Message From Our President

President's Message

David Kunkee

2020-2022 IEEE GRSS President

(June, 2022) On behalf of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS), I would like to invite you to participate in IGARSS 2022, our annual International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium. This year’s symposium will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 17 to 22 July using a hybrid conference format. The theme for this year’s meeting will focus on “Preserving Our Heritage, Enabling Our Future Through Remote Sensing.” The theme was selected by the local organizing team to emphasize the role that remote sensing can play in understanding our past and creating a better future by identifying the issues that most affect Earth’s environment. Please see igarss2022.org/ for more information.

The members of the local organizing committee, including General Chair Hean Teik Chuah and Technical Program Committee (TPC) Chair Hong-Tat Ewe, have developed an outstanding conference program. The IGARSS 2022 program will include an in-person opening ceremony and plenary session that will be held Monday morning (local time) in Malaysia. The plenary session will feature presentations by internationally recognized keynote speakers in remote sensing from the China National Space Administration, NASA, European Space Agency, and remote sensing industry leaders. The technical program will include in-person morning and afternoon sessions (local time) that each consist of oral and multimedia sessions beginning Monday afternoon and continuing until Thursday afternoon. Friday will include an in-person oral session and a closing ceremony. The online sessions will be held in the evening (local time) from Monday through Thursday. Each evening will include an oral session followed by a multimedia session followed by another oral session. This format allows the online portion of the meeting to be offered starting at 2 p.m. in Europe and 8 a.m. Eastern U.S. time.

For those attending in person, a full set of IGARSS experiences is planned, including the traditional welcome ceremony, opening and plenary sessions, three technical tours, the GRSS annual awards banquet, the closing ceremony, and several cultural performances. Overall, we hope that this hybrid format will enable the best options for both in-person and remote participation in this year’s IGARSS.

Of note, this year’s technical program is the product of the combined contributions of our colleagues who participated in the review and abstract selection process. The program will include 2,084 papers, 235 Student Paper Competition entries, and 14 tutorials. Accordingly, I would like to thank this year’s TPC Chair and Cochairs Xiaofeng Yang and Tuong-Thuy Vu for their contributions in organizing this year’s technical program in a hybrid format enabling both physical and remote participation.

As you can see from the planning of this year’s IGARSS, community engagement, the main theme of this column, continues to evolve in the COVID era. Over the past couple of years, we have experienced the largest number of participants at our annual IGARSS event, ever. Although the in-person and networking experience was not there for our traditional attendees, the virtual platform has allowed participation by many who would not have otherwise had this opportunity. This was true for other GRSS-sponsored meetings in addition to IGARSS. Virtual meetings have allowed the GRSS to continue to build relationships more effectively with some communities but have also resulted in greater distancing and isolation with respect to other communities, unfortunately.

Nearly all of us agree that our online experience, while good for keeping up with recent developments and current research, did not provide the valuable opportunities for in-person discussions, networking, and social experiences. So, in this anticipated time of transition from remote participation driven by COVID-19 to the new normal, I ask: How can we leverage the advantages of both formats? How do we enable the best conference experiences for our community?

In searching for the optimal answer for our communities, the GRSS continues to do many things to engage the remote sensing community during this transition out of COVID-19-dominated operations. First of all, I would like to note that the GRSS continues to grow. We have added several Student Branch Chapters within the past year as well as new Joint Chapters. With these additions, the GRSS now consists of 46 Chapters, 31 Student Branch Chapters, and 23 Joint Chapters, a combined total of 100 Chapters, providing more GRSS engagement with remote sensing communities across the globe. Next, I highlight a few GRSS activities related to community engagement. We are continuing community engagement through a joint session at the XXIVth Congress of the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) between the GRSS and ISPRS, titled “Remote Sensing and The Geosciences—A Premier Field of Data Science—A Session In Cooperation Between IEEE GRSS and ISPRS.” This session is organized following a similar joint session between the GRSS and ISPRS at IGARSS 2021; however, this time, it will be held in person. I look forward to continued collaboration with the ISPRS comunity with several initiatives, including potential future Latin American conferences.

We have also continued to expand GRSS promotional activities both in person and online. This year, at the ESA’s Living Planet Symposium (LPS) 2022 in Bonn, Germany, we plan to have a GRSS publicity booth staffed by several GRSS members who are also participating in the LPS. In March, the GRSS also provided a presentation about the Society at the IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu “Pathways to Industry” online conference. At “Pathways to Industry,” the GRSS sponsored a 1-h panel session with students providing a short presentation about GRSS activities and a Q&A session with online attendees.

Another significant activity that GRSS has been involved with includes the Gaofen Challenge. Many of you may be familiar with the GRSS cosponsorship of the 2020 and 2021 Gaofen Challenge events where more than 1,100 teams and ~3,000 competitors from 20 countries have participated. For 2022, GRSS will cosponsor the Gaofen Fair on the automatic interpretation of high-resolution Earth observation data. The fair is planned to be held in China from May to November 2022 and will offer attendees an opportunity to gain cutting-edge knowledge in advanced methods, data sets, and practical applications to Gaofen satellite images. Overall, the fair contains many activities to further engagement with the international GRSS community.

In March 2022, we held the second IEEE Mediterranean and Middle-East Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (M2GARSS) with an attendance of more than 160 registered online attendees. This year, the symposium was organized into eight oral sessions and three poster sessions with four tutorials provided over the three-day conference. Awards for best oral and interactive format presentations were provided. I would like to thank Farid Melgani and Alp Ertürk for their efforts to organize this very successful online GRSS event.

Finally, with respect to community engagement, I would like again to mention the growth we have experienced in GRSS educational activities. This year, we have received proposals for eight GRSS Schools (GR3S). Our GR3S activities have steadily increased over the past three years, even with COVID-related restrictions, with a mix of in-person, hybrid, and virtual school formats being requested this year. I would like to thank Andrea Marinoni, GR3S lead, and Josée Lévesque, GRSS director of education, for their efforts in growing the scope of GRSS Schools.

To briefly summarize my perspective on engagement, although we routinely focus on the negative aspects of COVID-driven impacts on our meetings and conferences, I think many recognize that within GRSS, we have continued to engage our communities and have even experienced an increase in participation at meetings (at least to date) through a variety of paths and opportunities. Of course, we have not been able to fully realize the value of networking from in-person attendance in these past two years, but as we look forward to a new normal that more closely resembles the pre-COVID era, I hope that we will not lose the benefits of the wider participation that we are currently experiencing.

David Kunkee
2022 GRSS President