IEEE Fellows Program Leaves Industry Out in the Cold
Congratulations to the Fellows Class of 2008 [“What It Means to Be an IEEE Fellow,” January]. Each and every one of them deserves the IEEE’s highest recognition. But in reading each year’s list of Fellows, I see a distinct bias toward academia at the expense of members working in industry. This is because the current IEEE Fellows program is a convoluted system designed by and for academics.
Three times as many IEEE members work in industry as in academia, yet the classes of Fellows run consistently two to one in favor of academics. I am thoroughly familiar with the process of nominating someone for Fellow. For many years my colleagues and I have painstakingly prepared nominations for members from industry—including myself—that have failed. Just because we in industry do not use third-order differential equations in our daily work does not mean our work does not equally benefit humanity.
The Fellows program acts as a showcase for academia and high-level theory, while we in industry continue to solve major technical problems that enhance the quality of life. We in industry do not have the time to fill out complicated applications and write letters of reference for each other. And there are few Fellows in industry who can act as references, so we must rely on references from members of academia who are unfamiliar with our work.
Lastly, the number of published papers by a nominee holds a disproportionate amount of weight in the judging process. Academics publish papers for a living. Those in industry write few papers, and most of what we do write is proprietary. The emphasis on papers is a stipulation created by and for academics.
We in industry hold the IEEE academics in the highest regard, but we must claim our share of recognition. I propose an industry boycott of the Fellows program until we are given assurance that Fellows are chosen fairly.
JOSEPH A. KALASKY
Senior Member Kalasky was a member of the IEEE Board of Directors from 1999–2000.
Doris L. Carver, chair of the 2008 Fellow Committee, responds:
Mr. Kalasky points out that “three times as many IEEE members work in industry as in academia, yet the classes of Fellows run consistently two to one in favor of academics.” Indeed, for the 2008 class, as well as classes in earlier years, a smaller number of Fellows came from industry than from academia. The class of 2008 consisted of 204 nominations from industry and 501 nominees from academia. However, of those nominees from industry, 41.2 percent were elevated to Fellow, while 37.5 percent from academia were elevated. As these data indicate, the percentage of nominees from industry elevated to Fellow for the 2008 class is consistent with, and in fact greater than, the percentage from education.
A maximum number of 0.1 percent of the IEEE voting membership can be elevated annually to Fellow. The Fellow Committee is committed to a fair and equitable evaluation process for recommending those nominees to the IEEE Board of Directors. While the process may appear to be complex, it provides the information the committee needs to make the difficult decisions it faces each cycle. The input for recommending nominees comes from numerous sources, including the nominator, the references, and the IEEE society with which the nominee is associated. The contributions made by successful nominees are numerous and diverse, including but certainly not limited to patents, papers, books, processes with noteworthy impact, technical managerial achievements, contributions to the profession, and contributions to society.
But the salient point is that we clearly need to encourage more nominees from industry. The Fellow Committee and the IEEE staff have been and will continue to actively promote awareness of the value of the Fellow recognition and the desire for more industry nominations with strategically placed articles in IEEE newsletters, presentations at IEEE meetings, and other forms of communication.
I solicit your assistance with helping IEEE increase participation in its Fellow program by nominating more of our colleagues in industry and helping them with the application process.
More detailed data regarding the 2008 Fellow class and earlier classes can be found at www.ieee.org/fellows.
A Proud Classmate
I read with great interest the article “Pas Pasupathy: Meeting Challenges Head On” [January]. I am proud to say that I was his classmate at Sri Ramakrishna Mission High School (North Branch), in Chennai, India. I still remember that he was the best student every school year and always took the first rank. I’ll never forget when he played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. He received a standing ovation.
We are all very fond of him, and I am happy that I came across the article about him in your publication.