In support of the IEEE Code of Conduct, the IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) is committed to providing equal opportunity to its members, regardless of ethnicity, race, nationality, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, gender, age, and/or personal identity. The Society is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment that promotes diversity in the Signal Processing community.

When news of the COVID-19 pandemic began to proliferate, IEEE SPS was quick to commit to making its events more inclusive to better engage with, and grow, its global community.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that SPS’s events went virtual, therefore exposing them to a wider audience that previously could not attend conferences in person. Seeing this as an opportunity, IEEE SPS wanted to take it a step further and eliminate economic barriers to attendance and to continue to promote inclusivity. As a result, the Society did not charge non-publishing conference authors with any registration fees for its virtual events in 2020, resulting in improved global accessibility for scientific discussion and networking. The Society wanted to negate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted individuals around the world.

“It was apparent early on in the pandemic that many in the Signal Processing global community would be disproportionately affected in many different ways. We quickly realized that we’d need to take action to support members of our community—so, we decided to lower the financial barrier to entry to SPS events, making them accessible to all, regardless of geographic location or economic status. The results were better than we could have imagined and served to grow the Signal Processing community, enabling more diverse individuals to engage with their colleagues in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if we adhered to previous event models. We’re thrilled to have been able to support our community throughout the pandemic, but our work isn’t done—we’re looking forward to continuing to make SPS events more accessible moving forward.” Ana Pérez-Neira, SPS VP-Conferences

Signal Processing community engagement

Last year saw the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s two flagship conferences, IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) and IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP), grow their attendance by a factor of five.

ICASSP, which consists of keynotes from preeminent international speakers in the Signal Processing community, cutting-edge tutorial topics, and forward-looking special sessions, witnessed more than 16,000 attendees when held last May—more than a fivefold increase than in previous years. The conference prioritizes providing a great networking opportunity for a wide range of likeminded professionals in the Signal Processing community from academia, industry, and government organizations.

ICIP, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive technical conferences focused on image and video processing and computer vision, drew more than 7,000 attendees when held last October compared to a typical year of roughly 1,400. In tandem, the first edition of PROGRESS (Promoting Diversity in Signal Processing) workshop was held, designed to provide information and support for underrepresented groups in pursuing an academic career in signal processing. In 2021 this workshop will be organized again at ICASSP and ICIP.

Signal Processing Community

Within ICASSP and ICIP, notably roughly 50% of all attendees were either students or young professionals—individuals that normally wouldn’t be provided with opportunities to attend IEEE SPS events due to financial challenges and/or their more senior colleagues being provided with precedence.

IEEE SPS is committed to harnessing the interest from 2020 virtual conferences to encourage continued engagement within the Signal Processing community to expand educational and networking tools and resources to a wider audience.

In pursuit of this, moving forward, SPS will:

  • Encourage holding conferences/workshops in regions where they have not been held earlier to reach out to a large section of the SPS volunteer base
  • Offer reduced physical registration fees for interested authors from low-income economies and SPS Student members
  • Offer travel grants and complimentary registration for individuals in low-income economies
  • Offer free virtual registration to members and tutorials to both students and members from low-income economies
  • Hold all conferences at venues that allow ease of access to people with physical disabilities