Global Concerns Global Concerns - XVI

If you were one of the approximately 2000 participants at the IFAC Congress, I suppose you have not yet forgotten the event. It was really an extraordinary collection of control specialists, almost two-thirds of whom were from outside the United States. Even without the 4th of July barbeque and fireworks in the city, the Congress was an event which broke new ground on a scale not known in control engineering circles. Does anyone know of a larger control engineering event?

With 17 parallel sessions, we risk the problem whose sensitivity to session attendance has a remarkable property. I was reminded of the fact that one could miss 16 of the parallel sessions at one time or 17 of them. From what I could see, most people chose to miss only 16. Poster sessions were an innovation for IFAC and for many control conferences although they are quite common in other professional fields. The poster sessions being held in close proximity to the exhibits and coffee supply were very well attended and received rave reviews from authors as well. Since the paper selection process did not give them an inferior position and the proceeding write ups of the papers were of the same length, style, and prominence as the lecture papers, there is no way for people not at the Congress (nor promotion and tenure committees at universities!) to know in what format a paper was delivered. All this is as it should be. Attendees at poster sessions had substantially more time for interactions with authors. Authors received much better feedback from attendees, and the best poster paper prize was as financially rewarding as the Congress Best Paper Prizes (Young Author Prize and Applications Paper Prize). If truth be told, there was an early proposal to have all papers delivered as poster papers - but it was felt to be too radical an idea for 1996. I personally believe that a Congress of poster papers plus three, six, or nine plenary papers per day would be an interesting format to try. But that is for the younger generation to consider. It also suggests an extreme version of a conference which I will describe in a later Global Concerns column.

There has been much discussion about no show authors at IFAC (and, of course, other) events. It is not possible at the moment to give you definitive data about the Congress. As you will recall in our previous discussion of this topic, before one can be declared to be a no show author, and thus having violated professional ethics by failing to follow through on a commitment to present a paper as promised, it is necessary to contact the author to determine what actually happened. At this moment, we know that 55 of the 1200 lecture papers were not presented. I hope to be able to give you the complete no show situation in the next issue.

Let me close this column by reminding you that the organization of the IFAC Congress largely was due to a group of individuals listed in preliminary information, preprints and proceedings of the event itself. However, there was a significant supporting cast which had the faith and provided long term backing and support. I refer to the AACC and its several generations of Officers and Directors. The more or less permanent members of this group are the two AACC Secretaries, Bill Miller and Abe Haddad and the AACC Treasurer Malcolm Beaverstock. These gentlemen provided long term support. The succession of presidents includes: Thomas Stout, Michael Rabins, Robert Larson, William Powers, Thomas Edgar, J. Boyd Pearson, Dagfinn Gangsaas, and William Perkins. Officers and Directors changed each two years, but each cadre reaffirmed the support of AACC of its predecessors. AACC's member societies contributed to a financial contingency fund for more than ten years, just in case the Congress had unexpected financial needs. The remarkable success of this team effort now assures that this investment will be not only a professional success, but a substantial financial success as well.

It is time for AACC to move on, to take on new challenges and to continue its leadership of global concerns in our profession.

This is the time this page has been accessed since September 20, 1996.