does the symposium's
funding come from?
From you, geekoid!
Virtually all the symposium's income
is from (1) registration and (2) the trade show. After all, there isn't
much else. The trade show has a separate organizer, with its own slew of
subcontractors, and it's a big money-maker for them, as well.
Companies that wish to exhibit their wares contract with that organizer,
not the MTT, and the organizer deals with the convention center to put the show
together. The whole thing is a formidable task; the steering committee could not do all this alone.
The combination of this huge, commercial
venture with the technical one presents a real possibility of a
conflict of interest: that the exhibitors might exert undue influence
on the symposium. The symposium steering committee avoid this problem
pretty well, however, and (with one exception, the first Hawaii symposium), the vendors have shown enough class
not to try anything improper. Every year the trade show and the
technical meetings are kept quite separate, both physically and
organizationally. Except for the vendors' clear preference for certain
locations, you'd have a hard time seeing any influence on the symposium
the income from the symposium
The symposium invariably runs a "surplus." (The MTT Society
is nonprofit, so words like profit are no-nos.) The net income is
the largest component of the MTT's annual revenues, so it's no surprise
that the head of the Steering Committee is under a lot of pressure to
control costs. Invariably, the symposium is budgeted for a modest
surplus, but when the figures finally are in, it runs a huge surplus. As
a result, the MTT is one of the richest societies in the IEEE.
this have any subtle consequences?
No. Bizarre is a better word. Because it depends so
strongly on symposium income, and keeps society dues very low, the MTT
society actually loses money on every new member. The symposium
subsidizes MTT journals and other membership costs. Because of the emphasis
on symposium income, the vendors at the trade show have an indirect influence on the choice of symposium location.
All of this should disturb MTT members, especially the Adcom, but it
doesn't seem to.
Since the society is funded by the symposium, the people who
pay registration fees also effectively subsidize the MTT. Employers
fund the cost of membership for their competitors' employees. Consultants
and independent practitioners fund the cost of their (perfectly
affluent) colleagues' memberships. And so on. Is this unfair? Of course.
Will it change? Never.
people who organize
functions like workshops have to pay to attend their own function?
The MTT establishment, if not the membership, have always prided
themselves in being a fully volunteer organization. That means that the
MTT Society doesn't pay for anything it can avoid, instead
choosing to stick the nearest suckers with the bill and banking the
income from their efforts.
In the past, even invited speakers had to pay
their own registration fees, not to mention travel costs. In recent years,
however, some speakers have been quietly supported, at least to some
degree. The Steering Committee, for example, gets a number of free hotel
rooms as part of the symposium's housing deal, and these are often
offered to VIP attendees. I've never heard of airfare being provided,
but I suspect it is done on occasion. Occasionally, Steering Committee
members receive free registration in return for their hundreds of hours
of work, but that doesn't always happen and when it does, it occasionally has been met with
grumbling from the Adcom establishment.
Anyone trying to change this situation is hit immediately with the
"gradualism argument": once you set a precedent by (openly)
sponsoring, say, one invited speaker, everyone will expect it, and
suddenly the Society will be forced to pay for every speaker at the
symposium, will be run into the poorhouse,
and general chaos and oblivion will result. This is,
of course, complete nonsense, as the symposium already has a formal
determining who gets invited to dinners and receptions, who gets the
good gifts, and so on. The hierarchy is already in place; it just needs
to be extended in a reasonable manner to registration and travel
Although it's difficult to justify charging workshop organizers to
attend their own workshops, it seems legitimate to charge registration
for paper presenters in workshops and regular technical sessions. There
are two schools of thought on this: one states that such presenters are
contributing the essential material of the symposium, and should not be
charged to do it. The contrasting point states that the symposium is a
venue for technical interchange, participants benefit by presenting a
paper as much as by listening to one, and, after all, they attend other
people's paper presentations. thus, all such participants should
bear the costs. I agree with the latter point. Even so, in most
years, workshop presenters have received free registration at their workshops,
as long as they meet all deadlines.
organizes the symposium?
The IMS Steering Committee, which consists of about 50
volunteers in the city where the symposium is held, does most of the
work. The rest is done by paid contractors, but many of these must be
hired annually by the committee members. A new committee is formed every year. The Steering Committee starts meeting several years ahead
of the symposium date. It's a lot of time-consuming work, often made more difficult by political turmoil. Many people who have served on a
steering committee swear that they will never do it
is an IEEE Symposium!
Doesn't the IEEE take part in organizing it?
Depends what you mean by the
IEEE. If you mean the
IEEE headquarters staff, not really. If you mean the crew of volunteers, most
(but not all!) of whom are IEEE members, then perhaps "The IEEE" does
participate, in that sense. This point is frequently lost on ignorant clods who have a bad time at an IEEE symposium and complain about "bad
organization by the IEEE." The IEEE does, however, have a conference
management service, which provides some services to the steering
committee. The idea is that the IEEE organization can negotiate better
deals for things that all conferences use (hotels, bus transportation
and such) than individual societies. (It's not clear, from the official MTT
hotel rates, that it really works that way in practice.) But there's a big difference between
organizing and providing specific services to the organizers.
