Greetings from Valencia!

As I write this message, the 2018 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) in Valencia, Spain, has just ended. Attendees enjoyed a great conference led by Prof. J. Moreno and nicely executed by his team, including Prof. J. Sobrino and Prof. G. Camps-Valls, technical program chairs, and Prof. J. M. López-Sánchez and Prof. L. Gómez-Chova, finance chairs, among many others. Also deserving recognition are Gloria Casanova from Mondial Congress, the local professional conference organizer, and Violeta Susu from Cititravel, who took care of conference logistics. Thanks to all IGARSS 2018 organizers for making this conference possible. Only those that have organized an IGARSS are fully aware of how much work takes place behind the scenes, so it is my pleasant duty to publicly acknowledge these efforts and thank the team for a job well done!

In addition, during IGARSS week, you probably noticed the active presence of Mustafa Ustuner, our new GRSS social media manager. He has worked hard to make IGARSS more visible in the web.

This year’s conference attracted more than 2,300 people, close to the record set at IGARSS 2012 in Munich, Germany. IGARSS 2018 also confirms that China is the country now contributing the greatest number of submitted and accepted abstracts as well as the largest number of attendees (about 650), consolidating the trend of recent years and providing evidence for the results of China’s investment in Earth observation.

In recognition of the increasing presence of Asia in IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) activities, during April 2018 I visited 11 institutions and organizations in four cities (Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, and Changchun) and delivered eight presentations. This trip allowed me to better understand the needs and requests of our Asian colleagues and think about ways to address them. Some will require a modification of our Bylaws and Operations Manual, which we are currently working on.

It is worth mentioning that, following our three-year rotation model, IGARSS 2022 will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 17–22 July 2022. Congratulations to Ir. Prof. Academician Dato’ Dr. Chuah Hean Teik, IGARSS 2022 chair, and Dr. Noordin Ahmad and Prof. Yeo Tat Soon, IGARSS 2022 cochairs.

IGARSS 2018 Awards

During the plenary session, we had the opportunity to honor four of the nine GRSS members recently elevated to the grade of IEEE Fellow:

  • Prof. Gustavo Camps-Valls, “for contributions to machine learning in remote sensing”
  • Prof. Qian (Jenny) Du, “for contributions to hyperspectral data processing”
  • Dr. Qihao Weng, “for contributions to urban remote sensing”
  • Dr. Jean-Pierre Wigneron, “for contributions to surface modeling in passive microwave remote sensing.”

The following major GRSS awards were also presented.

  • The 2018 Education Award was presented to Prof. Giorgio Franceschetti of the University of Naples Federico II, “in recognition of significant educational contributions to geoscience and remote sensing.”
  • The 2018 IEEE GRSS Outstanding Service Award was presented to Dr. Paul Rosen of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, “in recognition of outstanding service for the benefit and advancement of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society.”
  • The 2018 IEEE GRSS Industry Leader Award was presented to Dr. Miguel Bello-Mora, chief executive officer of the DEIMOS Group, “in recognition of significant contributions to the private sector of remote sensing.”
  • The 2018 IEEE GRSS Distinguished Achievement Award was presented to Prof. Masanobu Shimada of the Tokyo Denki University, “for contributions to radar remote sensing with advancing L-band differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar.”

This year, an IEEE GRSS Honorary Life Member recognition was presented to Prof. Leung Tsang of the University of Michigan with the citation “for distinguished technical contributions in the fields of interest of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society and outstanding service to the profession and to the IEEE.” We also took advantage of this occasion to publicly recognize two of the other IEEE GRSS Honorary Life Members in presentations by Prof. Martti Hallikainen and Prof. Werner Wiesbeck.

Congratulations to all! Well deserved!

Recognizing Wolgang Boerner

In addition, we publicly recognized Prof. Wolfgang Boerner, who passed away on 25 May 2018. Prof. Boerner greatly helped develop the GRSS in Southeast Asia and made significant and tireless contributions to radar polarimetry — always with the goal of connecting and helping others. We will miss you, Wolfgang. Rest in peace.

Enjoying Valencia

In addition to an outstanding technical program, IGARSS 2018 attendees also enjoyed the culture of the vibrant city of Valencia, its cuisine, and its mix of medieval and modern architecture. Some participants were even able to enjoy the beach. At the entrance hall, attendees were offered an example of “las Fallas,” a cardboard statue featuring a satirical theme that is used in a traditional celebration held to commemorate St. Joseph. These statues are then burned around midnight on 19 March. The IGARSS 2018 “Falla” included an Ariane 5 rocket; the former Spanish prime minister on top of a falling satellite; the new Spanish Minister of Science, Innovation, and Universities; and the only Spanish astronaut, among others. We also enjoyed the city’s typical “horchata” beverage during afternoon coffee breaks as well as an unforgettable banquet dinner at the Hemisfèric, part of the Ciutat de les Arts and Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences), during which we were entertained with an exciting flamenco show and a display of water, music, and colored lights. Thanks to the entire IGARSS 2018 team for taking care of all these little— and not so little—details that will make our memories last a long time.

