As the 34th president of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS), let me first send you my best wishes for 2017! In my first message as GRSS President, I would like to summarize the current status of the Society and briefly describe our future plans.
GRSS aims to become the world’s leading professional society in our field of interest. As educated professionals, we have the moral obligation to explain to society, based on facts, the current state of knowledge of the health of our planet, as well as the ways in which our actions may change the Earth, in turn affecting us, our children and our children’s children. Our membership, 3466 as of November 30, 2016, is growing slowly but steadily, especially in China, where 169 new colleagues joined GRSS between January 1 and November 30, 2016. During the past two years, the number of GRSS chapters has grown from 44 to 59, and a number of petitions to form new chapters have been received. It is important to mention our chapters in South America, where the GRSS presence has traditionally been quite small.
Thanks to the active policies of our former presidents, and in particular of our Past President Prof. Kamal Sarabandi and CFO Dr. Jim Smith, the GRSS operational budget is now over $800 K, which means a three-fold increase with respect to 2013, and our ‘reserves to expense ratio’ is 160%, exceeding the IEEE threshold required to qualify for access to the ΄3% rule‘. This fact has allowed GRSS to invest an additional $300 K in strategic initiatives during 2016. These increases have allowed the GRSS to greatly expand services to our members and the remote sensing community by increasing support for student and young professional activities during IGARSS and at other conferences, by expanding funding of chapters and membership programs, by strengthening and improving our web presence, by increasing journal page budgets, etc. New initiatives have allowed GRSS to target particular issues in different regions and increase our global activities in Latin American, India, and Africa.
Our fully edited publications are stable or moderately growing. In 2016 nearly 600 papers were published in TGRS, which is the third-ranked IEEE journal in terms of total number of citations received in 2015 (27,000), most of them from other journals. Again in 2016, more than 560 papers were published in GRSL, which is steadily increasing in number of citations, and over 570 papers were published in JSTARS. Our magazine, GRSM, appeared in Thomson Reuters’ indices for the first time in 2016. In addition, hard copies of GRSM will be printed and mailed in 2017 to members who sign up for a modest supplement to the Society membership.
On another topic, our new mobile-friendly web site has experienced an increase in site usage of 25% over last year, and has added a number of new features, including IGARSS video search tools, two DVDs with remote sensing tutorials in English and Spanish, and several online management tools.
In recent years, GRSS has begun three major cross-cutting initiatives, namely, 1) Globalization, 2) Education, and 3) Industry Engagement. First, in the Globalization Initiative, GRSS will renew its membership in GEO as a Participating Organization for the period of 2017-2019. This will allow us to increase our visibility among the GEO community as ‘the’ remote sensing society, to identify specific opportunities for GRSS members to become involved in GEO programs, and, in general, to explore new ways to link GEO, GRSS and IEEE humanitarian initiatives, among others. As an example, GRSS sponsored the ‘Soil Moisture and Agricultural Outreach Support Project,’ which was incorporated into the official GEO-AfriGEOSS work plan for 2016-2025. Second, in the Education Initiative, GRSS continues to organize the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Summer School each summer in conjunction with IGARSS. In addition, GRSS organized a summer school at the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) conference, as well as two caravan events over two weeks in four different venues in Kenya and Rwanda. Third, in the Industry Engagement Initiative, GRSS has hired a company to help us define a strategy to better serve our interests and to engage industry members more closely in our activities.
Even though GRSS is generally doing very well, we have to be aware of potential future developments and be prepared to adapt to a changing environment. Roughly speaking, two-thirds of GRSS income comes from Publications, and another one-third from Conferences. We need to maintain the current income level to keep supporting the GRSS strategic initiatives. On one hand, even though our membership numbers continue to increase, IGARSS registrations are stable or slightly decreasing, which may be an evidence of economic difficulties in many countries and travel restriction policies in others. On the other hand, while IEEE’s reputation of high-quality publications is rock solid, there are many new competing publications. Some of them are skyrocketing in terms of the number and quality of papers published, as well as in impact factor. Most of these new publications are fully online and open access (OA), and their publication fees are comparable to ours for non-open access.
