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RFC 7827 - The Role of the IRTF Chair

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Internet Architecture Board (IAB)                              L. Eggert
Request for Comments: 7827                                        NetApp
Category: Informational                                       March 2016
ISSN: 2070-1721

                       The Role of the IRTF Chair


   This document briefly describes the role of the Chair of the Internet
   Research Task Force (IRTF), discusses its duties, and outlines the
   skill set a candidate for the role should ideally have.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
   and represents information that the IAB has deemed valuable to
   provide for permanent record.  It represents the consensus of the
   Internet Architecture Board (IAB).  Documents approved for
   publication by the IAB are not a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2016 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Duties  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Strategic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.2.  Administrative  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.3.  IAB Membership  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7

1.  Introduction

   The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) focuses on longer-term
   research issues related to the Internet, while its sister
   organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), focuses on
   the shorter-term issues of engineering and standards making.

   The IRTF consists of a number of topical and long-term Research
   Groups (RGs).  These groups work on issues related to Internet
   protocols, applications, architecture, and technology.  RGs have the
   stable long-term membership that is needed to promote the development
   of research collaboration and teamwork in exploring research issues.
   Individual contributors participate in the IRTF, rather than
   representatives of organizations.

   [RFC2014] details the procedures by which RGs operate.  [RFC4440]
   discusses a view from the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) on the
   IRTF and its relationship to the IETF.  The RFC Editor publishes
   documents from the IRTF and its RGs in the IRTF Stream [RFC5743].

   The IRTF Chair is appointed by the IAB [RFC2014] for two-year terms
   and manages the IRTF in consultation with the Internet Research
   Steering Group (IRSG) and -- for some types of decisions -- the IAB.
   The IRSG membership includes the IRTF Chair, the chairs of the
   various RGs, and other individuals ("members at large") from the
   research community selected by the IRTF Chair.

   There is no general appeals process defined for the IRTF.  However,
   [RFC2014] states that when an RG disagrees with the IRTF Chair's
   decision to close the group, it can appeal to the IAB.  Since the
   IRTF Chair serves at the discretion of the IAB, it has been current
   practice to generalize this special case in [RFC2014]: any grievances
   related to the IRTF Chair can be taken to the IAB, and it takes
   appropriate measures.

2.  Duties

   This section discusses the various duties of the IRTF Chair and
   outlines the skill set a candidate for the role should ideally have.

2.1.  Strategic

   Arguably, the most important part of the duties of the IRTF Chair is
   strategic and concerns shaping the purpose and scope of the IRTF, by
   making decisions about which RGs to charter, which RGs to terminate,
   and which other activities or efforts the IRTF should organize or
   affiliate itself with in order to further its charter and increase
   the interaction and collaboration between network research,
   engineering, operations, and standardization.

   For some new RGs, the research and engineering community brings a
   proposal to the IRTF Chair for discussion.  However, it is common for
   the IRTF Chair to identify a new area of research that is considered
   of importance to the Internet, actively motivate people in the
   research and engineering community to consider the formation of an
   RG, and help them navigate the process for doing so.

   In order to be able to fulfill this duty, it is important for the
   IRTF Chair to be involved in both the academic research community as
   well as engineering or operational communities.  Without a
   demonstrated history of participation in these often somewhat
   isolated communities, it will be very difficult to identify areas of
   academic research that are suitable for being brought into the IRTF.
   A good network of contacts in these communities will be very helpful
   in identifying and motivating potential RG chairs and participants.

   Involvement in the academic research community can be demonstrated in
   various ways -- a publication record, membership in conference
   program and organizational committees, participation in publicly
   funded collaborative research projects, etc.

   In addition to chartering new RGs, it is equally important for the
   IRTF to end RGs that have run out of energy, are focused on issues no
   longer considered important for the Internet, or are otherwise not
   operating well.  Careful communication and good people skills are
   essential in order to explain the reasons for concluding an RG.  The
   same skill set is also useful when explaining to proponents of a new
   RG why their request is being denied.

