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The Success Story


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Bob: I still run the international System Engineering Conference that I founded 17 years ago. I still run that, so I'm still pretty active. Although eventually, it's going to be time for others to take over. We have a number of people who are quite engaged in the discipline of system engineering and a lot of people have joined the bandwagon, so to speak, so it's good.

Qusai: Can you share some of the successes story you had, for example, the number of members, the number of committees, how it grows over the year?

Bob: The council started with only about 11 or 12 societies as members, and now we have 20. The people we have involved, the representatives from the societies, are very engaged and very active. We've had some joint activities, like our latest two journals that we've founded within the last five years, have several societies as co-sponsors of that, financial co-sponsors. We've done pretty well in that regard. The council's considered successful. It has a fairly large surplus within IEEE, almost $3 million of surplus. We've done well financially, which is good. We try to-

Qusai: Through sponsorship?

Bob: Pardon?

Qusai: Was that through sponsorship?

Bob: No. The largest money maker for most any society or council these days is over-length page charges for its transactions or journal. That's where the bulk of the money comes from for the systems council. That's a true statement for most societies, and almost every society has a publication, so it's over-length page charges that generates a good bit of our income.

Then in our share of the ASPP, the All-Society Periodicals Publication, which is the big subscription service of IEEE. Of course, we get a share of the IEEE investment income, which is based upon our current surplus. The more surplus you have, and IEEE's investment account makes money, which is done every year except for two in the past two decades, then we get a large share of that. That's where our funds come from.

Qusai: Thank you for doing that. Besides that first board member meeting, was there any other challenge you faced at the beginning?

Bob: Like I said, we have 20 societies that are members of the Systems Council today. We just had a board meeting just two days ago, and we had a majority present. We meet twice a year. During the pandemic years, we did them virtually, and during some of the early-growth years when we were trying to conserve funds, we did them virtually, but now we are meeting in person. We meet twice a year. The meetings are very good. The member societies are extremely helpful in promoting the concepts of the Council of System Engineering, and we try to help them and promote their major activities as well. It's been a win-win for technical activities board to have the council, I think.

We're one of only seven councils, as you know, and councils are difficult because we don't have actual members, per se, like a society does. We have what we call participants, people who say, "Yes, I'm interested in the System Council. Even though I can't be an actual member, I'd like to participate in your activities." We have almost 20,000 people on that list, which is pretty good. The average size of society is just around 4,500 members these days, and we have 38, 39 societies. The average size of a society is fairly small. In terms of our participants, we're much larger than most societies.

We don't collect dues from them, but we do interact with them through emails on occasion and our quarterly news blasts that we send out to let people know what's going on. We feel we've engaged a good bit of IEEE's membership, which is significant. We have a good distinguished lecturer program, which promotes the cause of system engineering throughout, and that's fairly active as well.


Written by Qusi Alqarqaz, IEEE Systems Council History Column Editor, Writer