IEEE SSIT Newsletter – March 2017

By on March 17th, 2017 in Newsletter

SIT Newsletter header
In this issue: New Student Branch, Volunteer Opportunities and Introductions, Ethical Dilemma Publication Opportunity, CFPs, Conferences, IEEE Foundation Grant for Smart Agriculture in India, the Promise of Predictive Fictionannouncements header

New Student Branch in Region 7

We are delighted to announce that a new Student Branch of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology has been formed at the Universidade de Brasilia, which is located in the Centro-Norte Brasil Section. We wish you the very best with your activities going forward – we know you will work together to make a positive difference in your community!

Membership Reminder
Please encourage respected peers (including Students and Young Professionals) to join SSIT and consider volunteering.

SSIT Student Membership for the remainder of 2017 is only US$2. Be sure to reach out to people who can take advantage of this fabulous opportunity to join our vibrant, growing, global community!

If there is no SSIT Chapter or SSIT Student Chapter near you, let us know if you would like support to establish a new Chapter.

Opportunity to Publish your Ethical Dilemma

The SSIT Board of Governors is pleased to announce that the following motion to facilitate the multi-platform publication and discussion of ethical dilemmas has passed.

The joint Life Members Committee (LMC) – Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) ad hoc committee proposes the following motion.


  • Experiences of IEEE Life Members would be of interest to other IEEE members that could be reported as stories in the IEEE SSIT Newsletter and the IEEE Life Members Newsletter under its existing category of “Tales from the Vault” column as descriptions of events in their careers.
  • Stories that posed “ethical dilemma” could continue to be submitted to the IEEE Life Members Newsletter but they could be separated from the other stories under “Tales from the Vault” because they are of interest in their own right.
  • Articles on “ethical dilemma” could be published under a new column in the IEEE Life Members Newsletter as well as the SSIT Newsletter
  • Both SSIT and LMC newsletter editors could place similar/identical calls for participation in each of their respective newsletters.
  • Articles received should be brief – between 300 and 500 words – just as the other articles in the newsletters.
  • Authors of articles shall avoid mention of names of any colleagues, products, or organizations that might be affected negatively by the articles, just as by any other articles.
  • The newsletter editor receiving the initial submission could copyedit the submission, including removal of names of individuals, products, or companies should that occur.
  • Articles received by one newsletter could be shared with the other newsletter.
  • Articles could receive dual publication exposure. That is, both SSIT and LMC newsletters could publish the same article.
  • The cost to each organization for undertaking this joint endeavor is estimated to be zero.

It is moved that the LMC and the SSIT Board of Governors approve the reporting of life experience ethical dilemma as indicated above and that such a column commence in June, 2017 of the IEEE Life Members Newsletter and the SSIT Newsletter.

We invite members to submit accounts of their experiences grappling with ethical dilemmas to SSIT newsletter editor, Dr. Heather Love at

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SSIT’s Five Pillars
We have already appointed a number of students, young professionals and members who responded to the Call for Volunteers last month to relevant subcommittees.

We are still looking for Students, Young Professionals, Members, Senior Members, Fellows and Life Member volunteers from all Regions to serve on the Young Professional and Student Subcommittee and Women in Engineering Subcommittee, as well as the thematic subcommittees focused around SSIT’s 5 Pillars:

  1. Sustainable development & humanitarian technology
  2. Ethics, human values and technology
  3. Universal access to technology
  4. Societal impact of technology
  5. Protecting the planet-sustainable technology

Over the coming months, we will introduce the SSIT subcommittee chairs, who will share with you what we aim to achieve going forward. They need your assistance in operationalizing SSIT activities in your Section and Region.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact SSIT president Paul Cunningham at, with the subject: SSIT 5 Pillars – “your pillar of interest.” Please help him point you in the right direction by briefly describing your previous activities and track record in this field, your location (city, Chapter, Section), two subcommittees of interest, and some insight into the contribution you believe you can make. A responsible volunteer will follow up with you.

Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative
This year, the IEEE Future Directions Committee (FDC) is launching a new initiative, Symbiotic Autonomous Systems, and SSIT has been invited to be part of this project.

