This is my last message for 2019, and it is time to summarize the principal achievements that we have been able to accomplish during 2019 thanks to your efforts, and to express a few ideas for the new year to come.

First of all, it is worth mentioning that, while at the beginning of the year I was very proud to announce that the GRSS membership had exceeded 4000 for the first time, I would now like to let you know that the total number of members has increased to more than 4200, again with significant growth in Asia. It is a very important recognition that our efforts to share the value proposition for being a GRSS member are working. Additionally, the number of GRSS Chapters has increased to 80, including both regular and Student Chapters. In spite of these successes, however, we still need to try harder to reach other communities and engage more people, so that we can increase both the geographic extent of GRSS chapters and the variety of topics of GRSS activities all over the world.

A second important achievement for GRSS during 2019 has been the increase in collaborative activities with other communities, including technical societies within and outside IEEE, and with regional entities. As a first result of these activities, during IGARSS 2020 there will be a special session on “Mapping at the National and Regional Scale,” jointly organized with the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. There will also be a panel on “New Trends in Microwave Radar Systems,” jointly organized with the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S). In addition, GRSS has organized two “Industry Nights,” one in San Francisco in March and the other in Boston in November, to reach out to local companies. The idea is to build a network of collaborations and common interests that can help to increase GRSS membership. We also want to engage the part of the industrial sector focused on the New Space economy, especially on Earth Observation missions, data interpretation, and data analytics. I am very glad to report that both events have been very well attended, and resulted in a greater number of volunteers willing to help with GRSS activities, especially those building a bridge between the research community and industry, such as the Industry Speakers.

A third achievement is the great success of the second Student Grand Challenge, devoted to the design and realization of a sensing payload on board a 3U CubeSat that will be launched in 2022 by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency. In spite of the challenging nature of the task, the call resulted in 6 proposals, which were evaluated by an independent panel of scientists from three space agencies (NASA, ESA and the UAE space agency). Thanks to the outstanding work by the members of this panel, the top three proposals were selected, and the students have already been notified and asked to start working on the design of their proposed sensor.

In summary, it is wonderful to be able to report that GRSS is growing its community (a) geographically, with new Chapters and new members, (b) topically, with new topics addressed as a result of the cross-fertilization of ideas through additional areas of expertise from partner organizations, and (c) by reaching out to new and diverse communities with specific interests in remote sensing activities, including research, industry and government partners.

In addition, an important part of this strategy to build GRSS as a “community of communities” is the active role of GRSS in promoting regional and topical conferences. Since we now have an MoU with the International Society of Digital Earth (ISDE), we attended the 20th anniversary ISDE conference in Florence. GRSS is continuing to increase its activity and visibility in the geospatial information world. Similarly, thanks to our partnerships with the Asian Association on Remote Sensing and the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), we attended the 40th Asian Conference on Remote Sensing, and announced a Grand Challenge for the Asia-Pacific region devoted to supporting GRSS Chapters to work toward the assessment of UN Sustainable Development Goals through remote sensing. The call will be out later this month; stay tuned!

Finally, although we still have vividly in mind fantastic images from IGARSS 2019 in Yokohama, Japan (Please read the report on the Conference and Publication Awards ceremony in this issue!), the next conference team has already started its activities, and the technical and social programs are taking shape for IGARSS 2020 in Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawai’i. After the calls for invited sessions and tutorials, paper submission has opened on November 11, with deadline of January 15, 2020. As you should already be aware, IGARSS 2020 will experiment with a new and more agile format for the oral sessions, meant to increase time for discussion and to foster interaction. Specifically, the time for an oral presentation will be reduced to 5 minutes to allow the presenters to summarize the most important and interesting points of their work. Additional details, as well as longer explanations of the intermediate steps and procedures, can be provided through a poster presentation in the same room. To this end, 45 minutes are scheduled at the end of each set of oral presentations to further discuss the short talks just presented. In cases when the Oral Sessions for the same topic cover more than one time block, only an introductory talk will be presented at the beginning of the first time block, and the additional time during the second time block will be allocated to four more 5-minute talks.

I am aware that this is a substantial change that forces us all to change the way we are used to presenting our work. However, being clear and to the point, as well as being able to engage in fruitful discussions with other researchers, are definitely two of the best qualities in scientific presenters, and hopefully this is an opportunity for young (and not so young) researchers to exercise their abilities and improve.

Finally, 2020 is coming, and my year as GRSS President is coming to an end. I am very grateful to all of the volunteers and members who are working to foster GRSS activities at different levels. I hope that what we have done this year has been useful for them and made their experience as GRSS members more enjoyable. If this is the case, please tell your colleagues and fellow researchers. We need more members to join us, to enable even better and more interesting service to the community in the future. If instead this is not the case, please let us know how we can improve; there is always room for that!

Prof. Paolo Gamba
2019-2020 IEEE GRSS President
Twitter: @EOurban