My Address at the Plenary about the GRSS

Next, I briefly summarize the speech I delivered at the plenary, in which I tried to address the current status of our Society. Overall, the GRSS is doing very well.

Finances and Membership

On the financial side, GRSS Chief Financial Officer Prof. J. Kerekes proposed to the IEEE a budget for 2019 that includes US$948,000 in operations, US$8,000 lower than 2018, and US$217,000 in proposed 3% rule projects, US$5,000 lower than 2018. The total amount that the GRSS will be able to invest in so-called 50% rule projects will ultimately depend on the financial results of 2018. (For those of you unfamiliar with IEEE terminology, “3% rule projects” refer to those that can be supported with 3% of the total reserves, and “50% rule projects” refer to those that can be funded with half the surplus of the previous year.) These results will be available at the beginning of 2019; however, the final 2019 budget must be approved by the IEEE Board of Directors in November, so the previously cited numbers may change.

The GRSS has now more than 3,400 members and 65 Chapters, three more than last year, as well as two new student branch Chapters (at the Universidad de El Salvador and the Netaji Subhash Engineering College, India). The GRSS has also 11 ambassadors in countries where there are not enough GRSS members to form a Chapter, but a threshold of critical mass is emerging making it important to start supporting GRSS activities in those locales so they can grow.

Services and Benefits

Also during my talk, I reviewed some of the services and other benefits available to GRSS members.

  • First, GRSS members may be eligible for GRSS travel grants to attend IGARSS. In 2018, the GRSS provided 56 such grants, for a total of nearly US$80,000 (which is about 8% of the GRSS’s annual operations budget). The GRSS also sponsors bottom-up projects and initiatives from our Chapters, and I would like to draw members’ attention to ChapNet, an initiative intended to foster cooperation among different Chapters. Please feel free to contact GRSS Chapter Chair Prof. Farid Melgani if you plan to form a Chapter or if you have initiatives to propose or questions concerning how to run Chapter activities or how to report them to the GRSS and IEEE.
  • Second, GRSS members benefit from an increased number of pages that are now exempt from voluntary page charges in our journals. In addition to the GRSS eNewsletter, which provides timely information about our field, the GRSS currently publishes four fully edited technical journals: IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, and IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Magazine, all with high impact factors (4.662, 2.892, 2.777, and 4.932, respectively). Thanks to all editors-in-chief, associate editors, and reviewers for their diligent work in making these publications successful!

I am also very happy to announce that, thanks to the efforts of our vice president for publications, Prof. W. Emery, the new IEEE Journal on Miniaturization of Air and Space Systems (JMASS) will start accepting submissions in the fall of 2018. This new journal is shared among several IEEE Societies and Councils and will focus on sensors for small platforms, from drones to CubeSats, for which there is a need in the market. The direct link for submission is https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jmass, and I encourage you to submit manuscripts to this new publication.

Also, to advance the goal of reproducible research, the GRSS offers two additional tools that complement our journals: the Remote Sensing Code Library (RSCL, http://rscl-grss.org/about.php), which was initiated under Prof. K. Sarabandi’s leadership with Prof. F. Ulaby as editor-in-chief, and the so-called IEEE Data Port (https://ieee-dataport.org/topic-tags/geoscience-and-remote-sensing); the GRSS is the first IEEE Society to have an IEEE Data Port. The RSCL supports the codes on one side, while, on the other side, the IEEE Data Port supports either stand-alone data or supporting data for journal articles. Both codes and data are reviewed prior to publication and are assigned a digital object identifier for later referencing, e.g., in publications. Prof. Ulaby has recently stepped down as editor-in-chief of the RSCL; he will be replaced by Prof. D. Long. Thanks to both for their services.

Education

On the education side, GRSS Director of Education Dr. J. Lévesque began a series of webinars in 2017 that has been consolidated in 2018, including a good mix from academia and industry. All educational resources will be available free of charge to GRSS members at the brand new GRSS resource center (http://resourcecenter.grss.ieee.org) and at a moderate fee for nonmembers. Certificates of attendance and credits will also be given.

Last, but not least, the GRSS will promote the creation of massive open online courses in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, Australia, to complement some of our existing educational materials.

Industry Connections

Regarding our connection with industry, I must admit that we are not doing as well as we could—or even as well as we have in the past. In spite of the webinars and other targeted actions (including the Remote Sensing Industry Forum, industry tutorials, and the code workshop), industry participation at IGARSS and in Society activities more generally is weak. Some attribute this to the IGARSS’s three-year geographical rotation; this, in reality, has been very much appreciated by our members, so it seems difficult to find the right balance. Others have attributed this lack of industry participation to the change in the Earth observation paradigm, with part of the work moving from large corporations to small start-ups. This is an issue we definitely need to address and one we are looking into on the technical activities side.