This particular area of technology has been selected as an area of focus due to:

  • its promises in the coming years
  • the potential to leverage the know-how and activities going on in several of our Societies
  • the fact that its connections with other FDC initiatives provides a solid foundation

SSIT is now looking for suitable volunteers to be part of our engagement with this initiative. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity to get involved, please contact Dr. Greg Adamson at, by 20 March 2017.

Additional background information is available at the following links:

volunteers header

Over the next few months, we will introduce you to members of the volunteer leadership team whose hard work makes SSIT a successful organization with wide-ranging impact that extends throughout IEEE’s global, multi-disciplinary community.

Bozenna Pasik-Duncan is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, USA. She has been a volunteer with SSIT since 2013, when she began her role as Liaison Representative for the IEEE Control Systems Society, and she has served on the Board of Governors since 2016. She has held numerous IEEE positions, in areas ranging from technical, geographical, and educational activities (she currently works on attracting high school students to control education) to conferences and publications. Her areas of interest include the SSIT’s 5 Pillars of humanitarian development, sustainability, technology access, ethics, and the impact of emerging technology. As Chair of the IEEE WIE Committee, one of her goals is to increase the visibility of women in control.

Dr. Priya Mishra, an IEEE Senior Member in the Bangalore, India Section of Region 10, has also been an SSIT volunteer since 2013. He was a founding member of the IEEE SSIT ES joint Bangalore chapter, and has conducted more than 15 events since its inception in 2013 (including the creation of a student chapter). He has served the IEEE on conference committees and with educational activities, and he is invested in SSIT’s Pillars of sustainability and the impact of emerging technology.

Terri Bookman lives in Princeton, NJ, USA, and has been the Managing Editor of SSIT’s IEEE Technology and Society Magazine since 1990. Like Prof. Pasik-Duncan, she is interested in all five of the SSIT Pillars. You can learn more about her professional specialties at

We invite you to submit your details to our volunteer directory by completing the form on our website.

Joint Special Issue-Call for Papers

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine are pleased to announce a Joint Special Issue for March 2018.

Due dates for authors are as follows:
1 May 2017: Submission deadline
1 August 2017: First decision communicated to authors
20 November 2017: Final acceptance decision communicated to authors
10 December 2017: Final manuscripts uploaded by authors

Additional information about each call for papers is available below. For further inquiries, please email Katina Michael at:

#1: Robotics and Social Implications in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (M-T&S).

Guest Editors: Ramona Pringle (Ryerson University), Diana Bowman (Arizona State University), Meg Leta Jones (Georgetown University), and Katina Michael (University of Wollongong)

Robots have been used in a variety of applications, everything from healthcare to automation. Robots for repetitive actions exude accuracy and specificity. Robots don’t get tired, although they do require maintenance, they can be on 24×7, although stoppages in process flows can happen frequently due to a variety of external factors. It is a fallacy that robots don’t require human inputs and can literally run on their own without much human intervention. And yet, there is a fear surrounding the application of robots mostly swelled by sensational media reports and the science fiction genre. Anthropomorphic robots have also caused a great deal of concern for consumer advocate groups who take the singularity concept very seriously.

It is the job of technologists to dispel myths about robotics, and to raise awareness and in so doing robot literacy, the reachable limits of artificial intelligence imbued into robots, and the positive benefits that can be gained by future developments in the field. This special will focus on the hopes of robot application in non-traditional areas and the plausible intended and unintended consequences of such a trajectory.

Engineers in sensor development, artificial consciousness, components assemblage, visual and aesthetic artistry are encouraged to engage with colleagues from across disciplines – philosophers, sociologists and anthropologists, humanities scholars, experts in English and creative writing, journalists and communications specialists – to engage in this call. Multidisciplinary teams of researchers are requested to submit papers addressing pressing socio-ethical issues in order to provide inputs on how to build more robust robotics that will address citizen issues. For example:

  • How can self-driving cars make more ethical decisions?
  • How can co-working with robots becoming an acceptable practice to humans?
  • How might there be more fluent interactions between humans and robots?
  • Can drones have privacy-by-design incorporated into their controls?

