Automatica, December 2003, Volume 39, No. 12


Some Automatica History and Recognition at a Time of Transition

George S. Axelby
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Huibert Kwakernaak

Tamer Basar
Incoming Editor-in-Chief

With this issue, Automatica is completing its 39th year of publication, and its 34th year as an IFAC journal. It will also be making a transition of Editor-in-Chiefs, only the second time in its history. It is therefore an opportune moment to reflect back on the past, and to recall for the readers the path Automatica took in becoming a leading journal in the control field. It is also an opportunity to recognize the many contributions of its departing Editor-in-Chief, Huibert Kwakernaak, in this great achievement.

In the beginning, when I became Editor of Automatica in 1968, there were several tasks to perform: the first was to create a new, bright cover which I did rather quickly with the approval of the Editorial Board and it has remained essentially the same. However, the next task was much more important and difficult: composing the other side of the front cover to include the names of the Associate Editors, the essential members of the editorial staff. The difficulty was that there were no Associate Editors! Therefore an extensive search was made to find capable, knowledgeable and reliable Associate Editors from all over the world to represent an International Journal.

With the advice and suggestions of well-known control experts from several countries and institutions and IFAC symposia, the names of potential associate editors were obtained. Actually, 20 agreed to serve, and Huibert Kwakernaak was one of them as indicated on the inside front cover of the first issue of Automatica, published in January 1969. Thus, Huibert began his long association with Automatica from the very beginning of the first IFAC journal.

The next, most important task was to find suitable papers to publish in Automatica. Of course, the IFAC symposia papers were a possible source, but they had to be reviewed by knowledgeable referees selected by the Associate Editors who had to approve or reject the papers. Consequently, Automatica got under way, and after some difficulty, began to grow and become well accepted.

During the first year, all the Associate Editors provided fine reviews of submitted papers and recommendations, but then some of them soon resigned because of other new responsibilities. Although Huibert did have other new duties including writing papers and books among other activities, he did not resign. In fact, quite remarkably, during his time away from his office, there was very little delay in his editorial efforts which continued as excellent as ever! This was certainly a contribution to Automatica -- an indication of his future editorial efforts and contributions.

In 1979 there was an Automatica Editorial Board meeting held in Prague during an IFAC Symposium. Concern was expressed by the Board members that the Editor, with the continuing growth of Automatica, was assuming too much responsibility, which should be divided by some means. I made a proposal that the Automatica Editorial Staff should be reorganized to distribute the responsibilities by appointing Editors responsible for different areas of their interests in automatic control, and that the Editor should become the Editor-in-Chief. It was decided that the proposal should be given further consideration with more operational detail provided by the Editor. This was done and the proposal was accepted and applied. However, operational details were not indicated on the inside front cover of Automatica until May 1981 along with an explanatory Editorial.

Of course, Huibert became an Editor responsible for papers in the fields of Optimal Control Theory and Systems, and there were three other Editors as indicated on the inside cover. Also, as indicated on the inside cover, there were three other Editors in Special Categories: Survey Papers, Technical Communiqués, and Book Reviews.

Thus, Automatica was expanding in new directions. This organization continued successfully until a change was made in March 1992 when Huibert divided his areas of interest into two sections: 1) System Theory, a field where he continued to serve as Editor, and 2) Control and Estimation Theory, a field where Professor Tamer Basar, formerly an Associate Editor, became a new Editor.

Also, at that time, Huibert was appointed to the position of Automatica Deputy Editor-in-Chief by the then President of IFAC, Brian Anderson. It was a promotion well deserved.

Then, in 1993, it was recognized that with all the Editors evaluating an increasing number of submitted papers and with Huibert assigned to obtain more IFAC meeting papers in his designated position as Liaison Officer with IFAC meeting organizers to help them select potential meeting papers for publishing in Automatica, it would be necessary to publish Automatic monthly instead of every other month.

With this great expansion of Automatica, it was impossible for me to continue as Editor-in-Chief because I was working full-time alone without secretarial help. I was reluctant to retire because it would mean severance from the wonderful IFAC family with which I had been associated for over 25 years. Nevertheless, reality dictated that I should retire and be replaced by Deputy Editor-in-Chief Huibert Kwakernaak, who could and would continue to make Automatica a leading journal in the control field, because he was eager to do so with new ideas, and he had the facilities, the secretarial help and a staff to enable the Journal expand to New Horizons. Time has shown that he has done this, and more, very well indeed!

The transition of Editor-in-Chiefs was expected to take about a year, but Huibert already had the procedures for the transition established, and the transfer of all the files I had, including new and revised papers with associated correspondence, was accomplished smoothly within six months.

Perhaps the most significant contribution that Huibert has made was his creation of the On-Line Paper Review Management System Pampus, which is described in a very impressive web site, This site provides a highly automated internet solution to Automatica's review and paper flow management. Essentially, this is done with very little human intervention, which has always been necessary in previous paper management procedures. All participants in the review process, authors, editors, associate editors, and reviewers are serviced at the web site which contains considerable information for each of these participants about the procedures they should follow to complete the review of a submitted paper.

Huibert named this on-line paper review management system after Pampus, a Dutch fort, because (in his words) "Like the fort island Pampus was built and designed to help defend Amsterdam, the Pampus system is meant to help protect the quality and integrity of Automatica."

I am delighted that Tamer Basar will become the next Automatica Editor-in-Chief, starting with the January 2004 issue. I have known Tamer for over 30 years and his technical knowledge, reliability, and organizational ability has always been impressive. No doubt he will be a fine Editor-in-Chief, and I wish him success in his future efforts. For more detailed information about Tamer, go to the Pampus web site. Click on Editors and a list of all the Editors appears. Then click on Tamer's name and his photo will appear along with a very detailed biography.

Finally, to summarize, Huibert's achievements and contributions to Automatica have been substantial as indicated previously. Also it should be noted that I was associated with Automatica for 25 years which I thought was a great accomplishment, but Huibert was working with me all that time, yet he has continued for 10 more years for a total of 35 years!

During this time, especially as Editor-in-Chief, Huibert has made the difficult tasks associated with obtaining reviews and evaluating them to select papers for publication far more efficient, faster, and with less effort than ever possible in the past by using his creation, Pampus. This has transformed a relatively primitive, tedious system used for 25 years into a modern, internet based system suitable for taking Automatica into the 21st Century. This was a wonderful accomplishment indeed. For this he deserves considerable recognition.

George S. Axelby
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus