Report of the ECCAI Chair 1998

Wolfgang Wahlster

Founded in 1982, the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI) as a non-profit umbrella organization of 27 European societies for Artificial Intelligence is now 16 years old and I hope it is approaching adult maturity.

The collective strengths of its member societies establishes ECCAI as an authoritative voice in pan-European AI. Altogether the ECCAI member societies represent more than 7000 European researchers and practitioners working in AI. ECCAI maintains effective links with other major international AI organizations such as IJCAII, and PRICAI. We have now established a long-term scheme with these organisations and AAAI to avoid scheduling conflicts for our major activities.

The light administrative structure of ECCAI ensures that it can respond quickly and cost-effectively to the needs of its members.

Consolidation of ECCAI's Financial Situation

The final report of the past ECCAI chair Nicolaas Mars made it clear, that ECCAI would have to cut down its services drastically, if the financial situation cannot be improved permanently. The new Board's policy was to increase the services and to introduce a modest membership fee. The General Assembly's approval of the proposal to introduce a membership fee of 3 ECUs per member on the 25th of April 1997 in Prague is a major milestone in the history of ECCAI.

I am glad to report that most ECCAI member societies have paid the fee according to the scheme approved by the last General Assembly. The ECCAI Board appreciates the fact that RAAI paid a fee, although the General Assembly had waived the fee for Russia. There are some societies who still owe ECCAI the membership for 1997, but I am sure that ECCAI will receive the payment during the next weeks. Unfortunately, one member society refuses to pay. I think that it is very unfair to use services and to exploit benefits that are paid by others. The Board feels that we have to start a process according to Article 5 of the ECCAI statutes: A member's expulsion from the Association may be proposed by the Board of Directors after it has heard the defence of the member concerned, and is decided by the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority vote of the members present or represented. I still hope that we can convince the executives of this society to pay the fee.

Although the fee collection process must be improved, I am happy to report that ECCAI now has made a small surplus for 1997 and is expecting another surplus for this year, so that it can continue its traditional activities and start new services.

Operation of the ECCAI Board

My colleagues on the ECCAI Board are the following: Nada Lavrac is Vice Chair and handles the ECCAI travel awards, Carl Gustaf Jansson is Secretary and handles the minutes, Jean Paul Barthes is our treasurer, Walter Daelemans is the member in charge of the statutes and handles EU contacts, Piero Torasso is ordinary member and handles ECAI publication issues. Most of our work was done via telecooperation over the Internet. But we had two face-to-face meetings on 13th of October 1997 and 4th of March 1998 since the last General Assembly. All these meetings were held in Brussels in order to minimize travel expenses. We could use free rooms sponsored by the Swedish tourist board twice and some board members were able to combine the trip with EU activities, so that the travel expenses were reimbursed by the Commission.

I would like to thank all my colleagues on the Board for their excellent work and team effort. Walter Daelemans asked me to give his best regards to the General Assembly. Unfortunately, he was not able to make it to this meeting and is not able to serve for a second term on the Board.

ECCAI Secretariat, ECCAI Webpages and ECCAI Logos

A new ECCAI Secretariat was established at the German Research Center for AI (DFKI). Sigrid Herzog manages this secretariat as part of her job at DFKI. In addition, DFKI sponsored Renato Orsini as the Webmaster of the ECCAI webpages. This infrastructure supported the work of the ECCAI Board in many ways. This donation of DFKI helped to reduce the operational expenses of ECCAI drastically. I would like to thank DFKI for this support. Many thanks also to Sigrid Herzog and Renato Orsini for their excellent work and service for ECCAI.

The ECCAI webpages were reorganised and are now easily accessible in the new eccai.org domain. I would like to urge all ECCAI member societies to promote the use of these pages in their organization and to help the ECCAI Secretariat and the Webmaster to keep these pages up-to-date.

In order to promote the work of ECCAI, we felt that is necessary to increase the "corporate identity" and international visibility by the use of a uniform set of logos for all ECCAI activties. Therefore, logos using a consistent graphical style and the same colours were designed for ECCAI, ACAI, ETAI, AICom, and ENAI- all based on the established ECAI logo. They can be downloaded from the ECCAI webpages.

ECAI Conferences and ACAI Courses

ECCAI sponsored the very successful 7th Advanced Course on Artificial Intelligence. The topic was "Artificial Intelligence and Information Systems: Integration Aspects". This ACAI-97 was held on June 23-28, 1997, at Vilnius University in Lithuania. I would like to thank the Vytautas Cyras as the Chair of the organising committee for the great job he has done.