This issue calls for technical strategic-level and high-level design papers that have a social science feel to them, and are written for a general audience. The issue encourages researchers to ponder the socio-ethical implications stemming from their developments, and how they might be discussed in the general public.

Visit the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine submission portal.

#2: Socio-ethical Approaches to Robotics Development in IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine

Guest Editors: Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield), Aimee van Wynsberghe (University of Twente), John C. Havens (The Global Initiative for Ethical Concerns in the Design of Autonomous Systems), and Katina Michael (University of Wollongong)

Converging approaches adopted by engineers, computer scientists and software developers have brought together niche skillsets in robotics for the purposes of a complete product, prototype or application. Some robotics developments have been met with criticism, especially those of an anthropomorphic nature or in a collaborative task with humans. Due to the emerging role of robotics in our society and economy, there is an increasing need to engage social scientists and more broadly humanities scholars in the field. In this manner we can furthermore ensure that robots are developed and implemented considering the socio-ethical implications that they raise.

This call for papers supposes that more recently, projects have brought on board personnel with a multidisciplinary background to ask those all important questions about “what if” or “what might be” at a time that the initial idea generation is occurring to achieve a human-centered design. The ability to draw these approaches into the “design” process means that areas of concern to the general public are addressed. These might include issues surrounding consumer privacy, citizen security, individual trust, acceptance, control, safety, fear of job loss and more.

In introducing participatory practices into the design process, preliminary results can be reached to inform the developers of the way in which they should consider a particular course of action. This is not to halt the freedom of the designer, but rather to consider the value-laden responsibility that designers have in creating things for the good of humankind, independent of their application.

This call seeks to include novel research results demonstrated on working systems that incorporate in a multidisciplinary approach technological solutions which respond to socio-ethical issues. Ideally this IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine paper is complemented by a paper submitted in parallel to IEEE Technology and Society Magazine that investigates the application from a socio-ethical viewpoint.

Visit The IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine submission portal.

General Call for Papers: IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine
Dr. Katina Michael, senior editor of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, invites contributions to the publication’s Socio-economic Impacts section. For more information, visit the Magazine webpage or contact Katina at

Brave Conversations 2017 Web Science Conference
10-11 April 2017, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia

As the Brave Conversations website explains, this event is “a challenging two day conference bringing the global conversation about the changing relationship between humans and technology to Australia” and “a space where participants need to be brave, to say the things that they know need to be said, and be prepared to apply intellectual rigour to challenging ideas that might take us to uncomfortable places.”

For more information, visit the website.

IST-Africa Week 2017
31 May-2 June 2017, Windhoek, Namibia

Hosted by the government of Namibia through the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission, and technically co-sponsored by IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), IEEE Region 8 and IEEE South Africa Section, IST-Africa Week 2017 is the twelfth in an annual series of ministerial-level technology research and innovation conferences focused on sustainable development.

IST-Africa is a unique community that brings together cross-disciplinary stakeholders from the public, private, education and research, societal sectors with end-user communities focused on ICT and STI Research and Innovation and their contribution to sustainable development.

The Advance Program for IST-Africa Week 2017 features 190 presenters from 35 countries. A number of plenary speakers including the Minister of Education have already confirmed their participation.

Early Bird Registration is now open. A limited number of oral presentation slots are available for practitioners to share experiences, please contact us if this is of interest.

Core thematic areas for IST-Africa 2017 include:

  • mHealth, eHealth and health information systems
  • Technology-enhanced learning and eskills
  • mAgriculture/eAgriculture and environmental sustainability
  • eInfrastructures and National Research and Education Networks (NREN)
  • Next generation computing: big data, cloud computing, future internet, Internet of Things
  • eGovernment-services to citizens and business
  • Content technologies: languages; digital preservation
  • Cyber security, privacy and trust
  • Collaborative open innovation and ICT-enabled entrepreneurship (including social entrepreneurship)
  • Sustainable development including ICT4D
  • Societal implications of technology

For more information, please visit the website.

Follow IST-Africa on Twitter to get regular updates.

