President's Message

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President's Message

While I am writing this column, the Russia–Ukraine war is raging. As bombings, destruction, and human suffering flood the daily news, I deeply feel the pain of our Ukrainian colleagues, those who have friends and family in the affected areas, those who had to put their studies and careers on hold to fight for their survival. I also acknowledge the agony of those around the world who are watching the developments in horror, trying to comprehend why such insanity was necessary.
The IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) is an international organization whose purpose is to advance and disseminate state-of-the-art scientific information and resources, educate the SP community, and provide a venue where people can interact and exchange ideas. To achieve its mission, the SPS relies heavily on volunteers working in the area of SP, governed by collaborative organizational practices in decision making that are transparent and fair. By bringing volunteers together, the SPS catalyzes advances in the field of SP in its pursuit of excellence.
I am excited to start my service as the IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) president. I should note that I am the first SPS president directly elected by the SPS membership, due to the SPS Board of Governors (BOG) urging a stronger member voice in elections. This is a big honor for me and I would like to express my thanks to SPS members for their trust. I write this article to introduce myself, acknowledge key volunteers and staff for their service, outline the activities I will lead over the next two years, and invite your comments and suggestions.
The November 2021 IEEE Technical Activities Board meeting presentations articulated several warning signs and promising calls to action. A new, radical proposal to change the way IEEE elevates its Members to Fellow status may finally address the inclusion and equity issues that we discuss but have yet to address. The proposal is still in its infancy and was drafted by a committee chaired by our very own Jose Moura. It recognizes and documents what many of us have known anecdotally: the success rate of Fellow nominations coming from industry, government, and regions outside North America and Europe is abysmally low, despite the quality of the nominees.
With the year coming to a close, I couldn’t help but reflect on our experiences in 2020 and 2021. I began my term as president of the IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) roughly 65 days before we were told to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this column 18 months later, I find myself, like many of you, still largely working remotely.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a column for IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. I will try to address here some of the many questions and changes that arose since the beginning of the year. But before I do so, I would like to invite you to watch a short documentary by Ben Proudfoot with the exact title of this column: “She Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize for It.”
Ten years ago, the world marveled at the ability of social media technology to assist an entire region in its pursuit of democracy. As I write this column days after the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, the world this time is overwhelmingly appalled by the role that same technology played in a violent attempt to overturn democracy. Those who decried the shutdown of access to social media desperately implemented by authoritarian regimes applauded similar restrictions implemented by tech companies in a quest to forestall additional violence.
A little over a century and a half ago, Victor Hugo wrote “Il n’y a ni mauvaises herbes ni mauvais hommes. Il n’y a que de mauvais cultivateurs,” which translates to “there are no weeds and no bad men. There are only bad cultivators.” These two sentences provide a stark reminder of the heavy responsibility we all bear, as parents, educators, mentors, members of professional societies, and citizens of states, nations, and earth. Indeed, arguably our main goal as a professional society is to help develop our human capital. Everything else flows from there.

We continue to live through a unique experience in history. Out of concern for each other, we have voluntarily participated in essentially shutting down economic activities across the globe. We have discovered the interdependencies and precariousness of our lives and livelihoods. We have learned who and what is essential or important and have simplified our lives. We have realized the virtue of patience and self-kindness as we navigate the tremendous challenges of working from home and balancing our work obligations and family needs.

I am writing this column on the first official day of spring while “sheltering in place” in Northern California. In these uncertain times, we are all experiencing the anxiety that comes from an unpredictable situation that we do not control; the shock of seeing, perhaps for the first time, all of the shelves in grocery stores empty; and the stress of working, living, and sleeping in the same place.

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