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Global Concerns



Transition and Acknowledgement

You are seeing a new face and a new pen here, writing this column, which has been the responsibility of the IFAC Council member from the US. For the last six years (two terms, the maximum possible length of service on the Council by the IFAC Constitution), Abe Haddad has served on the Council, and written these columns---bringing information to the American Control Community from the body of which AACC is a founding member and the US National Member Organization (NMO). Abe’s six year term ended at the IFAC Congress in Milan (in September 2011), and I was elected (at the same Congress) as a new member of the Council, for a three-year term. I am pleased to correspond with you through this column in AACC’s electronic Newsletter, and I plan to communicate to you important happenings at IFAC, particularly as they impact the American Control Community.  Before I roll up my sleeves to get to the task, I want to thank Abe Haddad for serving on the IFAC Council for the last six years and acknowledge his much appreciated contributions to the American Control Community through the “Global Concerns” column and through his active participation in AACC meetings.  Abe will continue to be involved with IFAC in his new capacity as IFAC Advisor.

IFAC and its Structure

Let me begin by giving a little background on IFAC.  It was founded in 1957 as an international federation of automatic control, involving initially 18 countries (with USA being one of them, holding also the first presidency, by Harold Chestnut), and has grown over the years and reached its current size of 52 countries, each represented by its NMO. IFAC’s aims are “to promote the science and technology of control in the broadest sense in all systems, whether, for example, engineering, physical, biological, social or economic, in both theory and application.” It is  “also concerned with the impact of control technology on society.” Each member country is represented at the General Assembly (GA), which meets every 3 years. IFAC’s Council, consisting of 12 ordinary members and 6 officers, is responsible to the GA for the management of the Federation. It receives its mandate from the GA and reports to it on the state of the Federation not less frequently than at each Triennial Congress. In between the congresses, IFAC’s activities are coordinated by its Technical Board (with its (at the present) 9 Coordinating Committees (CCs) and 41 Technical Committees (TCs)) and its Executive Board (with its 4 Executive Committees).  The TCs constitute the intellectual backbone of IFAC, where all the scientific and organizational activity that eventually leads to workshops, conferences, symposia, and sessions at congresses starts. Being a member on one of the TCs is the first step in getting involved in IFAC activities, and I would encourage particularly younger members of the AACC member societies to consider joining one or more of the TCs. The list of TCs and information on their scopes can be found on the IFAC website Those interested in joining should contact their Society Director or the AACC Secretary, Wayne Bequette.

IFAC Congresses: Past and Future

Perhaps the most visible activity of IFAC is the organization of World Congresses, which are held every three years. The last one (the 18th Congress) was held in Milan, Italy, August 18-September 2, 2011. It was a very successful scientific meeting, attended by 2826 scientists and engineers from 73 countries. It featured 9 plenary and parallel plenary lectures, 341 oral, 3 panel, and 9 interactive sessions.  Congresses also provide venues for presentation of prestigious triennial IFAC awards, and among those presented in Milan were 4 major medals, 38 fellow certificates, and several publication prizes. More information on these awards, and deadlines for nomination can be found again on the IFAC website.
One other activity at the 18th Congress, which concerned AACC, was on the social front – our co-hosting of a Friendship Evening, along with three other NMOs, namely Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. It was a well-attended event, where we had a slide show on the fifty-four year history of AACC, and we provided for guests souvenir copies of a book (The American Automatic Control Council: AACC History and Collaboration with IFAC) we put together last summer, covering that history and relationship with IFAC.  This history book can be accessed through the AACC website.

The next meeting of the IFAC Council will be held in Gifu, Japan, on September 12, 2012. An important agenda item for that meeting is starting the process of selecting the site of the 21st Congress and along with this the IFAC President for the triennium 2017-2020. As it was announced in earlier issues of this Newsletter, the 19th IFAC World Congress will be held in Cape Town, South Africa during 24 – 29 August, 2014, and the 20th one will be held in Toulouse, France during 10-14 July 2017. Hence, the next one that is open to competition and bidding is the 21st one, for which candidate NMOs have already submitted (in April of this year) their letters as an expression of their interest in organizing the congress. AACC has also submitted such a letter, proposing Chicago, Illinois, as the congress city; July 5-10, 2012 as the dates; and Frank Doyle as the 22nd IFAC President.  In Gifu, candidate countries will make some short presentations on their application, based on which the Council will narrow down the list of candidates (to 2 or 3) who will then be invited to submit full proposals. The final phase of the selection process will be during the July 2013 Council meeting (in Zurich, Switzerland), where the finalist countries will present their proposals, based on which the Council will make the final selection.

Tamer Başar
IFAC Council Member