IEEE Section Naming

About IEEE Section Naming

Tony Davies, 9th June 2014

As a non-political organisation, there is some dislike in IEEE about using words like ‘kingdom’ and ‘republic’ in Section names.  Likewise, few would consider it appropriate to include such phrases as ‘people’s republic of …..’ in a Section name.
On this basis, the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Section, despite being one of the oldest in R8, and having a large number of members, clearly scores badly!  Moreover the usual abbreviation of ‘UKRI’ has occasionally been the sources of congratulations for the good spoken English of a member, by someone who assumes that it is the Ukraine Section.
Long ago, when the formation of the Section was under discussion, it was proposed and expected that it would be called the ‘United Kingdom and Eire Section’.   However, at that time the Irish members indicated their preference for ‘Republic of Ireland’ instead of ‘Eire’.   While the reasons may not have been clear, hindsight shows it to have been correct.  We do not speak of the IEEE Deutschland Section or the IEEE Espana Section, etc.   We normally use the English-language equivalent (e.g. Germany, Spain, etc).   Likewise, ‘Éire’ is the translation into Irish of ‘Ireland’, and ‘Republic of Ireland’ would be ‘Poblacht na h-Éireann’.
The postage stamps of the Republic of Ireland normally have the word ‘Éire’ on them, often with an indication that the name applies to the whole island and not only to the Republic (see the example illustrated in Fig.1), although some do include ‘Republic’ and are bilingual (English/Irish) as illustrated by another example (Fig.2).
By contrast, the postage stamps of Northern Ireland follow the United Kingdom custom of not including any country-name at all (see Fig.3).
Recently it was decided to prefer the abbreviation ‘UK&RI’ to ‘UKRI’ (which at least, should eliminate the Ukraine connection), and a further step has now been taken.  Subject to MGA approval, the name will just become ‘United Kingdom and Ireland’.
Unfortunately this still has some potential for misunderstanding.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and so appears to be ‘counted twice’ in the name.  This should present no difficulty to mathematicians and software engineers, who know that if A = {x,y,z} and B = {v,w,x} then A ∩ B = {v,w,x,y,z}.   E.g. in Boolean Algebra and in set theory, the logical AND (∩) allows x to be in both.
However, in everyday English, and especially among those with a political agenda, there will be a risk of an assumption that United Kingdom excludes Northern Ireland (and there are some who wish that was the case).   The alternative name of ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ overcomes this difficulty, but no doubt some would object to the adjective ‘Great’ in an IEEE Section name, especially for a geographically-small place.
There are some IEEE members whose geographical expertise is limited (including some in Regions 1 to 6) who may suppose that Scotland and Wales are parts of England;  they might become even more confused by the planned Section name change, especially if, at future time, Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom.   The Section might then be renamed the IEEE Wales, England and Ireland (WEI) Section, but could that lead to demands from the somewhat independent Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark asking to be included in the name, perhaps as the ‘WEIIoMGJAS’ Section.
In Regions 1 to 7, it is common for Section names to be names of large towns or a city or perhaps a group of associated towns.   For a large city there could be several Sections.   This is very different from Region 8, where the norm is ‘one country = one Section’.  Rules made in Regions 1 to 7 are therefore not invariably directly applicable to Region 8, needing care to prevent possible misunderstandings.
Names are important in human societies, and are particularly linked to politics, in which IEEE should not become involved.   Thus, name changes (for example, from St. Petersburg to Leningrad and back to St. Petersburg) are very important, and may lead to difficulties and anomalies.  We have, in Region 8, the IEEE Czechoslovakia Section, even though there is no longer a country with that name. If split into two, one part would presumably have to be called the IEEE Czech Republic Section, so bringing in the unwelcome ‘republic’ word.
Remember the many cities which have ‘people’s palaces’ (sometimes buildings where the ‘people’ were forbidden to go) and ‘streets of unity’ (when sometimes there was little or no unity).
Those who attended the recent Region 8 Committee meeting may have walked along Andrássy Street, and perhaps few knew that it used to be called Népköztársaság street, which if nothing else, was a good test of the pronunciation skills of visiting foreigners.  This street has had other names, including Stalin street.  So these issues are often very important and emotive, but are ones which IEEE is wise to steer clear of, and IEEE should take care not to risk creating unintended animosities.

                                          Copy of DSCF5319

Fig 1: Republic of Ireland stamp showing the whole island, and name ‘éire’

                   Copy of DSCF5318

Fig.2:  Bilingual stamp, including the ‘Republic’ designation.

                               Northern Ireland

Fig. 3:  Northern Ireland stamp, with no country name.