   The Applied Networking Research Prize (ANRP) is a joint award of the
   Internet Society (ISOC) and an example of a strategic initiative that
   since its inception in 2011 has turned into more of an administrative
   duty.  The IRTF Chair and an ISOC representative pick and chair the

   ANRP selection committee, which advertises the ANRP, encourages
   community nominations for the prizes, and reviews nominations and
   selects prize winners.  The IRTF Chair and the ISOC representative
   also mentor the ANRP winners, who are often IETF newcomers, and
   introduce them to other attendees who may have an interest in their

   Chairmanship of the ANRP selection committee also relies on strong
   ties to the academic research community, to identify suitable
   selection committee members and to encourage nominations for suitable
   work that is published in a given year.  The selection committee
   operates similar to a program committee for an academic conference
   (more specifically, it performs a function similar to the selection
   of a best paper award).  It is therefore useful if the IRTF Chair has
   firsthand experience serving on program committees, and ideally,
   chairing them.

2.2.  Administrative

   A good fraction of the duties of the IRTF Chair are administrative.
   Some of them may be permanently or temporarily delegated to other
   IRSG members, but they ultimately always remain the IRTF Chair's

   Some of those are related to publishing RFCs on the IRTF Stream, such
   as ensuring sufficient review, so that documents published are of
   good quality; scheduling the required Internet Engineering Steering
   Group (IESG) review [RFC5742]; and following up with the IESG, IANA,
   and the RFC Editor during and after the publication process.

   Other administrative duties include reviewing and approving requests
   from the RGs for time slots during IETF meetings or interim meetings
   elsewhere, ensuring that meeting materials are submitted on schedule,
   maintaining the IRTF web site, and -- in cooperation with the RG
   chairs -- ensuring that the IETF Datatracker correctly reflects the
   status of the various IRTF-related documents.

   The IRTF Chair appoints, replaces, and manages the RG chairs and the
   IRSG, and follows the research work of the chartered and proposed RGs
   to a degree that is sufficient to let them develop an understanding
   on whether they are generally operating well.

   The IRTF Chair also defines the operational procedures for the IRTF
   (in the boundaries defined by [RFC2014]) and the IRSG.  At the
   moment, these procedures are captured as a set of wiki pages
   [IRTF-WIKI], and it is the duty of the IRTF Chair to refine and
   update these descriptions as procedures evolve.  When process
   questions on the IRSG or in an RG arise (e.g., on IPR, liaison

   statements, consensus procedures, copyright, plagiarism, document
   publication, etc.), the IRTF Chair is frequently consulted and needs
   to have sufficient familiarity in the area to provide a definitive
   answer, or at least be able to identify an external party for further

   The IRSG tries to schedule a working dinner during each IETF meeting,
   and the IRTF Chair is responsible for organizing the agenda and a
   suitable venue.

   The IRTF Chair provides a status report on the IRTF to the IAB on a
   monthly basis and also writes a regular column for the IETF Journal
   [IETF-JOURNAL] on recent IRTF-related events.

   During each IETF meeting, the IRTF Chair is responsible for
   organizing and chairing the "IRTF Open Meeting", during which topics
   related to the IRTF are presented and discussed.  This includes a
   report by the IRTF Chair on the status of the IRTF and its RGs (an
   abbreviated version of this report is also usually given during the
   IETF technical plenary) as well as other presentations from RGs, ANRP
   prize winners, individuals wishing to propose new RGS, or others.

   These administrative duties are very similar to part of the duties of
   an Area Director (AD) in the IETF and require the same set of
   organizational and communication skills [IESG-EXP].  They also
   require a regular time commitment throughout the year, the ability to
   attend most of the IETF meetings in person, as well as some other
   related travel.