With acceptance rates around 30%, the ECAI conferences are now among the most selective general AI conferences. The programme of this year's 13th biennial European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, ECAI-98 here at Brighton, comprises 158 top-quality research papers covering all aspects of AI, carefully selected from 456 submissions by the 57 members of the programme committee with the help of a panel of 469 reviewers. I would like to thank the PC Chair Henri Prade and all the PC members for their outstanding job.

For ACAI-99, the Board has stimulated two very interesting proposals from Germany and Greece and I am sure whatever proposal the General Assembly will choose today, it will be another success story in our series of advanced courses. The Board has already reviewed draft versions of these proposals and revisions and extensions have been made for the full proposals being presented to the General Assembly today.

For ECAI-2000 in Berlin we have to select a Programme Committee Chair today and the Board has stimulated a very promising proposal from Austria.

Finally, we received a well-balanced proposal to host ECAI-2002 in France, so that all the major scientific events organised by ECCAI seem to be in good shape.

ETAI: Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence

On May 27, 1997 ECCAI announced the creation of a new forum for exchange of scientific results, the Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence (ETAI). It is an Internet-based service which available free of charge. The editor in chief of ETAI is Erik Sandewall, Linkoeping University, Sweden. ETAI is a new kind of electronic journal which uses posteriori reviewing. A contributed article is first published, then subjected to a public discussion period, and then to confidential refereeing by peers whereby it may be accepted and obtain the status of an article published in a journal. Four areas of ETAI are active now: "Reasoning about Actions and Change","Intelligent User Interfaces","Planning and Scheduling", and "Decision and Reasoning under Uncertainty".

In 1998, an agreement has been signed between the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA), the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI), and Linkoeping University (LiU) with the following content:

- The ETAI is published in two editions, namely an electronic edition and a paper edition. The paper edition is published by KVA; the electronic edition by LiU through Linkoeping University Electronic Press.

- The paper edition is printed in a limited supply, and is distributed free of charge by the KVA to sister academies and other prestigious organizations worldwide.

- The electronic edition will be kept on-line for at least 25 years counting from the date of publication.

- Linkoeping University hosts the practical work for both the paper and the electronic editions.

- Both the KVA and the ECCAI nominate members to the ETAI policy committee, which oversees the organization of the ETAI and which is also the guarantee that the ETAI maintains the highest scientific standards of publication.

ETAI Volume 1, 1997 has now been published both in its paper edition and its electronic edition. The paper edition has been printed in 200 copies and will be distributed free of charge as a part of the "marketing" effort.

I would like to thank Erik Sandewall for his excellent job and his enthusiasm for ETAI. Thanks go also to the area editors of ETAI.

AICom: AI Communications

The previous arrangement between IOS Press and ECCAI, to supply printed copies to all individual members of the ECCAI member societies, came to an end. Costs of printing and mailing of what used to be nearly 10000 copies were too high for ECCAI or IOS Press.

For a transition period in 1997/1998, the arrangement with IOS Press was that ECCAI pays 8000 ECUs and gets 2 so-called ECCAI issues out of 4 planned AICom issues of a volume that are distributed to all ECCAI member societies via bulk mail. The distribution to the individual members had to be organised by the member societies. Although this was a very good price for two issues of AICom, it was clear that this could serve only as an intermediate solution. For many members it is unsatisfactory to get only two issues and for the ECCAI member societies the distribution was too complex or too expensive. At ECAI-98 a double issue of AICom that is sponsored by ECCAI will be distributed free of charge to all attendees.

In many discussions with IOS Press, we negotiated a new model based on electronic distribution. ECCAI can offer all member societies as part of the service that they receive from ECCAI for the membership fee, electronic access to all issues of AICom for all members with an email address (used as the password) that is transferred by ECCAI to IOS Press. ECCAI pays IOS a yearly fee based on the number of accounts that are allowed to access AICom.

ECCAI Member Societies which are interested in getting printed copies for their members should approach IOS Press directly for bulk prices. These costs cannot be covered by ECCAI.

For individual members of ECCAI Societies who want a printed version, although their society has no bulk arrangement with IOS, the reduced individual subscription price is ECU 30 per annual volume of 4 issues.

