Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wondering about the IEEE

I feel like I should be a member of the IEEE. I am, this year. Throughout my career, it's been an on-again, off-again relationship. Even when my company reimburses me, sometimes I feel that it's not worth it.

What I want it to be

  • Teach me about new developments in my specialty. There are some gems, but it's harder to find from IEEE publications vs. trade publications like EE Times or EDN. Part of it is because I can't find a Society/Publication that aligns well with my specialty (see Gripes, below).
  • Teach me about interesting developments in other specialties. The articles need to start from a basic level, not trying to prove how sophisticated and complex the author can be. I am not finding this from the IEEE. Something like Scientific American or Discovery magazines might be a more accessible resource.
  • Represent my professional interests. The IEEE-USA tries to do this, and I'm a member. But membership is optional, and I wonder how many USA EEs belong or are even familiar with it?

What IEEE should do

  • Give a primer to members on how the IEEE works. I have sort of figured these things, but why doesn't the IEEE come with a "user's manual" to address these dead-on?
    • What is a Region and what's a Chapter?
    • What is the difference between their publications Spectrum, Proceedings, and Transactions?

Other gripes

  • There's no Society for Digital IC (RTL & Gates) engineers! I just can't figure this one out. There are certainly Societies for semiconductor process, circuit design, and packaging. But what Society should a plain-ol' ASIC engineer belong to? Why isn't there a perfect fit for such a common EE discipline?
  • The price/performance of an IEEE membership really seems out of whack. Why does it cost me (or my company) over $140/year, when the main benefit is a magazine subscription or two? Why, I can subscribe to EE Times for free and get far more practical news and technical information! Where is all the IEEE money going? To some huge bureaucracy in New Jersey?

What do you think about the IEEE? Do you belong? Why or why not?


Kiran said...

Hi John,
I was IEEE member for 5 years and I have the same problems and concerns as you mentioned. I'm a FE appln engineer and theres no society/magazine which talks about the RTL/Gates flow. I'm not saying it should only cover that, but it should also cover circuit simulation etc. I'm with ACM SIGDA for last 2 years and I didnt subscribe to it again. But personally, I felt it was much better than IEEE. When I received a mail from IEEE asking me to renew and express my concern if I chose not to, I sent a mail, but I never heard anything from those folks.

John said...

My wife asks the same question every year, when she sees the $200+ dollars for membership on our credit card bill: "What's the IEEE? And what do they do for you?" I don't think I ever have a satisfactory answer.

Where I most benefit are any discounts I get off conference registration and/or proceedings. I do like to read Design & Test Magazine. But that's it, really.

I'd feel much better about my membership if I had more access to papers, proceedings and standards. It's a little offensive to have to pay (after shelling out for membership each year) to obtain a paper that turns out to be not quite what the abstract advertised.

I do have to say that IEEE Spectrum,which does come with membership does read a bit like Scientific American. I do find some interesting stuff in there, but it would be nice to have something like that, but more narrowly focused on IC design. I don't generally get into articles about the power grid...


Sandeep said...

I second Kiran - the ACM Sigda membership is much nicer.
The membership to ACM digital library is much lesser than an equivalent membership to IEEE. However, you wont a *lot* of digital design on ACM - it is more oriented towards the computational aspect of it.

Incidentally all the archives of SIGDA, DATE,ICCAD are free

John said...

Yeah, As far as access to publications, I've noticed that SIGDA stuff is readily available (even to outsiiders!), and I respect that, and totally appreciate it. The IEEE doesn't even do that for their members.
Pretty sad.

What relationship does the ACM/SIGDA have to IEEE? I notice they're both sponsors for ICCAD, for example.

John F.

Rajesh Gupta said...

Dear John:

You touch an important issue that many of us in the community have felt for quite sometime. IEEE has grown into a big international organization and does many things that not all of us relate to, much less pay for.

But we do have tangible benefits such as Design and Test, transactions and conferences. Then there is professional recognition through awards etc. In addition, we sometimes educate funding agencies and policy makers on important technology research and training issues and their funding.

I don't speak for the IEEE, but at the grass roots level, we are beginning to reorganize into a single cohesive entity that can bring forth many of these diverse activities. Last year, we kicked off, IEEE Council on Electronic Design Automation: http://www.c-eda.org/

We are beginning with organization of lectures and events at our conferences, and as our volunteers grow we plan to take on even more projects that keep the community engaged.

We are constantly looking for volunteers to help us with new projects.

Jonathan David, SCV Pace Chair said...

As I mention in my blog ,
the IEEE,as a volunteer organization is a framework where you can make good things happen.

When I was getting involved there was no local meeting set for the Analog designers I wanted to get to know better. I had been taught in my student branch that IEEE is more than just papers and journals, and finally committed myself to make that a reality.

All you really need is ONE instigator to start the ball rolling, John. Come on in, and make a home for the Digital Asic (and verification ?) engineers.

The IEEE is not perfect, and the funding model may have to undergo significant changes in coming years. We might be able to create something better. But for the moment, I'm going to continue to work from within the IEEE and make things better for my self, my kids, and hopefully for all of us.