Technical Activities Highlights

Among the activities of the GRSS technical committees, let me highlight the following:

  • Recent efforts have been made by the Technical Committee on Frequency Allocations in Remote Sensing (FARS) to defend our only and common resource, the electromagnetic spectrum. Remote sensing is under an increasing threat from interference originating from telecommunication systems that are shifting operations to higher frequencies to meet the wide bandwidth demand, and I am proud that the FARS chairs have been extremely active in bringing the concerns of our scientific community in this regard directly to the International Telecommunication Union–Radiocommunication Sector, trying to make the opinion of the GRSS count at high levels through its study groups. I must say that strong opposition has been encountered from the telecommunications industry and also from some particular delegations.
  • The Technical Committee on Instrumentation and Future Technologies has appointed new chairs of the Working Group on Small Satellites, and a new Working Group on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle sensors has been created to address and promote exactly the topics that are the focus of our new journal (JMASS).
  • The new Technical Committee on GRSS Standards for Earth Observations (GSEO) has already been formally approved by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), and two project authorization requests have been submitted and approved by the IEEE-SA: P4001 on hyperspectral imaging, and P4002 on synthetic aperture radar. GSEO is now looking for champions to lead other working groups on microwave radiometer calibration and Global Navigation Satellite System–Reflectometry (GNSS-R) sensors. Anyone in our community who feels that other topic areas to be standardized can contact GSEO Chair Dr. Siri Jodha Khalsa directly to discuss ideas.

Professional Activities Highlights

On the professional activities side, let me highlight the initiatives undertaken in 2018 to revamp our Young Professional (YP) activities.

  • First, Dr. Subit Chakrabarti was appointed as the new YP representative, replacing Dr. Ferdinando Nunziata, who is now busy with high-priority duties (he became a father at the end of 2017: congratulations!). If it has been fewer than 15 years since your graduation, please consider becoming an YP volunteer in the GRSS. The network of connections you create will definitely help to build your career. Ask senior YPs to find out!
  • Second, the GRSS has initiated the so-called GRSS Student Grand Challenge to develop a drone-based end-to-end remote sensing application, from the sensor to a cell phone app, to address a societal issue: http://www.grss-ieee.org/news/grss-grand-challenge-applications-due-may-15/. To date, 14 project proposals have been received, and five have been selected representing different countries and applications, ranging from precision agriculture to disaster monitoring. These project proposals have received about US$6,000 each for implementation. The only requirements are that the student participants commit to forming a GRSS student branch Chapter and that their projects be presented in a dedicated half-session during IGARSS 2019.
  • Third, the 2018 YP Remote Sensing Conference was held this year on 7–8 June in Aachen, Germany: (http:// www.grss-ieee.org/yp_remote_sensing_2018/) gathering young scientists notably from European countries.
  • Fourth, YP in Space 2018, including a CanSat Bootcamp, was held on 17–21 July 2018 at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya–BarcelonaTech, Barcelona, Spain: (http://www.ypinspace.com/young-professionals-in-space-in-barcelona/). YP in Space 2018 gathered 63 IEEE YPs from Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Hungary, France, Sweden, Austria, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Korea, and China. For five days, these YPs heard technical lectures from industry and academic leaders, trained on spacecraft systems engineering, and developed a CanSat that was launched on 21 July (https://es-es.facebook.com/pg/YPinSpace/posts/).
  • Fifth, the YP Arctic Challenge contest (sponsored by the IEEE New Initiatives Committee and the GRSS) is under way. It is intended to create a series of videos describing the changes Arctic regions are undergoing and suggest ways the IEEE can help to mitigate the effects of these changes. If you are interested in winning one of ten iPads being awarded, please visit: http://yp.ieee.org/arctic-challenge/.

New Memoranda of Understanding

During recent months, the GRSS has also signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with other technical societies to foster scientific and technical collaborations. These include the Sociedad Latinoamericana en Percepción Remota y Sistemas de Información Espacial, the Digital Belt and Road Conference, the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, the Asociación Española de Teledetección, and the DigitalGlobe Foundation. The goal is to allow GRSS student members to have access to DigitalGlobe’s very-high-resolution imagery and information products. Thanks to Prof. Paolo Gamba, GRSS executive vice-president, for supervising these MoUs.

Expanded Conference Portfolio

The GRSS has also been active in expanding its conference portfolio, including new conferences such as the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Forum (ASOF), 50%/50% co-owned with the IEEE Ocean Engineering Society and GNSS-R working group. We have realized that many of our members cannot attend all IGARSSs because of financial limitations, and some can only attend when it is held in their region. For this reason, I am also very proud to announce that the GRSS will start to hold regional IGARSS conferences, beginning in March 2020 in Chile with the so-called Latin America Remote Sensing and Geoscience Symposium, 50%/50% co-owned with International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and continuing in December 2020 with another conference in India. We are also studying the possibility of financially sponsoring other conferences, and I hope to be able to announce this news in the coming months.

All of these accomplishments would not be feasible without the voluntary dedication of many people on the GRSS AdCom and associated volunteers. Thanks to all of you for making this possible!

By the time you are reading this message, summer vacations/holidays will probably be over for most of you, but I do hope you have found some time to rest and spend more time with your family and friends. All the best!

Prof. Adriano Camps
2018 IEEE GRSS President