   The IRTF Chair regularly interacts with the ADs and the IESG for
   document reviews, planning IETF meeting agendas, and providing input
   on various IETF efforts and topics.  The IRTF Chair also regularly
   interacts with the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) and
   the IETF Secretariat for meeting planning, budgeting, and other
   organizational purposes.  In addition, the IRTF Chair also interacts
   with the Tools Team to provide input on how IETF tools can best
   support the operation of the IRTF.  Finally, the IRTF Chair is the
   owner of the IRTF Stream of RFCs and is hence part of the group that
   reviews the RFC Editor's performance and operation; also, the IRTF
   Chair engages with the Independent Submission Editor in cases where
   submissions on the Independent Stream have relationships to the IRTF.
   A good understanding of the purpose and procedures of these different
   bodies and a good working relationship with the individuals serving
   on them are important.

2.3.  IAB Membership

   The IRTF Chair serves as an "ex officio" member of the IAB [RFC2850]
   and is expected to participate in IAB discussions and activities
   alongside the NomCom-appointed IAB members.

   This duty benefits from expertise that is similar to those of full
   IAB members [IAB-EXP] and requires a similar time and travel
   commitment, for example, to attend IAB retreats, relevant IAB
   workshops, as well as other meetings the IAB is participating in or
   organizing.  Per [IAB-EXP], "it is desirable for IAB members to have
   technical leadership experience, operational management backgrounds,
   research or academic backgrounds, implementation experience, and
   experience in other bodies involved in Internet governance."

   The IRTF Chair frequently provides input to "birds of a feather"
   (BoF) sessions, either as an ex officio IAB member (i.e., as a "BoF
   shepherd") or because it may be unclear whether a proposed effort
   should be started as an IETF WG or an IRTF RG.

3.  Security Considerations

   This document raises no security considerations.

4.  Informative References

   [IAB-EXP]  NomCom 2015, "Desired Expertise: Member of the Internet
              Architecture Board", 2015,

   [IESG-EXP] NomCom 2015, "Generic IESG Member Expertise", August 2015,

              Internet Society, "The IETF Journal",

              Internet Research Task Force, "IRTF Wiki",

   [RFC2014]  Weinrib, A. and J. Postel, "IRTF Research Group Guidelines
              and Procedures", BCP 8, RFC 2014, DOI 10.17487/RFC2014,
              October 1996, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2014>.

   [RFC2850]  Internet Architecture Board and B. Carpenter, Ed.,
              "Charter of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)",
              BCP 39, RFC 2850, DOI 10.17487/RFC2850, May 2000,

   [RFC4440]  Floyd, S., Ed., Paxson, V., Ed., Falk, A., Ed., and IAB,
              "IAB Thoughts on the Role of the Internet Research Task
              Force (IRTF)", RFC 4440, DOI 10.17487/RFC4440, March 2006,

   [RFC5742]  Alvestrand, H. and R. Housley, "IESG Procedures for
              Handling of Independent and IRTF Stream Submissions",
              BCP 92, RFC 5742, DOI 10.17487/RFC5742, December 2009,

   [RFC5743]  Falk, A., "Definition of an Internet Research Task Force
              (IRTF) Document Stream", RFC 5743, DOI 10.17487/RFC5743,
              December 2009, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5743>.


   Robert Sparks, Brian Trammell, Stephen Farrell, Niels ten Oever, Dirk
   Kutscher, Aaron Falk, Jana Iyengar, Mat Ford, Adrian Farrel, Barry
   Leiba, and Dave Thaler provided suggestions that improved this

   Lars Eggert has received funding from the European Union's Horizon
   2020 research and innovation program 2014-2018 under grant agreement
   No. 644866 ("SSICLOPS").  This document reflects only the author's
   views, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use
   that may be made of the information it contains.

Author's Address

   Lars Eggert
   Sonnenallee 1
   Kirchheim bei Muenchen  85551

   Phone: +49 151 120 55791
   Email: lars@netapp.com


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