RFC2014: IRTF Research Group Guidelines and Procedures

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Network Working Group                                        A. Weinrib
Request for Comments: 2014                            Intel Corporation
BCP: 8                                                        J. Postel
Category: Best Current Practice                                     ISI
                                                           October 1996

             IRTF Research Group Guidelines and Procedures

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
   Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) has responsibility for
   organizing groups to investigate research topics related to the
   Internet protocols, applications, and technology. IRTF activities are
   organized into Research Groups.  This document describes the
   guidelines and procedures for formation and operation of IRTF
   Research Groups.  It describes the relationship between IRTF
   participants, Research Groups, the Internet Research Steering Group
   (IRSG) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).  The basic duties
   of IRTF participants, including the IRTF Chair, Research Group Chairs
   and IRSG members are defined.


   This document defines guidelines and procedures for Internet Research
   Task Force (IRTF) Research Groups.  The IRTF focuses on longer term
   research issues related to the Internet while the parallel
   organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), focuses on
   the shorter term issues of engineering and standards making.

   The Internet is a loosely-organized international collaboration of
   autonomous, interconnected networks; it supports host-to-host
   communication through voluntary adherence to open protocols and
   procedures defined by Internet Standards, a collection of which are
   commonly known as "the TCP/IP protocol suite".  Development and
   review of potential Internet Standards from all sources is conducted
   by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  The Internet
   Standards Process is defined in [1].

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   The IRTF is a composed of a number of focused, long-term, small
   Research Groups.  These groups work on topics related to Internet
   protocols, applications, architecture and technology. Research Groups
   are expected to have the stable long term membership needed to
   promote the development of research collaboration and teamwork in
   exploring research issues.  Participation is by individual
   contributors, rather than by representatives of organizations.

   The IRTF is managed by the IRTF Chair in consultation with the
   Internet Research Steering Group (IRSG).  The IRSG membership
   includes the IRTF Chair, the chairs of the various Research Group and
   possibly other individuals ("members at large") from the research

   The IRTF Chair is appointed by the IAB, the Research Group chairs are
   appointed as part of the formation of Research Groups (as detailed
   below) and the IRSG members at large are chosen by the IRTF Chair in
   consultation with the rest of the IRSG and on approval by the IAB.

   In addition to managing the Research Groups, the IRSG may from time
   to time hold topical workshops focusing on research areas of
   importance to the evolution of the Internet, or more general
   workshops to, for example, discuss research priorities from an
   Internet perspective.

   This document defines procedures and guidelines for formation and
   operation of Research Groups in the IRTF.  The duties of the IRTF
   Chair, the Research Group Chairs and IRSG members are also described.
   Except for members at large of the IRSG, there is no general
   participation in the IRTF, only participation in a specific Research

   The document uses: "shall", "will", "must" and "is required" where it
   describes steps in the process that are essential, and uses:
   "suggested", "should" and "may" where guidelines are described that
   are not essential, but are strongly recommended to help smooth
   Research Group operation.  The terms "they", "them" and "their" are
   used in this document as third-person singular pronouns.

1.1. IRTF approach

   The reader is encouraged to study The Internet Standards Process [1]
   to gain a complete understanding of the philosophy, procedures and
   guidelines of the IETF and its approach to standards making.

   The IRTF does not set standards, and thus has somewhat different and
   complementary philosophy and procedures.  In particular, an IRTF
   Research Group is expected to be long-lived, producing a sequence of

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   "products" over time.  The products of a Research Group are research
   results that may be disseminated by publication in scholarly journals
   and conferences, as white papers for the community, as Informational
   RFCs, and so on.  In addition, it is expected that technologies
   developed in a Research Group will be brought to the IETF as input to
   IETF Working Group(s) for possible standardization.   However,
   Research Group input carries no more weight than other community
   input, and goes through the same standards setting process as any
   other proposal.

   IRTF Research Groups are formed to encourage research in areas of
   importance to the evolution of the Internet.  Clearly, anyone may
   conduct such research, whether or not they are members of a Research
   Group.  The expectation is that by sponsoring Research Groups, the
   IRTF can foster cross-organizational collaboration, help to create
   "critical mass" in important research areas, and add to the
   visibility and impact of the work.

   IRTF Research Groups may have open or closed memberships.  Limited
   membership may be advantageous to the formation of the long term
   working relationships that are critical to successful collaborative
   research.  However, limited membership must be used with care and
   sensitivity to avoid unnecessary fragmentation of the work of the
   research community. Allowing limited membership is in stark contrast
   to IETF Working Groups, which are always open; this contrast reflects
   the different goals and environments of the two organizations-
   research vs. standards setting.

