Report of the ECCAI Chair 1999

Wolfgang Wahlster

Presented at the ECCAI General Assembly on the 4th of August 1999

during IJCAI in Stockholm, Sweden

 

This year ECCAI has introduced three new services for its Member societies: The ECCAI Fellows Program was started, the first ECCAI AI Dissertation Award was given and an ECCAI Intranet with the possibility of online access to an updated membership directory has been established. We had a most successful ACAI Course in Greece this year and the preparations for ECAI-2000 are well underway.

ECCAI's Financial Situation

The General Assembly's decision to introduce a membership fee of 3 Euros per member on the 25th of April 1997 in Prague was a major milestone in the history of ECCAI. After three rounds of fee collection, we have now gained some experience and can revise and adapt the process a bit. It is very disappointing for the Board Members, who all invest a lot of time as volunteers to work for ECCAI, that some Member Societies have not paid the fees, although they use the ECCAI services (like travel awards, reduced conference fees, ECCAI Fellows and Dissertation program etc.). The Board decided to introduce a new policy under which all ECCAI services are cut for the year n+1 for members of those societies who have not paid the fee till the end of the year n. If the fees are not paid for two consecutive years and no convincing reasons are given for this unsocial behavior, we will start the expulsion process according to Article 5 of the ECCAI statutes.

There are many societies who still owe ECCAI the membership fee for 1999, but I am sure that ECCAI will receive the payment during the next weeks.

The fee collection process must be improved: There was e.g. a suggestion to establish a credit card account. We are open to such suggestions and will check their feasibility. I am happy to report that ECCAI now has made a small surplus for 1998 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: Silvia Miksch from Austria is Vice Chair and handles the ECCAI Dissertation Award, Carl Gustaf Jansson from Sweden is Secretary and handles the minutes, Jean Paul Barthès from France is our treasurer, Kris Van Marcke from Belgium is the member in charge of the statutes and handles EU contacts, Rob Milne from the UK is ordinary member and handles the ECCAI Travel Grants.

Please note that Carl Gustaf Jansson, Jean Paul Barthès and myself are now serving on the Board for the second two-years term. This means that at the next General Assembly during ECAI-2000, we have to elect at least three new officers, since according to the ECCAI statutes the maximal time of office is 4 years. I would be happy to receive nominations of candidates from the ECCAI member societies as soon as possible.

Most of our work was done via telecooperation over the Internet. Since the last General Assembly, we had two face-to-face meetings on the 25th of January 1999, and on the 2nd of August 1999. The first meeting was held in Brussels in order to minimize travel expenses. We could use free rooms sponsored by the Swedish tourist board and three of us could come by car. The second meeting was combined with IJCAI and was just held two days before this General Assembly.

I would like to thank all my colleagues on the Board for their excellent work and team effort. Kris Van Marcke asked me to give his best regards to the General Assembly. Unfortunately, he was not able to make it to this meeting due to other urgent business commitments.

ECCAI Secretariat, ECCAI Webpages and ECCAI Logos

The ECCAI Secretariat is currently located 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. The donation of DFKI helped to reduce the operational expenses of ECCAI drastically. I would like to thank DFKI for this support. Many thanks go to Sigrid Herzog and Renato Orsini for their excellent work and service for ECCAI. Our ECCAI webpages have been recognized by international awards for useful information about AI activities and they are heavily used now as a point of reference.

I would like to ask all ECCAI member societies to use the ECCAI logo on their own webpages and to augment their letter heads with a note "Member of ECCAI". Please provide also a link to the ECCAI webpages, so that all members of your society can easily access the services provided by ECCAI.

This year, ECCAI has provided various new services on the webpages. One very important new service is the ECCAI Intranet, which is password protected, so that it is only accessible for the ECCAI Board and the current Officers of ECCAI Member Societies. They can find there important documents, which should not be made available to the public but only to the members of the General Assembly. This Intranet service provides e.g. access to the new contracts with IOS Press concerning the ECAI proceedings and the electronic access to AICom. In addition, we prepared a Java Servlet that provides an interactive and online search capability for the ECCAI membership directory. With this service a large Excel spreadsheet can be searched, which contains a revised and updated version of the printed Membership Directory.

ECAI Conferences and ACAI Courses

ECCAI has sponsored the very successful 8th Advanced Course on Artificial Intelligence (ACAI-99) this year. Nearly 160 people have attended this course together with the colocated workshops on the Greek Island of Crete in Chania from July 5-16, 1999. This course on Machine Learning was based on tutorials by world-class experts of this fields, most of them being pioneers and founders of specific methods of machine learning. Although the financial result is preliminary, it will be definitely very positive with an expected surplus of about 6000 Euros, half of which will go to ECCAI. The publicity for this ACAI was excellent, including a beautiful poster and very informative webpages. It certainly was one of the most successful Advanced Courses ECCAI has organized so far. I would like to thank Professor Spyropolous as the Chair of the organising committee for the great job he has done. He also was able to raise a lot of sponsorship for this event and was able to attract very eminent lecturers to come to Greece.

Our next major event will be the ECAI-2000 conference. The interaction between the Program Chair, Prof. Horn, the Local Arrangement Committee Co-Chairs Dr. Sundermeyer and Prof. Burkardt and the ECCAI Board was very constructive and successful. The Calls are published now in a very nice brochure, which is distributed at our ECCAI booth here at IJCAI. In addition, there is a poster, which you should distribute also in your societies. The webpages contain all the relevant details and have a very nice design.

