This article presents in depth the history activities of the Dynamic Systems and Control Division (DSCD) in the last 20 years. The 10 most cited papers from this 20-year period have been discussed in the article. Of these 10 papers, 4 of them are review or survey articles. The topics vary, showing the scope of DSCD’s activities: system identification, time delay systems, multivehicle control, and elastic manipulator arms. The most cited article is about nanotechnology; other areas represented are machine tool control, mechanical control to minimize vibrations, automotive, and piezoelectric actuators. These papers do stay true to the mechanical engineering roots of the DSCD. Other than the paper on time-delay systems, all of these papers directly reference mechanical systems. Some are application specific and others refer to specific classes of mechanical systems such as flexible manipulators.
As our Division launches the new Dynamic Systems and Control magazine it is fitting to have a look into the recent past to see what the Dynamic Systems and Control Division has been doing. An excellent in-depth history of the division was published on its 50th anniversary in 19931. In this note I will take a look at one aspect of the division’s activities in the 20 years since that history was published – papers published in its primary journal.
Since 1971 the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control (JDSMC) has been the main archival record of the Dynamic Systems and Control Division of ASME (and its former incarnations). The division also shares an increasingly popular journal with IEEE, i.e., the IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatron-ics, and division members also publish in a variety of other ASME and non-ASME journals. Nevertheless, JDSMC has been a primary outlet for research publications of the Divison’s members. Using the citation index Web of Knowledge, I’ll take two different looks at JDMSC contents: 1) the ten most cited papers and, 2) the 500 most cited papers. Why use number of citations as a measure? It isn’t a basic quality measure as is something like a “best paper” award, but it does give an indication of usefulness. Of course, other popular databases, such as Google Scholar and Scopus, could also be used for such a study, but would likely lead to similar conclusions.
The ten most cited papers from this 20-year period are shown in Table 1. The table does not give a full bibliographic reference but gives enough information to find the paper. The title is what is of most interest.
There are any numbers of ways to slice and dice this information but a good start is to find out where the authors of these papers come from. Of the 23 authors two are from national labs, two from industry, four unknown and the remaining 15 from universities (some of the non-university authors could have been students when the work was done). By this reckoning, the journal remains predominantly an outlet for university-based work. Sparse industry participation has been an issue for a long time. As Franke1 notes, “Industrial participation has been a major concern of the Division as the active participation of industry has continued to decrease over the years. As previously mentioned, the gap between theory and practice in automatic control was discussed as far back as the 1963 WAM” (p. 232-233). The division’s strategic plan also lists “industrial participation” as one of its top three priorities2.
Another conclusion is that review articles are found to be useful. Of these ten papers, four of them are review or survey articles. The topics vary, showing the scope of DSCD’s activities: system identification, time delay systems, multivehicle control, and elastic manipulator arms.
Looking at all ten, the scope of activity is impressively broad. The most cited article is about nanotechnology; other areas represented are machine tool control, mechanical control to minimize vibrations, automotive, and piezoelectric actuators. Interestingly, although nanotechnology topped this list (way ahead of #2), a scan of the full list shows relatively few other papers in nanotechnology.
These papers do stay true to the mechanical engineering roots of the Dynamic Systems and Control Division. Other than the paper on time-delay systems, all of these papers directly reference mechanical systems. Some are application specific (such as automotive) and others refer to specific classes of mechanical systems such as flexible manipulators. The building health monitoring topic might be thought of as more civil than mechanical engineering, but vibrations in structures is a legitimate crossover area.
The Top 500
For a broader view I’ve looked at the top 500 (out of about 2,000) sorted by number of citations and categorized them according to two different dimensions:
Topics within the Dynamic Systems and Control Division’s charter
Domains illustrating the theory-practice “gap”
The 500th paper has nine citations.
“Dynamic systems,” “measurement,” and “control” are mentioned explicitly in the division’s name and journal title. Actuation is the additional element making up the canonical feedback control system so I have added that to the group. Given those topics, how well does the Division’s archival journal do in covering its charter?
Table 2 shows the number of papers in each of the four key categories. Each paper was placed in only one category. I made the judgment based mostly on the title; in some cases when the title was ambiguous I referred to the abstract for clarification. For papers that could fit into more than one category I tried to discern which category was most emphasized.
Control is by far the preeminent category, reflecting the Division’s prior name, Automatic Control Division. Dynamic systems, that is, characterization of the control targets, is a strong second. Measurement and actuation each have small, but significant shares at about 10% each.
Despite the even billing given to these categories (except, of course, for actuation which gets no notice at all in Division or journal names), my perusal of titles and abstracts ofjournal publications over the past 20 years shows that control is the primary focus. Control is the top level of abstraction; the other areas are a sub-level.
Table 3 addresses the theory-practice issue. For the same 500 papers I have categorized them according to whether they fall under “theory,” ‘methodology”, or “application.” Papers categorized as theory are examining very broad issues that cross many domains of applicability. Application papers refer specifically to an industry, product or narrow range of systems. Methodology papers fall in the middle – they use theory to develop methods that can be used in a restricted class of systems.
Table 3 shows a healthy distribution. There are fewest theory papers and most application papers. Theory papers spawn a number of methodology papers in different domains of interest, which, in turn, can be used for many applications.
What isn’t revealed here is how practical these applications actually are. If the author distribution across the top 500 is similar to that of the top 10 (based on a random sampling of the entire database that does appear to be the case) most of these application papers arose from work in academia. Given the importance of students-who-graduate for tech transfer in carrying these ideas into industry, and industry inspiration and direct support for university work, there is good hope for their utility.
The ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Division and its primary archival journal, the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control, have demonstrated rich and varied technical activities over the past 20 years. The Division is firmly rooted in both its controls and mechanical engineering heritages. The Division has moved from its very early roots as an industry-based organization (the Industrial Instruments and Regulators Division) to one that is largely university-based. Despite concerns, and attempts to broaden participation, this trend has been constant for several decades.
With its journal, the Dynamic Systems and Control Division has put a huge amount of effort into the goals of producing a broadly-based, high-quality journal focused on control and related areas. As these results show, it has largely succeeded in meeting these goals. The new Dynamic Systems and Control magazine is intended to broaden the reach of the Division. One of its main goals, publishing tutorial articles of wide interest to its constituent community, is well supported by the results shown here in that many of the top-cited papers in the journal were review or survey articles. It is hoped that such articles will also be of interest to engineers in industry, and help with the division’s goal of improving industrial participation.