President’s Message

Let me begin by posing several questions: Is the EMC Society meeting your needs and expectations when it comes to our annual symposia and regional colloquia? Would you like to see something different? Would having more EMC conferences be a good thing? I pose these for a couple of reasons. First, as a result of recent surveys of the EMC Society membership, it appears we are doing quite well when it comes to our annual symposium. Interestingly enough, nearly half the attendees at our annual symposium are not members of the Society. However, we are getting mixed feedback from members when asked about their thoughts on holding multiple symposia in a given year as well as their view of the general EMC conference scene globally.
In my last message, I alluded to possible plans in the future for our Society to host more than one EMC symposium annually. The general idea would be to hold one symposium in Regions 1-7 and a second somewhere within Regions 8-10 during any given calendar year. Although the idea has merit, we need to carefully weigh the various pros and cons of embarking on such a path. This leads me to the subject of this message in which I would like to bring attention to the growing number of EMC conferences and symposia worldwide and the potential impacts both good and maybe not so good. So many conferences, so little time.
First, the idea of hosting more than one IEEE EMC symposium in a given year is certainly not a new one. In fact, we experimented with this most recently in 2003, when we co-sponsored the international IEEE EMC Symposium in Istanbul, Turkey and then subsequently held the national EMC Symposium in Boston, MA that same year. We learned a great deal from that experience, but one fact stood out. We were not alone. These symposia were held amidst a number of other non-IEEE EMC-related events during that year. Indeed, the trend over the past ten or so years has been towards an increase in the number of EMC conferences of one form or another. About ten years ago we may have had as many as 3 to 5 major EMC conferences held in IEEE Regions 1-6 and 8 during any two-year period. Today we can have as many as twice that across Regions 1-10, albeit some events are scheduled in alternating years. However, even certain biannual events of past years are now being held annually. So the growth trend steadily continues and in certain respects, the competition for attendees and exhibitors is increasing as well.
Some of these conferences focus on a particular subset of EMC; for example, EMC in devices and printed circuit boards, electromagnetic fields and human safety, electromagnetic environment ecology, and so on. Other EMC conferences have a much broader theme. In any case, the individual conference committees should be commended for their efforts in sponsoring world-class events that coalesce the best of the best in EMC, offer highly engaging topics for discussion, and facilitate continuing information exchanges on all matters EMC in nearly every sector of the globe. Overall, we are doing an outstanding job at getting our word across to the EMC masses and it is being well received. On balance, having many diverse conferences is a good thing and bodes well for our discipline! Then there is that double-edged sword to deal with; more on that momentarily.
Today’s wealth of EMC conferences presents a new challenge; namely, how to ensure that we are not over-crowding the “EMC market” with too many closely-spaced EMC events over a given time period. This has been a topic of some lively discussion in recent years and has prompted me to ponder the ramifications of holding more than one IEEE EMC symposium in a given year. Are we stoking the fire too fast and too furiously? Consider the EMC and related conferences that have taken place and that are upcoming in 2006. These include:

  • 9th International Conference on Electromagnetic Interference & Compatibility (INCEMIC 2006) and Workshop, 21-24 February in Bangalore, India
  • EMC Zurich in Singapore, 28 February - 3 March in Singapore
  • 22nd Annual Review of Progress in Applied Computational Electromagnetics (ACES), 12-16 March in Miami, Florida
  • Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium (PIERS), 26-29 March in Cambridge, Massachusetts and 2-5 August in Tokyo, Japan
  • 12th Biennial IEEE Conference on Electromagnetic Field Computation (CEFC), 30 April – 3 May in Miami, Florida
  • 18th International Wroclaw Symposium and Exhibition on EMC, 28-30 June, Wroclaw, Poland
  • 2006 IEEE EMC Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility, 14-18 August in Portland, Oregon
  • EMC Europe 2006 in Barcelona, 4-8 September, Barcelona, Spain
  • EMC Exhibition & Conference, 17-18 October, Newbury, United Kingdom
  • 4th International Workshop on Biological Effects of EMFs, 17-20 October, Crete Island, Greece

