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2020 American Control Conference (ACC) Overview

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The 2020 American Control Conference (ACC) was the first ACC held online from July 1-3, 2020. In spite of the virtual format, all sessions enjoyed lively participation, and the conference included all typical activities such as plenary talks, special sessions, tutorials, meetings, and exhibits. The conference had 1200+ registrations and the workshops attracted approximately 150 additional registrations. 

The conference received 1239 paper submissions, 46 invited session proposals, 5 tutorial session proposals, and 11 pre-conference workshop proposals. After a tremendous and conscientious effort by the Society Review Chairs, the Associate Editors, and the Program Committee, together with the eleven auditors and all of the reviewers, 835 papers were selected for presentation at the conference.  The acceptance rate was 67%. The conference featured five plenary talks: three morning plenaries, as well as two evening plenaries on Tuesday and Wednesday, with diverse topics on control in science and engineering. 

The conference pioneered a new format of Rapid Interactive (RI) sessions that enabled participants to present to a larger portion of the attendees and for attendees to experience a sampling of the many research results in an area, followed by in-depth discussions through interaction. There was substantial demand to be included in the RI sessions, as about 47% of the accepted papers were agreeable to the RI presentation format. On each of the three mornings of the conference, there were two parallel RI sessions. Specifically, each presenter in an RI session presented to a large audience of approximately half the conference attendees. Each of the six sessions began with a keynote presentation, selected from the highly rated contributed papers. Next, 21 papers were presented back-to-back in a rapid three-minute format.  In the subsequent interactive portion of the session, authors further shared their ideas and results through discussions for about 40 minutes in the first-ever interactive online digital poster format.  The six RI sessions were entitled Optimization and Optimal Control, Control of Energy and Automotive Systems, Predictive Control, Control of Robotic Systems, Learning, and Control of Biological and Aerospace Systems.

Another new feature of the conference was the Late-Breaking Poster session. The poster submissions included an abstract as well as the actual poster. Both the abstracts and the poster were reviewed, back in March 2020, with the final poster upload for accepted papers in April. Around 50 late-breaking poster presentations were part of the conference program, and authors got a unique chance to disseminate their work through the live online interactive format.

ACC is our flagship conference, managed by volunteers from our societies.   Hence, we are very thankful to the large community of dedicated volunteers that support ACC activities, including but not limited to the conference OpComm (each of whom played a key role to 2020 ACC’s success), the review team (including the reviewers, the program committee, the Associate Editors, and the Conference Editorial Board) for maintaining the high quality of the ACC program, the American Automatic Control Council (its officers as well as the Steering Committee) for sharing their collective wisdom on the mechanics of putting together a conference, and the current and past OpComms for being generous in sharing their ideas, time, and knowledge. Finally, thanks to Bob Judd, to whom we are indebted to for helping with the hotel and site selection process and the many contracts, and in this special year for renegotiating with the hotel as we transitioned to a fully online conference. 

It was heartwarming to find the strong interest in the conference from our community, in spite of the COVID-19 situation. Most of the authors of the more than 800+ papers saw value in submitting their final papers to ACC and register, while paying the full conference fees in the beginning. Due to the volunteer spirit in our community, we were able to lower the overall registration rates, and refund a substantial portion of the fees back to the registrants. We are very grateful to the support and guidance from the OpComm members and the AACC board and officers throughout the complex (and at times uncertain) transition process.  Due to the volunteer spirit and a sense of ownership, the community should continue to see vibrant ACCs in the coming years. 

(Report by Santosh Devasia, Conference General Chair, Martha Grover, Conference Program Chair, and Kam Leang, Conference Local Arrangements Chair).