August 21, 2019, by lzzeb


A blog by Professor Giles Foody

The International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) is one of the largest and most prestigious meetings in remote sensing. It is organised annually by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (IEEE GRSS). I have been unable to attend recent meetings due to School commitments but have attended many previous IGARSS conferences at venues spread across the world and was delighted to be able to attend the meeting in the summer of 2019 in Yokohama, Japan.

I set off for the conference late in July with the generous support of funding from the School’s overseas conference fund administered by its research committee. I arrived a few days before the conference began, providing the potential to recover from jet lag and explore the region. In the few days before the conference began I managed to see Mount Fuji, dodge a typhoon, ride a bullet train, live through a couple of missile launches from North Korea and experience several earthquakes (one that was >6 on the Richter scale manged to wake me at night and allow me to witness what appeared to be patterned water, grid waves, in the harbour outside my hotel).  But once the conference started my attention was fixed firmly on recent research in remote sensing.

The venue was the Pacifico conference centre located close to the harbour in Yokohama. The conference began with a session that included a welcome from the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Following this was a standard but huge conference that involved a range of oral and poster presentation sessions as well as tutorials, workshops and an exhibition. This is vastly larger than what happens in the UK. The active UK remote sensing community numbers ~700 and its annual conference will span one day, IGARSS had over 2,700 delegates for a week long extravaganza of remote sensing with typically a dozen parallel sessions running each day. Aside from the session in which a paper I co-authored with colleagues in the School and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, key highlights were the large number of papers on topics of personal interest, notably: super-resolution mapping, labelling error and image classification. The paper I contributed to on the remote sensing of slavery from space with a focus on aging sites associated with slavery was held in a session dedicated to long time series analysis of satellite sensor images. Our paper attracted an audience of around 60, something unimaginable in the UK. In addition our paper attracted the most questions of all papers that I attended, highlighting significant interest in the work and also helping to inform the writing of journal papers.

A key part of any conference is networking. I managed to meet with key figures in the field during the meeting. This includes key contacts on journals. Indeed 5 journals that I have an editorial role on were represented at the conference and I managed to meet with key people, many I had corresponded with via e-mail for years, and deal with a number of pressing issues.

My final major involvement at the conference was to receive the David Landgrebe award “for outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing image analysis”. This was flattering to receive and I suspect highlights mainly my excellent network of research collaborators. The award was presented at the conference banquet attended by some 600 researchers and I was fortunate enough to sit at a table with a range of very interesting delegates. The latter included organisers of a future IGARSS conference in Malaysia and a world leading researcher who gave a keynote address to the conference and updated me on his recent fascinating research.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. It was a great opportunity to share our work on the ‘slavery from space’ project but also to meet and interact with the broader research community. Given the minute size of the UK community, this opportunity to interact with the larger international community was extremely valuable and important. I hope that I will be able to attend the conference next year and present results of several on-going research projects.

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