This boon in EMC conference activities obviously helps to increase awareness of the role and importance of the EMC discipline in our lives, but at the same time, it is a portent of some things less desirable, specifically, the potential over-saturation of the EMC conference market and the perceived competition amongst the conferences themselves. How can we keep these in check while continuing to foster the growth of EMC conference activities in order to raise EMC awareness? On the other hand, having these many conferences and colloquia dispersed around the world makes it easier for engineers to attend an EMC-oriented conference that may be geographically close to where they live and work. What is a workable solution to this dilemma? Before attempting to answer this, consider the additional points below.
There are several long-established as well as emerging and relatively new EMC events taking place in various parts of Asia and the Pacific Rim. In particular, there is growing EMC conference activity in the countries of Russia, Japan, China, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. We are also seeing certain of the more time-honored EMC events undergo something of a facelift, which has involved a revamping of the traditional technical program and even shifting location in order to increase their exposure to other regions of the globe.
In addition to the number of both IEEE and non-IEEE sponsored conferences on EMC during any given year, our Society also technically co-sponsors or provides cooperative sponsorship to selected non-EMC events. These non-EMC events may have a special interest in certain aspects of EMC or have some other more general relationship to electromagnetics. The EMC Society is often asked by representatives of these various conferences to consider providing some form of sponsorship (mostly in the form of technical co-sponsorship or cooperative support). It is incumbent on us as a Society to give due consideration to these requests on a case-by-case basis. Such involvement is not only intended to assist other conferences in achieving their goals, but also to permit us to outreach and expand beyond our own borders as well as keep abreast of new, cutting edge technologies where EMC could readily fit in. This allows us new avenues for spreading the EMC word and further raising awareness and interest. So the IEEE/EMC-S brand name and logo are well circulated throughout the world, thus giving us added exposure in some “non-traditional” areas in both technical and geographical terms. However, some perceive our Society as over-extending itself here and adding more fuel to the fire.
Yet there are other factors to consider. That each of these conferences and symposia strives in their own way for high quality, a unique identity, and a solid legacy is not being debated. For the most part and especially in view of the more established EMC conferences including our own annual symposia, we can be assured that: (i) these are world class events; (ii) they build upon a solid reputation of excellence; (iii) legacy is important and technical and historical “identity” should be preserved; and (iv) technical programs are designed to reinforce the notion of EMC in lock step with forefront technologies (i.e., keeping EMC relevant with regard to new technologies and applications). The point here is that although there seems to be a plethora of EMC conferences these days and more EMC-related events may be on the horizon, each is a high-quality event offering an equally important and somewhat unique perspective on the subject. The real issue here is how to “harmonize” these separate activities to some extent without threatening the identity and future of any one of them.
I believe co-existence of these various conferences and symposia is possible. We should continue to cultivate this notion. There may also be permanent or temporary mergers along the way, which could lead to new cooperative agreements for jointly-sponsored events. Meanwhile, we need to develop a cohesive network that facilitates communications and close working relationships amongst the respective conference committees and activities as the need arises. After all, we are really one EMC community with many faces and our address is the planet earth. I encourage the EMC leaders and conference committees worldwide to build bridges to other groups and enter into cooperative working relationships with other entities of our broad “EMC network.”
The answer to the dilemma lies in the hope that we as an EMC community, and in particular our global conference leaders, will be of an open, proactive mind to network and coordinate with each other and to downplay any perceived notion of competition for regional, historical or other reasons. I cite the recent Zurich EMC Symposium and Technical Exhibition in Singapore held in February 2006 as an excellent model of how joint cooperation and collaboration can work. I observed a highly coordinated effort between the EMC Zurich Steering Committee leaders and the local IEEE Singapore EMC and MTT/AP Chapter working alongside members of the Singapore Institute of High Performance Computing. The communications between members of the conference committees were seamless and effective at every turn. Naturally, the conference drew strong attendance from South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim, as expected. The attendance nearly doubled compared to original projections based on good planning and concerted efforts on behalf of all committee members. The technical program was first-rate and well balanced. Another interesting observation was that the influence and flavor of two cultures intermingled nicely, yet their “identities” remained intact.
We should not overlook the importance of a conference’s heritage. Indeed, the legacy and historical background that these conferences and their committees bring, which in some cases date back well over 30 years, are part of this heritage expressed as a pride of ownership. The main thing is that if properly approached, collaboration between conferences and their committees need not be at the expense of losing their heritage or identity.
So with the increasing presence of EMC conferences worldwide, we need to make sure that in the best of all worlds, these can all co-exist and that the various conference committees can communicate and work together effectively to continue to provide high quality events. I propose a three-tiered approach:

  1. Conference leaders should convene and develop a sound five-year schedule of conferences and symposia events that minimize conflicts in topics, schedules, and regions where they will be held.
  2. Consider developing specialized technical focus areas that conferences can adopt or select as their main theme for the program on a periodic (annual, biannual, etc.) basis.
  3. Forge and commit to memoranda of agreements (MOAs) that outline the mutual expectations of multiple conference committees that are willing to collaborate on joint events for technical and/or regional reasons.

The jury is still out as to whether the multitude of EMC conferences will be a good thing or not in the end. Only time will tell. I suspect a natural evolution over time will align and consolidate certain events, but that’s in the future. Those who will be involved and/or affected by this will need to draw upon the wisdom of the past and give a glance toward the future.
I’ll close by posing those pesky questions I started out with: Is the EMC Society meeting your needs and expectations when it comes to our annual symposia and regional colloquia? Would you like to see something different? Would having more EMC conferences be a good thing? I invite your feedback on this matter. Please contact me at I look forward to your inputs. EMC

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