President’s report to the membership

This will be my last presidential report to the membership as my tenure as Society President comes to an end at the turn of the year. My successor is Carl Patton of Colorado State University who is a well known figure in the field of magnetism and I am sure both he and his work are familiar to many of you. I am sure I am leaving office with the Society in good hands and I wish Carl every success in his role and I hope that his tenure has as few major problems as I have experienced in the last two years.

When taking over as Society President at the beginning of 2005 I, and I suspect a number of others who came into this role, did not really fully appreciate how the Society works and the complexities that result. In one way I was fortunate in that we had just completed a major overhaul of the Society’s Constitution and Bylaws which you can find from the link on our home page. This meant that I was familiar with our rules and practices as I had been involved in drafting the revised Constitution when Vice President. However this changeover also presented a challenge in that I had to implement the new organisational structure of the Society. I am pleased to report that the new structure is generally working very well. This is mainly due to the fact that each part of the bylaws, which govern our day to day activities, were was written by the sitting committee chair at that time. In essence this means that the committee chairs wrote out their own job description and were able to define the way in which they thought their committee should operate. Obviously they were the people in the best position to do this and so it is not surprising that the revised structure has worked well.

On becoming President I set myself a number of goals and objectives and I am pleased that we have managed to achieve significant progress in most areas that I prioritised. My primary objective was to increase the involvement of the membership and volunteers in the life of the Society. To this end I established in collaboration with Mel Gomez, who I appointed to chair the Technical committee, a new body of some 40 mainly young people who wished to participate in the life of the Society. Additionally, with the help of Richard Dee, the Chapters activity was rejuvenated with one inactive chapter being closed down and seven new chapters being established, mainly outside the US. We also established a procedure whereby the Technical committee membership and the Chapter chairs are formally consulted about issues such as nominations for the AdCom, selection of Distinguished Lecturers etc. In this way, together with the AdCom membership itself, over 100 people out of a membership of 2,700 are routinely consulted about these matters. I believe this increase in involvement to be extremely healthy.

The other objective was to at least stabilise and hopefully to increase membership. This is a difficult area because of the ongoing consolidation in the magnetic information storage industry but by promoting membership through activities such as student travel grants, the chapters and particularly the Distinguished Lecturer programme we have succeeded in increasing membership by about 150 during my tenure. This represents a modest increase of the order of 5% but should be seen in the context of overall IEEE membership declining by about 3% per year and hence must be regarded as a success for which Richard Dee and all the individual chapter chairs, together with Roy Chantrell, who has reorganised the DL programme to support membership growth, deserve considerable credit.

The other major issue for the Society has been to adapt to the fact that our US membership continues to decline whereas the membership outside the United States and particularly in Asia continues to grow. Our Society is one of very few where the majority of the members now some 51.5% are not US based. This is a major shift and we have endeavoured to see the organisation and governance of our Society better reflect the membership. It is also the case that historically the number of women working in magnetism has been unhealthily low and their representation even lower. I am pleased to report that the 2006 AdCom now has 5 female members which constitutes 12% and is close to reflecting the balance of the membership. Similarly the non US membership of the AdCom in 2006 stood at 15 out of 40 which still reflects a significant imbalance but a significantly smaller imbalance than was the case in 2004. One reason for this imbalance is the difficulty in finding people who are not US based to take on the role of committee chairs that are appointed by the President. During my tenure all committee chairs were people based in the United States or Canada. Obviously having diversified the membership of the AdCom and increased participation in the Society it takes time for new people to become familiar with the operation of our activities and so to become suitable for appointment in these roles. I hope this trend will continue in the future. I am also pleased to report that of the 8 people elected to the AdCom for next year five are non US based and in particular two new members from Asia were elected. It remains the case that considering the balance of the membership there is still under-representation from Asia. This is clearly an area where we need to continue to pay careful attention but in the last two years excellent progress has been made and I am grateful for the help and support in this endeavour that I have received from Phil Wigen, who chairs our Nomination committee.

All the officers of the Society are volunteers who receive neither remuneration nor benefits in kind such as reduced conference fees for their efforts. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to work with people who are prepared to commit themselves freely in this way. Certain individuals provide an enormous service to the Society and in particular I would wish to recognise the efforts of the CEC Conference Executive Committee (CEC) Chair, Doug Lavers of the University of Toronto and Ron Goldfarb on of NIST in Bolder Boulder, Colorado, who acts as the Chair of our Publication committee and runs a highly efficient and very thoughtful department that has responsibility for the Transactions and all our conference-related publications. The time that these two individuals give to the Society must be worth the membership fees of literally hundreds of members.

During my time I have been fortunate that the Society’s finances have been in the most healthy state that I can remember. The financial affairs of the Society are run prudently and I hope that members are aware that we have been able to increase the value of our student travel grants to $750 and indeed for 2007 have increased the number of travel grants available. Similarly we have been able to increase the number of Distinguished Lecturers and provide them with additional budget so that they have the opportunity to visit the new chapters, particularly outside the United States. The budgeting process for the Society has never been smoother because of the increase resources available which largely derive from electronic downloads from of the Transactions. Nonetheless budgetary and financial matters are time consuming and highly specialised for volunteers who are in the post for a limited period. Thus I am grateful to our Secretary/Treasurer, Randall Victora and to Laura Henderson Lewis for their service and support. Most of our discretionary spend is in areas like DLs and student travel and again under the new Constitution a major reorganisation of the Awards department under the Chairmanship of Bruce Gurney has been undertaken. I think any members who were at San Diego and previously in Nagoya at the Intermag conference and saw the quality of our awards activity will know that an excellent job has been done.

Members will also be aware that in the last two years our website has been completely revamped into what I hope is now a more usable format. In this regard I must acknowledge the efforts of Can Korman who I believe has done an excellent job. Similarly our Newsletter has been revamped, hopefully to have more meaningful content and you are reading this report at the instigation of Martha Pardavi- Horvath who has worked tirelessly to improve the Newsletter.

Our Education department faces a particular challenge in that previously it had been dominated by US activities and now its role must be redefined to represent the majority of the membership who are non US based. J W Harrell has continued to organise our tutorial sessions and I am aware that they are looking at proposals to try and organise non-US based activities which will be a challenge for the future. Our Standards activity is relatively modest as the ISO governs standards in magnetics but I am grateful to Bob McMichael for maintaining a watching brief of this area for the last two years.

As you will realise almost all the work and benefits that the membership see from the Society come from the activities of our committee chairs. They of course are assisted on occasions and supported by members of their committees and the elected body of the AdCom. I believe that in the last two years the Society has been on a steady course and has made significant progress in the key areas of member participation, governance and particularly in representation. None of this would have been possible without the support that I have received from my committee chairs and I am sure the membership would want to place on record their gratitude to these people as indeed I do in a personal capacity. I enjoyed my tenure and the interaction with so many able individuals and I am confident that the Society will continue to modernise its activities under the guidance of Carl Patton.

Finally there are two people without whose support I could not have undertaken these duties: The first of these is Diane Melton of Courtesy Associates who as Executive Director of the Society provides administrative and logistical support together with periodic reality checks. The second is my secretary Jenny Barry who retires at the year end. Jenny must have typed hundreds of pages on our behalf. Many thanks to both.

Kevin O’Grady

IEEE Magnetics Magnetics Society President
October 2006