Letter from the President

Walter G. Kropatsch

Can you recognize a pattern in the following lines?  After doing first steps in studying the mystery of the big tables of numbers which we nowadays display as digital pictures on the computer screen, I participated in a workshop in southern Italy. From journal articles I knew some names of speakers of the workshop, Herb Freeman, Azriel Rosenfeld, Robert M. Haralick, Julian Ullman, ...


My first pattern recognition task was to locate the remote place where the workshop took place. About half of the participants were students like me. The most surprising experience of this workshop was that the 'big names' were nice people sitting at the same table during lunch and dinner, willing to explain the problems they were addressing during their speech again for those who did not understand the message in full depth. This informal setting was created by the way it was organized, with a mixture of state-of-the-art in science and technology and of social activities that broadened the communication channels. At one of these discussions somebody mentioned that he was preparing a paper for the next ICPR, the big conference where all people working in pattern recognition meet every two years.


This was the conference to attend! But what a difference to the family atmosphere of the workshop. It was like a big marketplace; presentations were given at several places simultaneously and it was difficult to plan which presentations to attend and to realize the plan because you might end up in a different hall than the one you wanted. In contrast to the small workshop where one could systematically speak with every other participant, only a comparably small fraction of the talks could be planned in advance. The larger fraction led to many new contacts, forming the basis of a network of scientific contacts and friendships that is essential for many of our professional activities. Many ideas are discussed informally much earlier than they appear in literature.


Since those early days the community has grown considerably. One can now spend most of one's time traveling from one conference to another.  There are more than a dozen periodicals for publishing the newest research results.  And there is the pressure to publish because counting publications has become the common way to assess academic qualification. A direct consequence is the frequently applied strategy to split the result into many small pieces and publish each in a separate paper. The large number of publications and the wide spread of the relevant information makes it very difficult to assess the state of the art on a particular topic.


The following two initiatives are proposed in order to improve access to the current state of knowledge and to recognize high quality work more systematically.


Develop a Well-Structured Curriculum of Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition and its allied fields have developed a substantial amount of scientific know-how that is the basis of our current technology and of further research. There now exist many books and courses with diverse specialization are given worldwide. It seems to be time to work on a modular reference curriculum of pattern recognition including course content and structure that could be either integrated into existing study plans or form the core of a master course plan in pattern recognition.


As a first step the Education Committee of the IAPR will collect existing courses, course material, books, slides, demos, etc. If you can contribute please contact the chair of the Education Committee.


Make Scientific and Professional Quality Visible

Publications are the primary means of exchanging new results within the scientific community. Scientific articles are submitted to journals specializing in the related subject or to conferences and workshops. In both cases the value of the submitted material is subject to reviewing. Two or three experts in the field read the submitted paper and write a review which grades the paper with respect to different aspects. Their judgment should be accompanied by detailed comments explaining the reasons and by suggestions on how to improve the quality of the paper. While authors of journal articles have the chance to go through several iterations, the decision for a conference submission is usually final after a single review.


Although the above sketched process is similar in most cases there are considerable differences both in the process and the resulting quality of the publications and across different scientific disciplines. Since the quality of the scientific work of a young scientist is judged by senior scientists, sometimes from a different community and background, it is important to assess the quality of the different types of publications and to make it visible by some facts that can be used in a qualitative argumentation. This is the task of a newly created Task Force on Scientific Quality, the members of which will prepare the first steps in this direction. In the long term IAPR should become a recognized label of quality for the works appearing with its logo.


A large organization like IAPR lives through the activities that are executed under its umbrella. To a certain extent these activities can be initiated by the people acting in its committees, but to a large extent it depends on individuals devoting their energy to develop the scientific field and the community. Let me therefore repeat my invitation to actively participate in some of the above activities or in some of the technical committees.


I am indebted to many individuals for their constant support in my career. I would like to thank the Governing Board for its confidence by electing me as president. It is a great honor to work with a group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers serving on the executive committee and in the many other committees. I would like in particular to express my deep thanks to my two predecessors, presidents Rangachar Kasturi and Gabriella Sanniti Di Baja, for their advice and help in the past and the present. I sincerely hope that the growing IAPR family can maintain its specific identity, now and into the future!


For more information

on the

IAPR Education Committee, see the

IAPR Directory

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