Who are the
The main contractor is the organizer of the
trade show and registration. Since 2009, the
organizer has been MP Associates. Many of the other tasks
(for example, digest creation) have been done by the same companies for
Many contractors must be hired anew
every year: sign printing; tour company for the
guest program, bus-transportation company, photographers, graphics for
the logos, publicity, and so on. The members of the
steering committee must arrange for these services.
isn't the MTT "International"
Microwave Symposium ever held outside the US?
It has been. In 1978, it was held in Ottawa. But in those days, the
symposium fit into a couple of hotel conference rooms and had no trade
show beyond a couple vendor booths in the lobby. It was a different
era. In 2012, it was held in Montreal. This was a bit radical for
the conservative MTT society, but it went well. The real question,
however, is whether it will ever by held in Europe or Asia.
Today, it seems unlikely. A couple of reasons. First, the MTT Society, which is mostly
US-based, would find it difficult to manage such a huge symposium overseas. An
offshore symposium would also present great difficulties for the
subcontractors who help to organize it and might create sticky legal
issues. The second reason is money. The MTT society depends strongly on
income from the symposium, which requires lots of attendees and,
especially, a huge trade show. Depending on the location, the economics might be
very different from the US, so obtaining the usual hefty surplus might
be less certain. The greatest fear, almost certainly valid, is that the trade show or
attendance would not be as large anywhere else. Finally, a non-US committe would have to propose a city and deal with all the problems involved. That has never happened and probably never will.
Moving the trade show to another country involves much more than just
the logistics. Many of the booths are designed for US electricity and
probably would have to be modified to meet fire and safety standards in many parts of Europe or Asia. Similarly, the convention
centers in other countries have different rules for maximum booth
heights, fire safety, and similar details. Many booths
designed for the US would not meet these requirements without expensive modifications.
It is true that some IEEE societies regularly hold their symposia
outside the US. These conferences, however are much smaller and
simpler. Few of these have any kind of a trade show, and often the whole
conference fits easily into a couple hotel conference rooms. They're
like the IMS.
The 2007 symposium was in Hawaii, the 50th symposium and the first
time it was held outside the continental US. The decision on that
location caused a near insurrection by a number of vendors.
The unwashed masses with
their torches and pitchforks were turned back by the palace guards on that occasion, but
a similar insurrection could again be mounted. The next
rebellion could have occurred in 2012, when symposium was held in
Montreal (that's like, Canada!), but it seems that all went
smoothly. Regardless of whether you
consider Canada a foreign country, it really is one (trust me on this),
and thus it qualifies as our first non-US location in recent years. The
IMS will be held in Honolulu again in 2017, a testament to the 2007
the location chosen?
Every year, someone complains about the IMS
location and asks why "The MTT" couldn't locate the IMS
somewhere else. The answer, simply, is that it's not up to the MTT Adcom.
Several years in advance, local MTT
proposals to hold the symposium in their cities. There are usually two
or three proposals every year. At one of the Adcom meetings, the
proposals are presented (usually with lots of support from the
Chambers of Commerce in those cities!), and a location is selected by vote. The process
is scrupulously fair; the proposers are not allowed to hear their
competitors' presentations, and discussion and voting, by secret
ballot, is held in the absence of the proposers. Although there are
frequent complaints about the decision, there has never been a
complaint, to my knowledge, about the process itself. The vendors and
trade-show organizers do not participate directly in the decision
process, but their preferences are well known and are certainly
taken seriously by the Adcom members.
There are some unofficial rules
for the location. Most
importantly, the local committee must convince the Adcom that they are
large and reliable enough to do the job. Another is that the symposium
should alternate between the east and west coasts, with an occasional
stop in the middle of the country. (Yes, in the past decade, that "rule"
was pretty well shot to hell, but this is a consequence of few or
inadequate proposals from other cities.) In the past, the symposium was
frequently located in small cities like Albuquerque and St. Louis,
which had little microwave industry. However, since the MTT Society depends so
strongly on income from the symposium, the preferences of
the vendors at the trade show are a major consideration. For this
reason, the location is likely, in the future, to alternate between a
few east-coast cities and a couple in the west, cities with substantial microwave industry.
The most interesting development was the
symposium in Hawaii in 2007. The Honolulu MTT chapter had to propose
this a couple of times before it was accepted, and it represented a real
experiment for the MTT Society. Apparently, it worked out well: a good, well
organized, well attended symposium, with a decent "surplus," although with a little less attendance at the
trade show. Could've done a lot worse, and, in fact, we have. After
all, we're returning in 2017.
Locations of Past and
Future MTT Symposia
Rating system for MTT cities:
Some of these cities' ratings have changed since the last time the
IMS was held there. We're not sure if that's from some change in the
cities or some change in the rater. Deal with it.