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
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
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
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
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
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.