For further information, please email

IEEE 2017 International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS 2017)
From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions

9-11 August 2017, Sydney, Australia

The SSIT Board of Governors is pleased to announce that ISTAS 2017 will be held in Sydney, Australia. The date and location of ISTAS 2017 have been chosen to coincide with the annual IEEE Panel of Conference Organizers (IEEE POCO) event, which will be held in Sydney from 7-9 August, and the IEEE Sections Congress, which will be held in Sydney 11-13 August 2017.

The theme for ISTAS 2017 is “From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions,” and is designed to focus on how we can identify a good technological idea and transition it into a practical solution that delivers real benefits to society. It will bring together scientists, engineers, technologists and scholars from multiple disciplines to hold a dialogue on many technological and societal issues, and collaborate on the co-creation of ideas to develop and utilize innovative solutions to address them.

The main conference will be supported by several workshops and special sessions, including the 17th Workshop on Social Implications of National Security, hosted by Prof. Katina Michael (University of Wollongong), as well as a Doctoral Mentoring Workshop for PhD Students, hosted by the University of New South Wales.

Key Dates:

  • 31 March-Submission deadline for paper abstracts
  • 14 April-Notification of acceptance
  • 26 May 2017-Final manuscript submission deadline

Call for Papers
The ISTAS 2017 program structure provides for six keynote speakers, 72 oral and paper presentations, and 12 panels across three parallel tracks.

Paper proposals are solicited for oral presentations from industry, government and academia (including students) covering relevant research, technologies, methodologies, tools and case studies relevant to the conference theme and tracks. Papers on policy implications are also welcome. Full papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings. Papers accepted in the conference proceedings and presented during the conference will be submitted for inclusion in IEEE Xplore.

ISTAS 2017 Tracks:

  • Smart materials, smart buildings and smart cities
  • Climate, environment and sustainable technologies
  • Communications, security and privacy
  • Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems
  • eHealth, age care and assisted living
  • Internet of things and consumer electronics
  • Digital senses, virtual reality and augmentation
  • Web science and big data
  • Green ICT
  • Defense technologies for public good
  • Humanitarian and emergency management
  • Ethics, law and policy

For details including information for authors, please visit the conference website. General inquiries should be addressed to the ISTAS 2017 General Chair, Philip Hall at

IEEE Global Humanitarian Conference (GHTC)
19-22 October 2017 in San Jose, CA, USA

GHTC focuses on innovation, deployment and adaptation of technology for humanitarian goals and sustainable development. The conference invites presenters to showcase innovation and progress in technology and methodology addressing the socio-cultural and socio-economic needs of vulnerable and resource-constrained end-user communities in developing and developed countries, as well as confronting the challenges of both natural and man-made disasters. SSIT is a financial co-sponsor of GHTC.

Key focus areas that are particularly relevant include (but are not limited to):

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Quality education
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Connectivity and communication
  • Humanitarian challenges and opportunities
  • Disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery
  • Other United Nations sustainable development goals

The Call for Papers is now available online. Please note the following deadlines:

  • 7 April-Submission of paper and session abstracts
  • 2 June-Submission of final draft paper
  • 21 July-Submission of accepted final papers

For more information, visit our website.

2017 IEEE Conference on Technologies for Sustainability – Engineering and the Environment (SusTech 2017)

The 5th IEEE Conference on Technologies for Sustainability – Engineering and the Environment (SusTech 2017) will be held 12-14 November 2017 in Phoenix, AZ, USA.

SusTech 2017 is sponsored by the IEEE Oregon Section, IEEE Region 6, IEEE Phoenix Section and IEEE-USA. SSIT is a technical co-sponsor long term supporter of the SusTech conference series and host of the Social Implications/Quality of Life Track.

For further details, please visit the conference website. Sign up for the conference newsletter and watch for the Call for Papers to be issued soon.

The 3rd IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science, and Technology (ETHICS 2017) will be held 12-14 November 2017 in Ann Arbor, MI, USA with the theme Ethical Innovations in AI/AS.

Financial co-sponsors include SSIT, IEEE-USA, IEEE Standards Association and the Southeastern Michigan Section. Technical co-sponsors include the TA/TechEthics Initiative.