   To ameliorate the effects of closed membership, all Research Groups
   are required to regularly report progress to the community, and are
   encouraged to hold occasional open meetings (most likely co-located
   with IETF meetings). In addition, the IRTF may host open plenaries at
   regular IETF meetings during which research results of interest to
   the community are presented.  Finally, multiple Research Groups
   working in the same general area may be formed if appropriate.

   Even more than the IETF, the work of the IRSG is expected to be
   marked by informality.  The goal is to encourage and foster valuable
   research, not to add burdensome bureaucracy to the endeavor.

1.2. Acknowledgments

   This document is based on the March 1994 RFC "IETF Working Group
   Guidelines and Procedures" by E. Huizer and D. Crocker [2].

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   Research Groups are the activity centers in the IRTF.  A Research
   Group is typically created to address a research area related to
   Internet protocols, applications, architecture or technology area.
   Research Groups have the stable long term membership needed to
   promote the development of research collaboration and teamwork in
   exploring research issues.  Participation is by individual
   contributors, rather than by representatives of organizations.

   A Research Group may be established at the initiative of an
   individual or group of individuals.  Anyone interested in creating an
   IRTF Research Group must submit a charter for the proposed group to
   the IRTF Chair along with a list of proposed founding members.  The
   charter will be reviewed by the IRSG and then forwarded to the IAB
   for approval.

   If approved, the charter is placed on the IRTF Web site, and
   published in the Internet Monthly Report (IMR).

2.1. Criteria for formation

   In determining whether it is appropriate to create a Research Group,
   the IRTF Chair, the IRSG and the IAB will consider several issues:

   -  Is the research area that the Research Group plans to address
      clear and relevant for the Internet community?

   -  Will the formation of the Research Group foster work that would
      not be done otherwise.  For instance, membership drawn from more
      than a single institution, more than a single country, and so on,
      is to be encouraged.

   -  Do the Research Group's activities overlap with those of another
      Research Group?  If so, it may still be appropriate to create the
      Research Group, but this question must be considered carefully
      since subdividing efforts often dilutes the available technical

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   -  Is there sufficient interest and expertise in the Research Group's
      topic with at least several people willing to expend the effort
      that is likely to produce significant results over time?  Research
      Groups require considerable effort, including management of the
      Research Group process, editing of Research Group documents, and
      contribution to the document text.  IRTF experience suggests that
      these roles typically cannot all be handled by one person; at
      least four or five active participants are typically required.  To
      help in this determination, a proposal to create a Research Group
      should include a list of potential charter members.

   The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) will also review the charter of
   the proposed Research Group to determine the relationship of the
   proposed work to the overall architecture of the Internet Protocol

2.2. Charter

   A charter is a contract between a Research Group and the IRTF to
   conduct research in the designated area. Charters may be renegotiated
   periodically to reflect changes to the current status, organization
   or goals of the Research Group.

   The formation of a Research Group requires a charter which is
   initially negotiated between a prospective Research Group Chair and
   the IRTF Chair.  When the prospective Chair and the IRTF Chair are
   satisfied with the charter form and content, it becomes the basis for
   forming a Research Group.

   A IRTF Research Group charter consists of five sections:

   1.  Research Group Name

      A Research Group name should be reasonably descriptive or
      identifiable.  Additionally, the group shall define an acronym
      (maximum 8 printable ASCII characters) to reference the group in
      the IRTF directories, mailing lists, and general documents.  The
      name and acronym must not conflict with any IETF names and

   2.  Chair(s)

      The Research Group may have one or two Chair(s) to perform the
      administrative functions of the group. The email address(es) of
      the Chair(s) shall be included.

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   3.  Mailing list(s)

      Each Research Group shall have an address (possibly the Chair's)
      for members of the Internet community to send queries regarding
      the Research Group.    For instance, for requests to join the

      A Research Group, whether limited membership or open, will have an
      "interest" Internet mailing list open to all interested parties.
      This list is used for an open discussion of the issues and
      announcements of results as they become available.  Included
      should be the address to which an interested party sends a
      subscription request for the interest list and the procedures to
      follow when subscribing, and the location of the interest mailing
      list archive.

      It is expected that a Research Group may also have a mailing list
      limited to the regular meeting participants on which substantial
      part of the work of a Research Group is likely to be conducted via

   4.  Membership Policy

      The Charter must define the membership policy (whether open or
      limited), and the procedure to apply for membership in the group.
      While limited membership is permitted, it is in no way encouraged
      or required.

