Presidentís report to the membership

The major event in the life of the Society in the last quarter has of course been the Intermag conference in San Diego. As those of you who were there will know the conference, with almost 1,100 participants, was a major success. I believe this is almost certainly a record for a stand alone Intermag conference being held in the United States. For those of you who are interested in the statistics of our conferences 42 countries were represented at Intermag 2006, some 1,421 digests were submitted, of which 963 were accepted with 442 oral presentations. If we include the invited papers and symposia the total number of presentations was 1,004. I think this shows that our subject discipline is in an extremely healthy state and also shows that the organisation of the meetings which the Society sponsors fulfils the needs and wishes of the magnetism community.

Of course none of this would be possible without the work of our volunteers and I wish to place on record on behalf of the Society our gratitude to the conference chairperson, Prof Mel Gomez of the University of Maryland. His organisational skills, exercised with his usual charm, made a major contribution to the success of Intermag 2006. Of course, the organisation of such meetings is always a team effort and, whilst everyone made a major contribution, I think the efforts of the Programme chairs, Bruce Terris of Hitachi GST and Shan Wang of Stanford, and the Publication chair, Bob Schull of NIST, deserve particular mention. Moreover, the Society would wish to recognise the contribution made by all those who served the meeting in large or small capacities.

As a small innovation at the meeting a special membership desk was sited immediately prior to the registration booths allowing people the opportunity to join the Society and benefit from the discounted registration fee. This activity was a marginal success with over 100 new members recruited. However it still appears that there is a problem for individuals employed in certain types of organizations, including many corporations and government research institutes, particularly in Europe, in that they are unable to recover the costs of Society membership whereas they can recover the cost of paying increased registration fees. Our AdCom will be looking into this matter, which is becoming quite a serious issue, to see if we can find an administrative solution that enables people to become members of the Society.

Given the success and the large attendance in San Diego it is expected that the conference will make a healthy surplus. I am aware that the generation of surpluses from conference activities causes some members concern as they believe that a “not for profit” organisation should always seek to organise events that break even. My personal view and the official position of the IEEE is that it is not always possible to budget for break even meetings because inevitably on occasions we operate at a loss, and therefore it is essential we have a mechanism to generate surpluses so that these can be balanced out over time. There is also an overhead associated with all Society activities which pays for the cost of the services provided by IEEE headquarters in Piscataway. I think many members do not realise that the infrastructure of IEEE, which is essential for us to continue our activities, includes a number of very expensive items such as full liability insurance for any volunteer involved in any IEEE activity and also legal cover so that we are protected from any possibility of being sued for expressing opinions. These and other high cost items as well as the general administration of what is in essence a significant business result in an overhead on all activities of about 17%. Compared with most businesses and universities this is really a very modest figure and hence our conferences must generate a surplus of this order so as in effect not to make a loss. It is also the case that in order to maintain our tax exempt status, we have to ensure that the revenues of the Society are used to provide benefits for its members. By implication that means that we must not provide benefits for non-members and so if we do not make a 17% surplus our members are essentially subsidising others.

I am also pleased to report to the membership that the overall financial health of the Society is really extremely good. This is only in part due to the success of our recent conferences as the major contribution to our financial health comes from electronic downloads through IEL. This means that the Society is running a surplus of approximately half a million dollars a year. At the AdCom meeting in San Diego a major review of Society finances was undertaken and it was agreed that we will be making a number of initiatives to utilise this financial windfall. A couple of the initiatives which will become apparent to the membership are: an increase in the number of distinguished lecturers from 3 to 4 for next year, and also a move to increase the length of Intermag papers from 3 pages to 4 at no extra cost to the conference itself. We have also seen a number of representations concerning the general level of conference fees and the AdCom and Conference Executive Committee will discuss mechanisms by which we can address this issue when we meet in September. Of course if the Society were to provide subsidies for conference fees, then these would be for members only, a situation which may affect the general issue of incentives for people to join the Society.

The other item of note from the San Diego Intermag was that we held the first ever open general meeting of the Society at a conference in North America. About 200 people attended the general meeting at which presentations were made by myself, Randall Victora as Secretary/Treasurer, Doug Lavers as Conference Executive Committee chair and Ron Goldfarb as Publications Committee chair. A healthy discussion was held in which people were being quite willing and keen to express their views. I trust that the concept of our annual general meeting will remain popular and I would encourage members to attend the next AGM which will be held during the joint conference in Baltimore in January. Of course, by that time Carl Patton of Colorado State University will have taken over as President and will conduct the meeting.

On a final note, we are shortly approaching the 2006 election for members of the AdCom. Some of you will have noticed that in San Diego we included a nomination form for members to have the opportunity to nominate candidates. This follows an initiative started in 2005 in which the Nomination committee sought nominations from a much wider circle of individuals, with the result of an increase of about three times in the number of nominations received. I am pleased to report that the initiative of allowing open nominations to Society members has had a similar effect this year and our Nomination committee will shortly be meeting electronically to draw up a ballot. It is the intention of the Society to continue to open up its activities in this way and to increase member participation. Hence if anyone has any good ideas for further measures we can take to meet member needs and aspirations please do not hesitate to contact any of the Society officers listed on the website.

I trust that you will all have a pleasant summer with some time for relaxation.

Kevin O’Grady

IEEE Magnetics Magnetics Society President
July 2006