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IFAC for Professional Development

Stephen Kahne

IFAC Advisor and IFAC Past-President

Our readers probably know that the American Automatic Control Council (AACC) is the National Member Organization (NMO) of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) representing the United States control community in this international federation.  IFAC was founded in 1957 and, in fact, was the stimulus for the creation of the AACC.  The requirement for U.S. membership in IFAC was that there exists a national society representing the control interests in the county.  Through cooperation among the major engineering societies at the time, the AACC was formed to be the NMO from the USA and one of 18 founding members of IFAC.

The vision of IFAC is “for IFAC to be the worldwide federation for promoting automatic control for the benefit of mankind,” and its mission is “to promote the science and technology of automatic control through technical meetings, publications and other means consistent with the goals and values of IFAC.” Since IFAC NMOs are national societies, how do individuals get involved in IFAC activities and why should they do so?  The first thing to do is to become an IFAC Affiliate.  This is accomplished by going to www.ifac-control.org and using the contact tab corresponding with the secretariat staff indicating your interest in becoming an IFAC Affiliate.  This action will put you in touch with the entire range of volunteer opportunities.  In particular, IFAC technical committees (TC) span the entire field of control systems and are open to control specialists from anywhere in the world.  These TCs are the heart of IFAC’s global leadership in the control field.  Each committee has its own website that may be found at www.ifac-control.org.  Joining a committee is easy.  Simply send an email to the appropriate TC chair whose contact information is on the web site.  Attach a resume and tell the TC chair that you would like to be considered for membership in the TC. 

What are the benefits of being a TC member?  You will be joining a select group of experts from throughout the world.  IFAC now has 40 TCs with total membership of about 2100, including 250 from the USA.  Each TC member has professional interest in the scope of the TC so you immediately have contact information for a few tens of experts in your designated field.  This is the group that organizes IFAC conferences, symposia and workshops in your field of interest, and TC members often serve as reviewers for major journals and conferences. 

A less common entry into the IFAC community may be through the various committees that are part of the IFAC Executive Board operation.  These committees include Publications, Awards, Finance, and Policy.  Normally seats on these committees are only open to those with substantial IFAC experience or senior level outside experience such as Editors-in-Chief of international journals, Presidents of AACC or any of its member societies, major award winners both in IFAC and in AACC member societies such as the IEEE CSS, ASME DSCD, AIChE CAST, etc.  Essentially all members of these committees have previously served in the IFAC TC structure.

Control specialists from the U.S. have often served in senior executive positions IFAC, and three have been IFAC Presidents, including IFAC’s first President Harold Chestnut.  IFAC organizes the triennial World Congress. AACC has occasionally bid for the privilege of hosting an IFAC Congress and has successfully held this Congress in the USA in 1975 (Boston) and 1996 (San Francisco). 

We urge you to start now and get involved in IFAC activities. The professional and personal rewards are waiting.