   5.  Description of Research Group

      The focus and intent of the group shall be set forth briefly. By
      reading this section alone, an individual should be able to decide
      whether this group is relevant to their own work.  The first
      paragraph must give a brief summary of the research area, basis,
      goal(s) and approach(es) planned for the Research Group.  This
      paragraph will frequently be used as an overview of the Research
      Group's effort.

      To facilitate evaluation of the intended work and to provide on-
      going guidance to the Research Group, the charter shall describe
      the proposed research and shall discuss objectives and expected
      impact with respect to the Internet Architecture.


   Research Groups are autonomous and each determines most of the
   details of its own operation with respect to session participation,
   reaching closure, norms of behavior, etc.  Since the products are

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   research results, not Internet standards, consensus of the group is
   not required.  Rather, the measure of success is the quality and
   impact of the research results.

   A number of procedural questions and issues will arise over time, and
   it is the function of the Research Group Chair to manage the group
   process, keeping in mind that the overall purpose of the group is to
   make progress towards realizing the Research Group's goals and

   There are few hard and fast rules on organizing or conducting
   Research Group activities, but a set of guidelines and practices have
   evolved over time that have proven successful. These are listed here,
   with actual choices typically determined by the Research Group
   members and the Chair.

3.1. Meeting planning

   For coordinated, structured Research Group interactions, the Chair
   must publish to the group mailing list a draft agenda well in advance
   of the actual meeting. The agenda needs to contain at least:

   -    The items for discussion;

   -    The estimated time necessary per item; and

   -    A clear indication of what documents the participants will
        need to read before the meeting in order to be well

   A Research Group will conduct much of its business via its electronic
   mail distribution list(s).  It is also likely to meet periodically to
   accomplish those things that are better achieved in more interactive
   meetings, such as brainstorming, heated altercations, etc.  Meetings
   may be scheduled as telephone conference, video teleconference, or
   face-to-face (physical) meetings.

   It is strongly encouraged that all Research Group meetings be
   recorded in written minutes, to keep informed members who were not
   present and the community at large and to document the proceedings
   for present and future members.  These minutes should include the
   agenda for the meeting, an account of the high points of the
   discussion, and a list of attendees.  Unless the Research Group chair
   decides otherwise, the minutes should be sent to the interest group
   and made available through the IRTF Web and ftp sites.

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3.2. Meeting venue

   Each Research Group will determine the balance of email and face-to-
   face meetings that is appropriate for making progress on its goals.

   Electronic mail permits the easiest and most affordable
   participation; face-to-face meetings often permit better focus, more
   productive debate and enhanced working relationships.

   Face-to-face meetings are encouraged to be held co-located with the
   regular IETF meetings to minimize travel, since IRTF members are
   often also active in the IETF and to encourage the cross-
   fertilization that occurs during hallway and after-hours
   interactions.  Furthermore, as described above, even limited-
   membership Research Groups are encouraged to hold occasional open
   meetings; an IETF meeting would serve as an ideal venue for such an

3.3. Meeting management

   The challenge to managing Research Group meetings is to balance the
   need for consideration of the various issues, opinions and approaches
   against the need to allow forward progress.  The Research Group, as a
   whole, has the final responsibility for striking this balance.


   If, at some point, it becomes evident that a Research Group is not
   making progress in the research areas defined in its charter, or
   fails to regularly report the results of its research to the
   community, the IRTF Chair can, in consultation with Group, either:

      1.   Require that the group recharter to refocus on a different
      set of problems,

      2.   Request that the group choose new Chair(s), or

      3.   Disband the group.

   If the Research Group disagrees with the IRTF Chair's choice, it may
   appeal to the IAB.


   Research Groups require considerable care and feeding.  In addition
   to general participation, successful  Research Groups benefit from
   the efforts of participants filling specific functional roles.

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5.1. IRTF Chair

   The IRTF Chair is responsible for ensuring that  Research Groups
   produce coherent, coordinated, architecturally consistent and timely
   output as a contribution to the overall evolution of the Internet
   architecture.  In addition to the detailed tasks related to  Research
   Groups outlined below, the IRTF Chair may also from time to time
   arrange for topical workshops attended by the IRSG and perhaps other
   experts in the field.


      The IRTF Chair monitors the range of activities.  This may include
      encouraging the formation of Research Groups directly, rather than
      waiting for proposals from IRTF participants.

   Coordination of Research Groups

      The IRTF Chair coordinates the work done by the various Research


      The IRTF Chair reports on IRTF progress to the to the IAB and the
      wider Internet community (including via the IMR).

