The Power of a Name

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10 years of news and resources for members of the IEEE Signal Processing Society

The Power of a Name

The IEEE Signal Processing Society is the premier international society for signal processing scientists and engineers. Its origins trace back within the activities of the Professional Group on Audio of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), which was formed in 1948. The IEEE Global History Network http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/IEEE_Signal_Processing_Society_History provides a "Brief Timeline of Events" where one can track the evolution of the Society and the changes of its name. Its main events of formation were.

June 1948 - IRE Audio Group

  • March 22, 1951 - IRE Professional Group on Audio
  • March 26, 1963 - IEEE Professional Technical Group on Audio
  • October 20, 1964 - IEEE Group on Audio
  • October 13, 1965 - IEEE Audio & Electro-Acoustics Group
  • January 1, 1974 - IEEE Group on Acoustics, Speech, & Signal Processing
  • 1976 - IEEE Acoustics, Speech & Signal Processing Society
  • October 6, 1989 – IEEE Signal Processing Society

Thus, the history shows that the current name Signal Processing Society has stuck for a quarter of a century. Has the time come for another change of name?

For more than a decade, the leadership of the Society has addressed the problem of the Society’s visibility and its perceived lack of recognition by the wide public. Many members of the Society find that the reason for this is in the term “Signal Processing” because it carries very little public comprehension.
Many who hold the purse strings for research do not have much appreciation for what we do because of the name of the field. Even some of our technical colleagues in other disciplines such as Computer Science often view our work too narrowly. Three columns on this issue by our recent Presidents (Moura, Kaveh, and Liu) and a colleague (Li) published in the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine can be found at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=05230869&tag=1 (Moura, Nov. 2009),
http://online.qmags.com/SIPR0114/Default.aspx#pg159&mode2 (Kaveh and Li, Jan. 2014),
and http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6678228 (Liu. Jan. 2014).

In the past 25 years, technology has continued to advance relentlessly. To keep pace with those advances, the Society has modified its field of interest twice (in 1994 and 2010). Furthermore, new technical committees within the Society have sprouted and old ones have changed their names:

  • Audio and Electroacoustics (AE) became Audio and Acoustic Signal Processing (AASP).
  • Speech became Speech and Language Processing (SLP).
  • Statistical Signal and Array Processing (SSAP) and Underwater Acoustic Signal Processing (UASP) became Sensor Array and Multichannel (SAM).
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP) became Signal Processing Theory and Methods (SPTM).
  • Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) became Design and Implementation of Signal Processing
    Systems (DISPS).
  • Neural Networks for Signal Processing (NNSP) became Machine Learning for Signal Processing
    (MLSP).
  • Multidimensional Signal Processing (MSP) became Image and Multidimensional Signal
    Processing (IMDSP) and then Image, Video, and Multidimensional Signal Processing (IVMSP).
  • Bio Imaging and Signal Processing (BISP), Information Forensics and Security (IFS), Multimedia
    Signal Processing (MMSP), and Signal Processing for Communications and Networking (SPCOM)
    were formed.

Our conferences have also changed and many new workshops have been introduced. In 1994, ICIP was just launching. At that time, our publications were:

  • IEEE Transactions on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing
  • IEEE Transactions on Image Processing (in only its second year)
  • IEEE Signal Processing Magazine
  • IEEE Transactions on Speech and Audio Processing
  • IEEE Signal Processing Letters

Today, our wholly-owned publications have grown to include:

  • IEEE Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing
  • IEEE Transactions on Image Processing
  • IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security
  • IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
  • IEEE Signal Processing Magazine
  • IEEE Signal Processing Letters
  • IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Signal Processing

These are in addition to a new journal (Computational Imaging to be launched on 1/1/15) and
numerous jointly owned periodicals on topics such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, Smart Grid, the Internet of Things, Medical Imaging, Biometrics, Biomedical and Health Informatics, Biomedical Engineering, Life Sciences, Sensors, Remote Sensing, Multimedia, Security and Privacy, Affective Computing, Computational Social Systems, Engineering Management, Mobile Computing, Network Science, Wireless Communications, Communications and Networking, and Molecular, Biological, and Multi-Scale Communications.

There is no doubt that our Society’s interests continue to grow with astounding pace. So, 25 years after the name Signal Processing was adopted, it is timely to reflect on whether it continues to portray a true image of the Society’s activities. And if not, is there a name that can capture the Society’s scope better while at the same time improving its visibility?

At the last Board of Governors meeting of the Society in Austin, TX (December 2013), it was decided to form a committee (P. Chou, P. M. Djurić (chair), W. Kellermann, A. Kuh, and A. Scaglione) to explore the question of the Society’s change of name. The purpose of this communication is to spur discussion on this issue so that the committee members obtain valuable feedback from our members.

We are particularly interested in comments related to the following questions:

  1. Is the term "Signal Processing" well understood in the wide public and if not, is it important to change the name of the Society?
  2. Does the name of the Society continue to provide a good description of the scope of its
    activities?
  3. What are the pros of changing the name?
  4. What are the cons of changing the name?
  5. If the Society changes its name, what should it be? Some names that have been circulated
    include
    a) Society on Signal Science and Engineering,
    b) Society on Signal Processing and Data Science,
    c) Society on Signal and Data Science,
    d) Society on Signal Science and Processing,
    e) Society on Data Science and Processing (DSP),
    f) Society on Data and Signal Processing (DSP),
    g) Signal and Information Processing Society,
    h) Society for Data Science, and
    i) Data Science Society.

We thank you in advance for your feedback.

On behalf of the committee,

Petar M. Djurić

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