
tions which will give our members all that I pledged in my
campaign — mainly extra vacation days, increased pay, and
guaranteed prestigious awards. I was thinking of starting by
forming a committee, but I'm afraid that if I give an order,
nobody will pay any attention.
I'd like to introduce myself through this column. It would
be nice if our magazine could afford a reporter who could
interview me, and then fix up the answers so they sound intelligent,
but it can't. So I thought I'd interview myself, asking
probing questions about matters of concern to ComSoc members.
Q. How did you get to be President of ComSoc?
A. I'm not sure.
Q. What does the President do?
A. I'm not sure of that either. I get a lot of mail from
IEEE. By the time I figure it all out, someone else will be
President, and I don't think he'll be too sure either.
Q. Who are these guys that run ComSoc?
A. Like any volunteer organization, there are lots of members,
but only a small number of people who, for whatever
reason, decide to get personally involved. In ComSoc we have
about 11,000 members and maybe one or two hundred people
who are involved in the organization itself. Our Society is
heavily organized in comparison with other IEEE Societies
that I know of, i.e., we have lots of committees and boards. I
know Parkinson's laws apply here, but I've come to the conclusion
that it's not so bad in a volunteer organization. Things
do get done, and people do have fun doing them.
Q. What things get done?
A. Mostly we run meetings and publish things , but I'm
always amazed at how many other matters require lengthy
Q. Why should I get involved in ComSoc?
A. One reason is the possibility of helping our profession.
For me, it's more the people that you work with. Through
IEEE and ComSoc I've made lots of friends throughout our
country and in other parts of the world. (Some of them probably
even voted for me, but I'm not too sure.)
It gives me a feeling of being a part of a real
international professional community. Also,
it's a great help in keeping current with technical
work going on outside your own establishment.
Q. I think I'd like to get in volved in ComSoc:
How do I do it?
A. Maybe the best way would be to join a
Technical Committee. These are listed on the
inside back cover of the Transactions each
month. If you write to the Committee Chairman,
are willing to do a little work, and have
some relevant background, I think it's l ikely
you'd be enthusiastically welcomed.
Q. What do the Technical Committees do?
A. Mostly they run meetings and publish things. More
specifically, each committee is responsible for organizing sessions
in their field at the various conferences and for reviewing
papers for conferences and the Transactions. Some
committees sponsor workshops and contribute to the organization
of various specialized conferences. They do other
things too; I'm not always sure what they are.
Q. I've never attended any of your conferences. I don' t
read any of the papers in your Transactions. Why do I belong
to the Communications Society?
A. I don't know, bu t you're in the majority. Surprisingly,
perhaps, only a small percentage of our members attend the
meetings. We get more than a thousand at ICC and NTC
each year, but I suspect it's the same thousand each time. As
to not reading the Transactions, I suspect you're in the overwhelming
majority. Our polls have shown that the average
poll returner reads about one paper an issue. I really don't
believe it myself. I think people are ashamed to admit they
don't read papers. They fill out an anonymous questionnaire
in the dark in a closet, and lie - to themselves more than anyone.
Incidentally, the Transactions is a real bargain. The printing
costs alone are more than your ComSoc membership fee.
(The journals are heavily subsidized by nonmember subscriptions.)
The other thing is that, as inefficient as it may seem,
the journal system has worked. Somehow the information the
journals contain does get into circulation — and, of course,
there is the archival value.
Q. Where do you get all those lousy papers that are published
in the Transactions?
A. Believe it or not, people send them to us. If you think
these are bad, you should see some of the ones we reject.
Q. What are my chances of getting a paper published in
A. Based on statistics, about 50%. Your paper goes to
three reviewers, and if they like it, you're in. However, it's an
imperfect system and reviewers have been known to make
mistakes. Most authors feel that their paper is so good that it
should be accepted by an immediate telegram with publication
the following week in a special issue devoted solely to their
paper with their picture on the cover of the journal. In practice,
we have to settle for something less. Reviewers are only
human, and they often like to show their own brilliance by
making critical remarks about even the best of papers. There's
also the slim possibility to consider that maybe your paper
isn't quite as good as you think.
Q. Why don't you publish more practical or applications
A. Believe it or not, people don't send them to us. Everyone
in IEEE wants us to publish more applications oriented
papers. However, it often seems that people who actually
design things aren't inclined to paper publishing. Also, many
companies aren't too keen on giving away real design secrets.
How about some equations, instead?
Please, if you're in a position to write an applications
paper about some communications system or component, give
us a chance to publish it.
Q. I have a good idea to make ComSoc more effective in
helping its membership. What should I do with it?
A. How about writing or calling me?
Q. I have a complaint to register about ComSoc. What
should I do with it?
A. Thanks for reading this interview."