Starting the International Machine Learning Society (IMLS)

Need for the Society

For almost a decade, the need for a non-profit professional society to run the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) has been recognized at the editorial board meetings of the Machine Learning journal and the open conference business meetings at the end of every conference.

The primary pragmatic need for such a society is to provide an established, legal organization for managing the funds required to run the annual conference. Currently such funds are managed in an ad hoc manner by passing money between the host academic institutions of the conference chairs. This frequently entails various logistic problems. Having a non-profit organization behind a conference is the standard solution to this problem. Related conferences such as NIPS, COLT, and UAI already have such supporting societies.

Another need is to democratize the process of running the conference. Since becoming a conference, ICML has been run by the editorial board of the Machine Learning journal (MLJ) which collects proposals and selects the conference chairs and venue each year. Since the editorial board is not elected by the members of the research community at large, many feel this is not adequately democratic. The recent development of the Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR) has made the MLJ board a potentially even less fully-representative body.

Boostrapping Process

At the recent ICML-2001 business meeting in Williamstown MA, a decision was finally made to establish a reasonably democratic process by which such a society and its governing board could be established. The general idea is to initially elect a body of 10 established machine learning researchers to serve as a governing board. This board would then work to establish the society and elect a set of officers amongst themselves. The details are as follow:
  1. Establish a mailing list of the attendees of the last 5 years of ICML and ECML to serve as an intitial representative voting body.
  2. Collect nominations from this body for machine learning researchers to serve on the initial governing board. Number of nominations is not limited (see the nomination form). The current plan is to accept nominations until October 5, 2001.
  3. Contact nominated individuals to determine which ones agree to run for the board and establish a slate of candidates. This is currently planned for Oct. 5-19, 2001.
  4. Allow each member of the initial mailing list to vote for 10 individuals to serve on the governing board (see the voting form). The ten individuals receiving the most votes would constitute the initial governing board. This is currently planned for Oct. 19 - Nov. 2, 2001.
  5. The elected board would form the society and amongst themselves elect a set of officers (e.g. president, secretary, treasurer,...). Terms of service of the initial board will be at most 3 years.

Ultimate Issues the Board will Decide

The elected board will undertake a number of tasks and make a number decisions regarding the initial formation of the society and the running of the annual ICML conference, such as:

  1. Should the society be independent (such as NIPS, UAI, and COLT) or aligned with an existing professional society such as ACM, or IEEE?
  2. In either case, the logistic and legal issues of forming an appropriate non-profit organization will need to be handled.
  3. What minimal initial funds for legal fees etc. are needed to establish the society? These must come from the current proceeds of the most recent ICML.
  4. What set of officer positions should be established within the board and what will be their respective responsibilities?
  5. How will society members be recruited and what will be the membership fee (if any)?
  6. How often will officers and other board members be re-elected, and on what (rotating) schedule. (Under the constraint that the initial terms can be no longer than 3 years before the first formal election).
  7. What will be the restrictions (if any) on the number of terms that officers and board members can be re-elected?
  8. What benefits can be arranged for society members, such as reduced journal subscription rates, etc.?
  9. How will raising funds from companies and government agencies to support the conference, student travel, etc. be managed and improved?
  10. What will be the formal process of deciding on the conference chairs and venue each year, and how will the organization and running of the conference be split between the board and the conference chairs?
  11. Should the current three-way conference-venue rotation (eastern North America, western N. America, outside N. America) be retained or altered in some way?