Collaboration Empowers Innovation

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Collaboration Empowers Innovation

Rabab Ward

These past two years have flown by, and I can hardly believe that my time as IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) president has come to a close. As I pass the torch into the good hands of our distinguished colleague Ali Sayed, I am confident that he will lead you to an even brighter future. It’s been a privilege to serve you, and I know that we have made many great strides, thanks to the tireless efforts of all of our volunteers: members of our executive committee; the Board of Governors; the Awards, Publications, Conference, Membership, and Technical Activities Boards; our various technical committees; editors; reviewers; conference organizers; membershiprelated committees (Industrial Relations, Chapters, Education, Women in Signal Processing, Student Services, Membership Services, Fellow Reference, SiGPort, Resource Center, Young Professionals, Seasonal Schools, and Regional Committees); and many more.

Our work would not have been complete without our skilled and dedicated staff members. 

My thanks go to each and every one of them. I am especially grateful for the good judgment and wisdom of our Society’s Executive Director Richard Baseil, who runs our daytoday business selflessly, smoothly, and tirelessly. I also wish to acknowledge Membership and Content Administrator Jessica Perry’s help in editing some of my messages.

It has been an honor to work with all of our volunteers and staff. With your help and guidance, serving as the president of the SPS has been a wonderful journey for me. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude.

In my final “President’s Message,” I’d like to take a walk down memory lane to talk about our Society’s many achievements as well as the challenges and threats we have faced in an increasingly unpredictable world.

During my time as SPS president, my top priorities were to celebrate our members, identify new ways to increase membership value, and attract a diverse range of new members, particularly students and industry professionals. To fulfill these objectives, I focused on increasing our Society’s visibility not only through existing channels but also through the creation of new, interactive platforms that had great potential to tap into broader, more diverse audiences. Our volunteers and staff worked together to redesign and modernize the SPS website and include several new features, including responsive design, an enhanced megamenu, the new SPS blog, the newly designed Inside Signal Processing eNewsletter, enhanced social media presence, and more.

To promote the visibility and understanding of signal processing and its related fields, I worked with several SPS technical committees to create a series of videos demonstrating generalinterest signal processing applications. One video, “Under the Radar,” was selected for the film festival of the National Screen Institute–Canada, and it aired on all Air Canada flights in 2017. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to check it out (as well as our other videos) on our YouTube channel, https://

To demonstrate our commitment to our members, we continued to develop and encourage local Chapter activities, increased the number of travel grants for SPS students, introduced the Young Professionals networking events, and extended support to host successful Student Career Luncheons and Women in Signal Processing Luncheons at all three of our major conferences. Just recently, we launched the new Video and Image Processing Cup (VIP Cup) at the 2017 International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP).

We worked with conference organizers to foster our industry connection during special industry events at ICIP and GlobalSIP. To further engage industry members, we introduced the new Distinguished Industry Speaker program, which is slated to begin in 2018. Other exciting news is that we just launched a new webinar series for member education and industry application. Finally, we introduced several new awards, including three industry awards and a Chapter Service Award.

We launched a pilot program for conference attendees to receive early access to conference papers during ICIP 2016 and continued to successfully build two new transactions, IEEE Transactions on Signal and Information Processing over Networks and IEEE Transactions on Computational Imaging, to serve our members working in these areas. We’ve continued to develop SigPort as a central ized hub for selected conference content and research material. In June 2016, we launched the SPS Resource Center, an interactive platform for ondemand tutorials and educational content. We also launched a new effort on megatrend initiatives, working across our traditional technical committees and special interest groups. The first initiative is addressing data science, a topic that has great inter est within and outside of our Society.

These are some of the highlights of our many achievements. It has been my privilege to work with so many dedicated volunteers and staff to make these initia tives possible. There is great interest in keeping the Society relevant and valuable to its members.
At the IEEE level, I was honored to chair the IEEE Technical Activities Board Ad Hoc Committee on Education in Africa. Together, we developed a num ber of tutorials and lectures in addition to 15 technical and professional devel opment courses and workshops, which we deployed in six African countries. All were well received and highly appreciated by the attendees.

I’m proud of all the work that we’vebaccomplished together these past two years. However, we also faced a lot of hurdles and adversity. Soon after I became the SPS president, the IEEE spearheaded a motion to add controversial amend ments to its Constitution. As you know, our Society opposed these changes, which were ultimately defeated in a ref erendum. I was deeply disturbed by the divisiveness that this caused. However, on the positive side, it created a lively debate that propels our mission of enabling and advancing scientific progress.

As the saying goes, change is the only constant in life, and we faced some chal lenging external geopolitical changes, mainly the introduction of the controver sial travel ban in the United States, which negatively impacts some of our Society members. This ban contravenes the spirit of inclusivity and collaboration that is so fundamental to scientific progress. As a Muslim Canadian immigrant who has traveled extensively and worked in many countries, I had to speak up and issue a statement in opposition to the ban. The ability to travel has opened the door to many opportunities for me—in both my career and my personal life—and all people deserve the same access to pursue their goals. To reduce the impact this ban would have on our conference authors and attendees, I led the way to changing our policy so that conference and work shop authors who would not be allowed to attend our conferences in person could present their papers remotely.

The most difficult challenge I was forced to face during my tenure as president was due to the recent escalation in political tensions between the United States and North Korea. Our flagship conference, the International Confer ence on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing, was originally scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea this April. Our volunteer organizers in Seoul put a lot of effort into planning that conference, so it was with an extremely heavy heart that we ultimately approved a change of venue to host the conference in Calgary, Canada, reducing any risk to our attend ees and our Society.

I came to that difficult decision in the same way and the same spirit that I have led our Society for these past two years: by communicating with our mem bers; by listening to you; by fostering a thoughtful, tolerant, collaborative, and inclusive environment; and by building consensus. I strongly believe that we are stronger when we build together, and we facilitate greatness in others. And I dearly hope that future leaders and decision makers continue to respect, support, and cultivate an increasingly diverse mix of unique talents, ideas, and opinions from all fields, and from all walks of life—for the benefit of everyone.


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