The 10th IEEE ICIAfS Research Conference
By Samantha Wickramasinghe
The challenges that we face collectively, as human beings are no longer national or regional. Whether it is the global climate crisis, technological disruption, or the automation revolution, nations alone cannot find solutions to global problems since they require global solutions. One way of addressing global problems is through forming collaborations and allegiances that encourage environment-friendly innovation, human-friendly automation, and planet-friendly sustainability. Academics and scholars throughout the world play a pivotal role in doing so when they share their research in global forums where innovative ideas will come to fruition. The 10th IEEE International Conference on Information and Automation for Sustainability (ICIAfS 2021) is such an event that is forthcoming in Sri Lanka under the umbrella of ‘Endowing Intelligent Sustainability’. It is scheduled to be held in August 2021. ICIAfS is a great example of a recurring research conference that has gained prominence over the years since its inception in 2005. The proceedings of this conference will bring scholars from various backgrounds together to one, a big celebration of knowledge.
The organising efforts
Organising a research conference like ICIAfS is like running a big engine. The highlights of the conference would be the platform to discuss research findings on ICT, workshops, hands-on sessions, speeches given by the keynote speakers. Usually, keynote speeches are given by top-notch academics, scientists, or high-ranking officials in globally recognised companies. The main organisers (Steering Committee, Technical Programme Committee, and the Organising Committee) consist of distinguished academics that hold authority in their respective fields. Like in many large-scale projects, there are lots of parties who are directly and indirectly involved in the conference including students.
Another main focus of the conference is to get as many research contributions to present at this global event. Not all the research papers are accepted to the conference and the ones that are accepted will go through a rigorous review process. Apart from those highlights, the most important conversations take place between colleagues, peers, and students about their topics of interest when they meet each other at the conference. Thus usually, a research conference is something that everybody is looking forward to.
COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on ICIAfS
Organising an international research conference becomes a challenging task during global pandemics like the COVID-19 because it is usually held in a selected city that attracts tourists. For example, the ICIAfS conference is scheduled to be held in Negombo, a city that is known for tourist attractions, great seafood, and good hotels. Also, ICIAfS align with national interests such as promoting tourism in the country among its main scientific interests. The visitors who come to the conference also intend to mingle with the culture of the city and do travelling, shopping and take something back to where they come from. Since the physical operations alone cannot suffice during a pandemic, one of the options that are available for the organisers is holding the entire conference online. In this scenario, the organiser’s to a certain extent lose the opportunity to promote the cultural and aesthetic component of the conference. As a solution to this challenge, ICIAfS organisers have introduced a hybrid model in which the participants could attend both physically and virtually.
The major theme: Sustainable development through man-machine coexistence
The main theme of the ICIAfs Conference this year is ‘endowing intelligible sustainability.’ Whatever those fancy words may mean, one thing is clear – the organisers of the ICIAfS conference understand the importance of the automation revolution and its impact on humanity. The impact of artificial intelligence programs, smart machines, and powerful algorithms on humans are topics that are rarely discussed in public at least in Sri Lanka although. This is one of the areas where academics and the general public need to get together and discuss the political and dimensions of research and invocation. Sustainable development is no longer an intellectual topic that two scientists could discuss in a lab. It is a matter of survival for many countries.
Arguably, the intersection between research and public debates is weaker than ever before. However, with the need for global solutions for global problems, the gap between academia and the lay community needs to be breached in some way since innovation and sustainable development are essential to solving the global problem that is inextricably linked to the future of the human species, animals and the environment. Perhaps, conferences like ICIAfS have become even more important than in the past, given the nature of the problems that humankind is facing presently.