Global Concerns Global Concerns - XXVI

Have you ever wondered:

* Who in Japan is an expert on nonlinear control? * What robust control research is going on in Germany? * What practical applications of adaptive control are being made in the United Kingdom? There are many ways to seek answers to these types of questions, but there is no question that the best way is to personally know an expert that is intimately involved in the field who actually resides in the country in question.

Networks:

So how can we locate and cultivate relationships with technical experts in other countries? The obvious answer is to establish your "network" - the human kind of connections where you interact and communicate with old friends and acquaintances who share mutual interests and experiences. Asking favors from, and doing things for, such friends are both enjoyable and profitable. For example, surveys show that more people get jobs through referrals than by any other method. But there's even more benefit from active technical interchanges between such contacts. Although we can get much information from printed publications and the WWW, there is usually something much more practical in information from a friend with whom you can freely discuss and ask questions. Unlike other sources, friends tell you what "doesn't work" and help you avoid mistakes that they have already discovered. They can also make suggestions when you seem to be "hung up" on a difficulty. Even if your first contact cannot help, this person usually knows others who may be helpful.

As you recall from our last Newsletter, the AACC invited the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) to hold its annual meeting series at our 2001 ACC. During our time together, we held a joint meeting with the IFAC Council to examine opportunities to help each other. It is not too surprising that providing "networks" was identified as one of the most useful benefits we can foster. Numerous personal networks already exist within IFAC, and others can easily "plug into" this network. Whereas one might sometimes think of IFAC as an international organization that conducts technical conferences and workshops or publishes automatic control journals, IFAC is in fact much more than that. It is indeed an international "federation" or network of international organizations, who each individually conduct/sponsor diverse activities that foster our technology. For example, AACC is just one of almost 50 National Member Organizations (NMOs) which compose the IFAC. (Of course, the AACC itself is in turn composed of its joint sponsoring organizations, IEEE, ASME, AIChE, etc.) Just like a modern communications matrix, IFAC contains active "nodes" and multiple "linkages" that facilitate and encourage all sorts of interaction between the nodes. Each node of the IFAC network is one of the NMOs. Probably the most important goal of IFAC is for IFAC and its NMOs to strengthen the "linkages" between the various NMO nodes.

IFAC Network:

How can you use IFAC to establish and strengthen your personal network? The process is really quite simple:

1. IFAC has almost 50 Technical Committees (TCs) that focus on a wide variety of control system techniques and applications as well as social issues. These include a wide variety of Design Methods, diverse Manufacturing and Industrial applications, System Engineering & Management, Process Control, Transportation & Vehicles, Computer Control, as well as Global Issues - and many others. You can view the IFAC WWW site at www.ifac-control.org for a complete list of all the TC areas. Thus, your first step is to identify the specific TC (or group of TCs) which best matches your interests.

2. After you select the IFAC TC of your choice, contact either the AACC Secretary (Abe Haddad at ahaddad@ece.nwu.edu) or me (m.masten@ieee.org), tell us a bit of your background, and explain why you would like to be a member of the chosen TC.

3. AACC will then notify IFAC of your interest and desire to be a part of the selected IFAC TC. You will then be added to the TCs of your choice. 4. After you become a member of the TC, the degree to which you build your network is determined by your willingness to be involved with the TC. You may be able to dialog and serve on joint projects with international colleagues, to review technical papers, or to plan and be a part of international conferences. You may even identify joint research projects and/or joint publications. After a period of service, you may be selected as TC Chair or Vice Chair. For sure, you will gain a better perspective of the international activities within the TC area.

With such ready opportunity, there's no reason for you not to establish and strengthen contacts throughout the globe with which you can share mutual interests.

Other Options:

Although the recent joint meetings between the IFAC Council and the AACC emphasized the "networks" nature of our relationship and the relative ease with which USA control system engineers can become involved with their international colleagues, the meeting nevertheless also explored other joint opportunities for IFAC and AACC. These discussions are proceeding, and we'll discuss some of them in a future article after specific action items are identified.

In the meantime, you can personally take the steps listed above to strengthen your own individual network.