The ECCAI board is very pleased to see the increasing international recognition of AICom as a scientific journal. In a recent Science Citation Index ranking of journals by impact factor AI Communications is ranked 16th out of 44 AI Journals. AAAI's AI Magazine is ranked 21st. AI Communications is the third best general AI Journal according to this study.

I would like to thank Georg Gottlob as the current Editor-in-Chief and his predecessor Ramon Lopez de Mantaras for their excellent work in support of the AI Communications.

New Publisher for the ECAI Proceedings

The publishing contract for the ECAI Proceedings with John Wiley and Sons terminated with ECAI-98. Wiley was not interested in a renewal of the contract. The ECCAI Board was dissatisfied with Wiley's marketing support for the ECAI proceedings and complained on many occasions about the low visibility of Wiley's proceedings series in the international AI community. On the other hand, Wiley said that they are loosing money with this branch of their business and that they would be happy to cancel the contract even before publishing ECAI-98. Since the negotiations with alternate publishers were not finalized early in 1998, the Board insisted that Wiley fulfils the contract for ECAI-98. Unfortunately, Wiley then insisted to change the multicolour scheme for the cover of the ECAI-96 volume back to one color in order to save printing costs.

The Board used the following criteria in finding a new publisher:

a) the current format and layout of the proceedings should not be changed

b) the proceedings should be advertised and marketed worldwide

c) they should be on stock for a number of years

d) an optional CD version should complement the printed version

We approached three publishers that have a reputation for AI publications: Springer, Morgan Kaufmann and IOS. Morgan Kaufmann was not interested and did not come up with a quotation. Springer was very interested, but insisted to integrate the ECAI proceedings into the LNAI (Lecture Notes on AI) series using their standard one-column LNCS/LNAI format. IOS is very interested and offered an exact reproduction of the current format and appearance used by Wiley. In addition Dr. Einar H. Fredriksson, the director of IOS, offered a better price than Springer. IOS also gave a committment to produce an optional CD version.

For ECAI-98 (721 pages), Wiley charges 24 pound sterling/copy for 600 copies. In addition ECCAI gets 100 free copies from Wiley. This leads to a price per copy of 30 ECU for the 700 copies that ECAI gets.

IOS offers 700 copies of a 700-page volume for 18 ECU per copy. The new price offered by IOS for the proceedings is 40% less than the Wiley's price. This would lead to a significant cost reduction for ECAI-2000 and ECAI-2002. The Springer price for the same arrangement would be 24 ECU per copy.

I think that these negotiations have resulted in a much better situation for ECCAI than we had with the previous contract.

The ECCAI Fellows Program

We plan to start an ECCAI Fellows program to recognize individuals who have made significant, sustained contributions to the field of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe. Fellows' accomplishments range from pioneering advances in the theory of AI, to unusual accomplishments in AI technology and applications. Usually only individuals who have made contributions to AI for a decade or more after receiving their Ph.D. (or are at an equivalent career stage) will be selected. Leadership in ECCAI or ECCAI member societies, support of forums for the exchange of ideas, and extended service for the international AI community also play a role in the selection process.

The ECCAI member societies nominate individuals whom they consider to have achieved unusual distinction in the field. These nominations are then considered by the ECCAI Fellows Selection Committee, comprising 6 ECCAI Fellows and the ECCAI Chair. The policies governing the operation of the Fellows Committee are under the review of the ECCAI Board.

To initialize the Fellows program the ECCAI Board will propose a list of individuals for approval by this General Assembly.

The ECCAI Dissertation Award

The ECCAI Board proposes to introduce the the ECCAI Dissertation Award and has worked on a scheme to manage the selection process. This new award consists of 1500 ECU and will be awarded annually.

Eligible doctoral dissertations are those defended after 1st of January 1998 in the general area of Artificial Intelligence. The author must be a personal member of an ECCAI member society and the dissertation must have been defended at a European university. The deadline for submission is 1st of December 1998 and the Award will be presented during the next IJCAI in Stockholm.

Conclusion

ECCAI has introduced more benefits and new services for its member societies and consolidated its finances.

ECCAI has a great opportunity for the future: With the combined resources and knowledge of its member societies, ECCAI can act as a catalyst for the growing impact of AI technology in the new European market. Many of the key actions of the new 5th Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (1998-2002) require the integration of advanced AI methods, so that ECCAI and its members should play a key role in this new European funding programme.