After saying "not only no but hell no!" for many years, CSIA has finally agreed to join the Automation Federation. The original reason CSIA did not join the Automation Federation originally had to do with money-- now it is different.
The approach has changed. It doesn't cost anything to sign a memorandum of membership with the Automation Federation, and since the AF has become a significant lobbyist in Washington, there is every reason for organizations to become members. Who knows? The Automation Federation may finally figure out how to do some good.
The question, of course, remains what the Automation Federation is doing for the average automation professional. Since ISA appears to be paying the bills, as an ISA Life Fellow, I'd sure like to know that the money is being spent according to ISA's bylaws to benefit the members of ISA as well as the automation profession in general. And I don't know that that is true.
I am trying here to not let the experience we had with WBF and the Automation Federation color my position. I understand that people at ISA, the Automation Federation and WBF still are upset and angry about what happened. As far as I am concerned, WBF survived and is once again prospering, and continuing to argue about what happened is counterproductive for all concerned.
Properly, the Automation Federation should be a force for good. It has done some serious good. But it appears to be doing it on ISA's dime. I am not at all sure that is a good thing for ISA. In fact, I am pretty sure that it is not. I'd like to see ISA concentrating on providing value add and member benefits to ISA members.
What I'd like to see, as an ISA member, is a separation between the AF and ISA. ISA should be a member organization, and not the owner of the AF. There are now, and have been, goals and objectives of the AF that are not entirely in line with the goals and objectives of ISA. That's not a bad thing, either.
ISA is down to somewhere between 16000 and 26000 members worldwide, depending on who you talk to. This trend is bad. When you consider how many automation professionals there are in the world, this is around 0.015% of the total. Many end user company executives that I talk to feel that ISA membership is irrelevant. That's bad. As an ISA member since 1978, I find that not only bad but really sad, too.
I don't think focusing on growing the Automation Federation is going to help grow ISA. If the Automation Federation is to grow and succeed as a global NGO (non-governmental organization) promoting the automation industry, it has to find sources of funding other than ISA.
I realize that commenting at all on the Automation Federation will open me up to violent personal attacks. It has already happened. I haven't replied to any of them in print, and I hope it doesn't happen again. It has been suggested that I take money from large vendors for taking specifc positions. It's been suggested that my opinion and my professional competence is worthless because I also write fiction. That's not only not true, but you have to ask yourself why people connected with ISA and the Automation Federation feel the need to propagate those rumors.
It has been suggested that I ought to be drummed out of ISA for the positions I take. After providing over 30 years of leadership to ISA, including a stint on the Executive Board, if that's the reward I get, so be it.
But calling me names, and calling my professional competence as an automation professional in question isn't the way to get me to stop calling it as I see it. I view my job in part as a spokesman for the individual automation professional-- the people in the trenches and the people who really make stuff work. I want ISA and the Automation Federation to be successful. If they aren't, we'll have to start all over again and create new organizations to fulfill the goals that caused ISA to be established in 1946.