Got an Idea for an IEEE Milestone?

It’s now easier than ever to get a technical achievement recognized

19 November 2012
Clockwise from right: Philips; Boeing; MIT Lincoln Laboratory

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Do you know of a significant technological development you think is deserving of recognition? Then you should know that the IEEE History Center has made it easier to propose an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing. The Milestone program recognizes outstanding developments with a ceremony and a plaque placed at the site of the achievement. Now numbering 130, IEEE Milestones currently go as far back as 1751, with the publication of Benjamin Franklin’s electrical experiments. They could go back even further, recognizing such achievements as the ancient Greek discovery of the electrical properties of amber.

IEEE members now only need to complete one proposal form with information that previously had been contained in two forms submitted separately. Previously, nominators first had to briefly describe the achievement in a proposal form that then was reviewed by the IEEE History Committee. If approved, a second form had to be submitted with more detailed information, such as an explanation of why the achievement was worthy, along with supporting documentation about its history. And this underwent further review by the committee.

The old process was often lengthy and therefore sometimes confusing, admits Robert Colburn, research coordinator for the IEEE History Center. “We hope that this new one-stage process will be a lot more understandable and user friendly, and will encourage more people to submit proposals,” he says.

CLEARER AND SIMPLER
Interested in submitting a proposal? You should first make sure your development hasn’t already been recognized.  You can check the list of all previous Milestones as well as developments in the process of becoming Milestones on the IEEE Global History Network. But the History Center has also provided suggestions of more that 100 noteworthy development for possible Milestones. These can be found in the “Achievements Suitable for Proposal as Milestones” section. Included are the Apple II computer, the computer mouse, implantable pacemaker, the electric motor, and the FORTRAN programming language.

“These achievements are crying out for proposals,” Colburn says. “But the list is by no means comprehensive. We’re just offering suggestions; there are many more worthy achievements out there.”

Once you’ve decided on what to propose, the next step is to get permission from whoever now owns the place where the Milestone plaque would be mounted (typically the site of the achievement).

Once that permission is obtained, a click on the “IEEE Milestones” tab at the top of the IEEE GHN will take you to a page with all you need to know about what to do next. That includes detailed instructions on how to submit your proposal under the Milestone Proposal Guidelines link on that page.

Any IEEE member can submit a proposal, but an IEEE organizational unit —such as your section, society, chapter, or student branch in the vicinity of the development must agree to sponsor the Milestone. That’s because the sponsor pays for the plaque and helps arrange for the dedication ceremony.

While writing your proposal, you can find some helpful information on the GHN, including tips on writing a good citation, which is required in the form, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

The IEEE History Committee has up to three months to evaluate the submission. If accepted, the committee will present the proposal to the IEEE Board of Directors for final approval. Once approved, the proposer is notified and then the real work begins: the IEEE organizational unit has to order the plaque and its inscription—a standard plaque design is available from the committee—and organize the dedication ceremony.

The benefits of the Milestones program are much broader than these activities, notes Colburn. “The program is one of the most visible ways IEEE can show the public the importance of its fields of interest,” he says. “It is also a great way to celebrate the heritage of our members and the people who developed these amazing technologies that have shaped and improved our world.”

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