For further information, please contact the General Chair, Philip Hall at

IEEE Foundation Grants US$18,000 for developing Smart Agriculture Platform in India

The SSIT congratulates Dr. Ramalatha Marimuthu, one of ICT 2017 Board of Governors, who has received an US$18,263 grant to develop an Information Communication Platform for introducing Smart Agriculture in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu, India.

Coimbatore is earmarked as one of the places to be developed into a smart city in India, so this project marks an auspicious start to the broader aim of enhancing the facilities in ways that are necessary to achieving this goal. Though information systems on agriculture are available in India, the technology lacks popularity among the farmers. Therefore, the Indian Government (as part of its larger project of valorizing and modernizing agriculture) seeks to create awareness among farmers at the grass root level. IEEE is taking the first step to create this awareness by connecting the ICT with farmers.

This is a social immersion project which will encompass three disciplines: data mining, IoT and agriculture. Utilising technology to provide solutions and methods to equate the supply and demand and guide production decisions is the key objective. The project addresses smart village development using geomapping based land identification, smart farming technology or smart agriculture. It includes ICT solutions for determining the fertility of the soil, predicting yields, identifying best farming practices to increase yield with less resources and so on. The project will raise awareness among the educated farmers about the technology of smart farming and marketing using informed decision making process.

A small area called Keeranatham village in Coimbatore North Taluk is the first to be identified for this project. By conducting a survey to assess the details of the village, farm lands will be identified along with the status of the farming (whether live or not). This information will be compared with the data available in the Agricultural University while augmenting the data with other details like ground water level and rain fall during the decade and the yield per year, if available.

The outcome of the project is to create an easy-to-access tool for farmers who want to engage in an informed decision making process. In simple words, if a farmer in one of the villages in Coimbatore district would like to know what crop will be suitable for his land, or any other advice regarding the yield or marketing, it will be available on his mobile without his need to run around.

Collaborating with the agricultural universities and Government, a website will be created which will provide information on the workshops, contacts, themes of the workshops and information to the researchers on the ongoing activities of the group. Awareness Workshops will be conducted for the farmers to educate them on the ICT solutions and enhance the network.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year and the website and the mobile app will serve as a model for other regions. The dire situation regarding the farmers in Tamil Nadu has been reported in media often enough. This has led the team to create a portal to help the small scale farmers in one district which can be scaled to the other districts.

Predictive Fiction

A recent anthology of “climate fiction,” Loosed Upon the World, projects climate change forward some years into dystopian scenarios. The editor, John Joseph Adams, asserts “Fiction is a powerful tool, perhaps [we can] humanize and illuminate the issue in ways that aren’t as easy to with only science and cold equations.” I have been an advocate of near-term science fiction, which I refer to as predictive fiction, as a tool to explore the “what if” scenarios that may result from technology, hopefully allowing us to avoid the negative impacts. Unfortunately this particular anthology is dealing with a current trajectory that is more an exploration of “when, what then?” But some of the basic issues that we technologists face enter the spotlight, albeit one we may not like. In the forward, Paolo Bacigalupi has a painful message for us techies (many of whom fall into his category of “Techno-optimists”): “Engineers don’t grow up thinking about building a healthy soil eco-system, or trying to restore some estuary to turn people into better long-term planners, or better educated and informed citizens, or creating better civic societies.” I don’t fully agree with Paolo-it is more accurate to state that “engineers don’t get paid to” and perhaps “the project requirements do not address” And occasionally, we have technologists that resist the corporate momentum and try to get their employer to “do the right thing.” SSIT seeks to honor such courage with the “Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest” (nominations always welcomed).

But back to the future, I mean the fiction. Paolo also observes “imaginative literature is mythic. The kinds of stories we build, the way we encourage people to live into those myths and dream the future – those stories have power. Once we build this myth that the rocket-ship and the techno-fix is the solve for all our plights and problems, that’s when we get ourselves in danger. It’s the one fantasy that almost certainly guarantees our eventual self-destruction.”

I suspect we need a good dose of reality, perhaps in the guise of predictive fiction.
-Jim Isaak

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