ETAI: Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence

In 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 is available free of charge. The editor in chief of ETAI is Prof. Erik Sandewall, Linköping University, Sweden. ETAI has gained international recognition as a major driving force for innovative methods for scientific publication and scholarly discussion. For example, there was an article in the Nature Journal pointing out some of the radically new features of the ETAI publication process.

In 1998, the agreement between the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA), the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI), and Linköping University (LiU) worked fine and increased the international reputation of the journal.

At this IJCAI, the second printed Volume of ETAI for 1998 was distributed. ETAI will be augmented by more areas and the submission rate is increasing. Nevertheless, I want to urge all of you to promote ETAI in your society and to encourage your members to submit some of their best work to ETAI. With ETAI, Europe has the chance to become the leader in innovation of scientific publication in the Internet Age.

On behalf of ECCAI, 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, the Members of the Policy Board and last but not least to the authors, who submitted their work to this new medium.

AICom: AI Communications

The General Assembly had decided to stop the purchase and distribution of the printed version of AICom to cut costs.

In many discussions with IOS Press, we negotiated a new contract based on electronic distribution. I have signed the contract after various revisions in May 1999. The essence of the contract says that ECCAI pays a fee of 3000 Euros for electronic access based on the individual access of ECCAI members. We can allow up to 3000 individuals to access AICom issues. If more members would like to access, we would have to pay an additional Euro per new user to IOS. A password generating algorithm will be distributed to each society, who has paid the ECCAI fee. The password will be valid for one year.

Georg Gottlob does an outstanding job in editing AICom and I would like to thank him for all his efforts. The quality of the journal has increased once again and it is now one of the leading general AI journals worldwide. There are special issues and very interesting survey papers, that should attract a lot of attention of our members. In contrast to ETAI, AICom is a traditional journal with the classical review policy made available also electronically. I think that ETAI together with AICom provide an excellent service for the members of ECCAI.

New Contract for the ECAI Proceedings

We have signed now a new contract with IOS Press for the Publication of the next three issues of the ECAI proceedings.

The contract is financially very attractive and has lead to a significant cost reduction compared to previous contracts. For example, the price for 800 copies of one copy of the proceedings of 700 pages will be only 16 Euros.

In addition, IOS invests much more in the marketing of AI books, proceedings and journals than our previous publisher. In addition, their attitude towards copyright issues is very flexible.

I am pleased to announce that we negotiated another good deal for the ECCAI member societies. Individual members of ECCAI societies get a 30% discount of the list price, if they want to buy the proceedings after the conference.

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

The ECCAI Fellows Program

On the 4th of August 1999 we had the first ECCAI Fellows Breakfast. 27 individuals have been elected in the first round by the Board. In order to bootstrap the process the ECCAI Board has decided to use mainly three operational criteria, which are not necessarily disjoint. All former ECAI Program Chairs (starting in 1982), all former ECCAI Chairs, and all European AAAI Fellows have been considered. Each ECCAI fellow receives a certificate and is invited to the Fellows Breakfast.

Now the second round of nominations can start. We will form a Selection Committee which will review the nominations received from individuals and ECCAI member societies. I know that there are a lot of colleagues, who have deserved this honor, but could not be included in the first round using the bootstrapping criteria.

The ECCAI Fellows program recognizes individuals who have made significant and sustained contributions to the field of 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 doctoral degree (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. It is not a prerequisite that the nominee is born in Europe or has a European citizenship.

The ECCAI member societies or individual members of these 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.

At the first Fellows meeting is was decided to form discussion groups about the future relation between AAAI and ECCAI, about issues in the methodology of AI and the future focus of activities by the ECCAI fellows. The next Fellows Breakfast will be held during ECAI-2000 in Berlin.

The ECCAI AI Dissertation Award

On the 3rd of August 1999 the first ECCAI Dissertation Award for 1998 was given to Paolo Liberatore from Universita di Roma La Sapienza for his outstanding dissertation "Compilation of Tractable Problems and Its Application to Artificial Intelligence". He received a certificate and an award of 1500 Euros. We had a small Awards Ceremony, where the winner of the ECCAI Dissertation Award gave a short summary of the results of his doctoral dissertation. I hope that at ECAI-2000 in Berlin we will have more attendees at the Awards Ceremony, in particular from our member societies. I would like to thank IJCAII that they have announced this event in their program this year. In addition, many thanks go to our reviewers for this first round and in particular to Silvia Miksch for managing this new ECCAI service.

We received a lot of very positive feedback about this new program and about the excellent choice of the first Award Winner.

Nominations are invited for the 1999 ECCAI AI Dissertation now with a deadline for submissions as of 1st of December 1999. The next Award will be presented during ECAI-2000 in Berlin.

Eligible doctoral dissertations are those defended after 1st of January 1999 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. Further details on the nominations process can be found on the ECCAI webpages.

Conclusion

In 1998/1999, ECCAI has introduced three new services for its member societies and further consolidated its finances. The Fellows and Dissertation Awards Program has increased ECCAI’s visibility considerably.

ECCAI represents now more individual members than any other AI umbrella society worldwide. The major ECCAI events, the ECAI conference series and the ACAI course series are now ranked internationally as the most prestigious scientific AI forums in Europe. With our support of ETAI and AICom journals we serve the scientific knowledge management among AI researchers.