As the GRSS Executive Vice-President during the last two years, I have been in charge of strategic planning. As an outcome of our discussions, we have agreed to keep the three-year rotation model of IGARSS venues: the Americas, Europe-Africa-Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, since this offers more advantages than moving to a model of regional conferences, and it best reflects GRSS’ truly international character. Regarding publications, we have to be aware of the new OA journals and carefully study an evolutionary model to maintain and increase our stature in this changing environment.
Our plans for Globalization in 2017 include maintaining the current regional initiatives in Africa (caravans, summer schools, etc.), China (maintaining Dr. Qiang Yin as GRSS regional program manager to help consolidate the base of members and chapters), India (possibly playing a more important role in conferences organized in the country, as well as studying the possibility of having a regional program manager), and Latin America (organizing summer schools, training courses, young professionals (YP) conferences, and paving the way for the organization of a future IGARSS conference). On this subject, it is worth mentioning the appointment of Prof. Carlos Lopez as the new GRSS coordinator of Latin American activities, who has already been there a few times to present SAR tutorials.
Our plans for Education in 2017-2018 include maintaining the travel grants to support our youngest members to attend IGARSS, categorizing all of the existing educational materials on our web site, webcasting a series of monthly webinars by our Distinguished Speakers, and putting into place a program for student-to-professional transition to retain our student members after graduation. It is also worth mentioning that in November 2016, the GRSS AdCom approved the creation of the ‘IEEE GRSS Remote Sensing Code Library,’ led by Inaugural Editor Prof. F.T. Ulaby. On this web site (https://rscl-grss.org), instrument and application-related codes will be hosted, or links to the owner’s web site will be established. These codes will be reviewed, just as journal papers are, and each one will be assigned a DOI for future reference. We have high hopes for the impact of this initiative and expect that these codes will be used not only by students and academics, but also by practitioners in industry.
Finally, our plans for Industry Engagement in 2017-2018 are to take advantage of the explosive growth of constellations of small satellites and the increasing ubiquity of ‘remote sensors’ (or not so ‘remote sensors’, actually ‘para-sensors’) in cars and on other platforms, as well as their connectivity to the Internet. We also plan to study the feasibility of creating a new Technical Committee on Standards through which industry and academia can work together to define the format and interface of the data generated by all of these sensors. We will also study the feasibility of starting a new publication on this topic, jointly with other IEEE societies. In addition, GRSS will also be offering, for a limited period of time, free advertisements in the GRS Magazine (GRSM). Finally, IGARSS will offer invited sessions and tutorials by members of industry, as well as additional lunch meetings with young professionals.
I would like to congratulate Profs. Ji Wu and Ya-Qiu Jin and their team for the successful organization of IGARSS 2016 in Beijing. We had a great experience there, and we look forward to continue to work together in the future. I would also like to congratulate our newly elected AdCom members: Welcome aboard, Profs. Jocelyn Chanussot, Xiaolong Dong, William (Bill) Emery, Paolo Gamba, and Lori Mann Bruce, and Mr. George Komar! In addition, I would like to give special congratulations to Prof. Paolo Gamba who was elected as IEEE GRSS Executive Vice-President.
I would also like to congratulate the six GRSS members who have been elevated to the grade of Fellow: Jose M. Bioucas-Dias (Lisbon, Portugal) for ‘contributions to imaging inverse problems in remote sensing,’ Gianfranco Fornaro (Naples, Italy) for ‘contributions to SAR processing in differential interferometry and tomography,’ James Fowler (Mississippi State, MS, USA) for ‘contributions to lossy source coding and dimensionality reduction of multidimensional data,’ Maurizio Migliaccio (Naples, Italy) for ‘contributions to marine and maritime polarimetric synthetic aperture radar,’ Robert Palmer (Norman, OK, USA) for ‘contributions to atmospheric and meteorological radar science,’ and Lars Ulander (Linkoping, Sweden) for ‘advances in VHF- and UHF-band synthetic aperture radar.’
Last, but not least, I would like to warmly thank the three AdCom members who stepped down as of December 31, 2016, Profs. Michael Inggs and Mahta Moghaddam, and Dr. Gail Skofronick Jackson, for their hard work and continued dedication and support to GRSS. We are looking forward to having you back on board soon.
I am looking forward to a great 2017 for all GRSS members, and I hope to see you again at IGARSS 2017 in Ft. Worth, Texas, USA, on July 23-28, 2017.
Prof. Adriano Camps
2017 IEEE GRSS President