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ISA President's Column: Developments, Milestones, and Common Themes

Progress Continues in a Challenging Year

The International Society of Automation (ISA) President Eric Cosman is featured monthly on the ISA Interchange blog with a column directed toward ISA members around the world. Eric’s column speaks to current membership priorities, challenges, news, and perspectives. We invite ISA Interchange readers to engage and dialogue with Eric, and if you aren’t currently a member of ISA, visit to learn more about membership.

Fellow Society members;

It’s been another month, and it’s time for another president’s message. As we all continue to cope with the pandemic, I hope that this finds you, your family, and friends safe and well.

It continues to be a challenging year for all of us, as well as for our Society. Nonetheless, we are still moving forward, and I want to use this opportunity to remind you of some recent developments and important milestones, and to share some of the themes that I have heard.

Let’s start with the results of our recent election. I hope that you were able to exercise your franchise and help us to elect a new slate of Society leaders. If not, please make a note to yourself to participate next year, as this is your opportunity to help set our direction. I congratulate Carlos Mandolesi on his election as President-Elect for 2021. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him for several years and I am excited that he is joining the presidential chain. I also offer my congratulations to those elected to the Executive Board. Some are new, and some are returning, perhaps in slightly different roles. I believe that we have an excellent balance of continuity and new faces on the Board for 2021 and beyond.

Our Society has also selected our award winners for 2020. Although we will not be able to have formal award presentations this year, we will do all that we can recognize these accomplishments. As part of this process, we have named several new ISA Fellows. I extend my personal congratulations to Donald Dunn, Donald Rahn, John Sorge, and Richard Van Fleet. This is a recognition of their significant accomplishments and contributions to our Society and the automation profession.

We have other significant milestones coming this year. After some delays we are all looking forward to the launch of a new Society web site, with associated better tools for collaboration. Many of you have heard about the new collaboration tools that we will have as part of ISA Connect, which is scheduled to be available in late August. Some of you have no doubt been among the “early adopters.” While the availability of the tool is certainly important, this is only a prerequisite for improved collaboration and information sharing. To get the full benefit of this new capability, we will all have to consider how we collaborate and perhaps change some of our work processes. For example, posting to the discussion groups on ISA Connect can be much more effective and inclusive than email.

Let’s not forget about our 75th anniversary celebration. Although we have had to make some changes to our plans in the face of the pandemic, many aspects are proceeding unchanged. Our 75 in 2020 website has links to information about the program. One important initiative is ISA Gives Back, where we encourage all of members to consider pledging at least 7.5 hours in service to their community this year. Those participating can also submit photos of their activities. This is a great way to contribute to the community and raise awareness of our Society.

In my previous messages, I have written about our proposed changes to Society bylaws. These will be put to the Council of Society Delegates (CSD) for vote later this year. As we have reviewed them with various stakeholder groups, there are several themes that have emerged. Perhaps the most fundamental of these has to do with the relationship between the Society and its sections.

Several people have asked about how our proposed changes might change the way in which sections conduct their business. The short answer to this question is “Not at all.” Sections have an affiliation relationship with the Society that permits them to use our brands and intellectual property for mutual benefit. They also have an important governance role through their representation on the CSD. However, they are independent legal entities with a great deal of latitude with respect to how they conduct their regular business, subject to Society bylaws.

This has been a valuable and successful partnership since the Society was formed, and it continues to be one of the backbone concepts of our organization. Sections are a major source of our strength, providing leaders who go on to fill even larger roles in ISA. They also keep us grounded in serving the needs of our profession in the various geographical areas.

There is another theme that has arisen frequently in various conversations. It has to do with how our members can find opportunities to contribute to activities at the Society level. Current leaders often hear statements like “I was not aware of that” or “How can I get involved?”

These questions appear to indicate that there are opportunities for improvement in our communication to members about available opportunities. Fortunately, ISA Connect, in addition to allowing us to engage in technical discussions, also allows us to search for and be matched with opportunities to get involved. As Connect launches, you will have the opportunity to complete a volunteer profile. This is an important first step. Tell us how you are interested in engaging so that we can find opportunities for you. With the full power of our members, we are better enabled to advance the Society.

As you can see, we have made considerable progress with respect to our strategy this year and are well-positioned to continue in this direction. As we do every year, we will be reviewing our strategic plan later this year and making any adjustments required. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions about our planor anything else about the Society’s directionI encourage you to submit your thoughts via email to

Stay safe.

Eric C. Cosman

2020 President


About the Author

Eric C. Cosman is a chemical engineer with more than 35 years of experience in the process industries. He is the founder and principal consultant at OIT Concepts, LLC. Eric contributes to—and has held leadership positions in—various standards committees and industry focus groups. He is a member of Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame as well as an ISA Life Fellow. Eric has served as ISA’s vice president of standards and practices, and he is a member of the ISA Executive Board. He was a founding member of a chemical sector cybersecurity program team focused on industrial control systems cybersecurity, and he was also one of the authors of the chemical sector cybersecurity strategy for the U.S. Eric is a founding member of the ISA99 Committee on Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) Security, where he currently serves as the co-chair, in addition to serving as the co-chair of the MESA Cybersecurity working group. Eric speaks and writes on topics ranging from automation cybersecurity to systems architecture development and industrial transformation, and he is the author of the cybersecurity chapter of the ISA Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge (3rd edition).  

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