   Progress tracking

      The IRTF Chair tracks and manages the progress of the various
      Research Groups with the aid of a regular status report on
      documents and accomplishments from the Research Group Chairs. The
      resulting reports are made available to the community at large at
      regular intervals.

5.2.  IRSG Member

   Members of the IRSG are responsible for advising the IRTF Chair on
   the chartering of new Research Groups and other matters relating to
   the smooth operation of the IRTF.  In addition, most IRSG members are
   also Research Group chairs.

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5.3. Research Group Chair

   The Research Group Chair is concerned with making forward progress in
   the areas under investigation, and has wide discretion in the conduct
   of Research Group business.  The Chair must ensure that a number of
   tasks are performed, either directly or by others assigned to the
   tasks.  This encompasses at the very least the following:

   Ensuring the Research Group process and content management

      The Chair has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that a Research
      Group achieves forward progress.  For some  Research Groups, this
      can be accomplished by having the Chair perform all management-
      related activities.  In other  Research Groups -- particularly
      those with large or divisive participation -- it is helpful to
      allocate process and/or secretarial functions to other
      participants.  Process management pertains strictly to the style
      of Research Group interaction and not to its content.  The
      secretarial function encompasses preparation of minutes, and
      possibly editing of group-authored  documents.

   Moderate the Research Group email list

      The Chair should attempt to ensure that the discussions on this
      list are relevant and that not devolve to "flame" attacks or rat-
      hole into technical trivia.  The Chair should make sure that
      discussions on the list are summarized and that the outcome is
      well documented (to avoid repetition).

   Organize, prepare and chair face-to-face and on-line formal meetings

      The Chair should plan and announce meetings well in advance.  (See
      section on Meeting Planning for procedures.)

   Communicate results of meetings

      The Chair and/or Secretary must ensure that minutes of a meeting
      are taken.

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   Distribute the work

      It is expected that all Research Group participants will actively
      contribute to the work of the group. Research Group membership is
      expected to be a long term commitment by a set of motivated
      members of the research community.  Of course, at any given time
      more of the work is likely to be done by a few participants with
      particular interests, set of skills and ideas. It is the task of
      the Chair to motivate enough experts to allow for a fair
      distribution of the workload.

   Document development

      Research Groups produce documents and documents need authors.
      However, authorship of papers related to the work of a Research
      Group is one of the primary reasons that researchers become
      members, so finding motivated authors should not be a problem.

      It is up to the Research Group to decide the authorship of papers
      resulting from Research Group activities.  In particular,
      authorship by the entire group is not required.

   Document publication

      The Chair and/or Secretary will work with the RFC Editor to ensure
      documents to be published as RFCs conform with RFC publication
      requirements and to coordinate any editorial changes suggested by
      the RFC Editor.

5.4. Research Group Editor/Secretary

   Taking minutes and editing jointly-authored Research Group documents
   often is performed by a specifically-designated participant or set of


6.1. Meeting documents

   All relevant documents for a meeting (including the final agenda)
   should be published to the group mailing list and available at least
   two weeks before a meeting starts.

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   It is strongly suggested that the Research Group Chair make sure that
   an anonymous FTP directory or Web site be available for the upcoming
   meeting.  All relevant documents (including the final agenda and the
   minutes of the last meeting) should be placed in this directory.
   This has the advantage that all participants can retrieve all files
   in this directory and thus make sure they have all relevant
   documents. Also, it will be helpful to provide electronic mail-based
   retrieval for those documents.

6.2. Request For Comments (RFC)

   The work of an IRTF Research Group usually results in publication of
   research papers and other documents, as well as documents as part of
   the Informational or Experimental Request For Comments (RFCs) series
   [1].  This series is the archival publication record for the Internet
   community.  A document can be written by an individual in a Research
   Group, by a group as a whole with a designated Editor, or by others
   not involved with the IRTF.  The designated author(s) need not
   include the group Chair(s).

   NOTE: The RFC series is a publication mechanism only and publication
   does not determine the status of a document.  Status is determined
   through separate, explicit status labels.  In other words, the reader
   is reminded that all Internet Standards are published as RFCs, but
   NOT all RFCs specify standards.

   The RFC's authors are expected to work with the RFC Editor to meet
   all formatting, review and other requirements that the Editor may
   impose. Usually, in case of a submission intended as an Informational
   or Experimental RFC minimal review is necessary, although publication
   in the Experimental track generally requires IESG review.  However,
   in all cases initial publication as an Internet Draft is preferred.

   If the Research Group or the RFC Editor thinks that an extensive
   review is appropriate, the IRTF Chair may be asked to conduct one.
   This review may either be done by the IRTF Chair, the IRSG, or an
   independent reviewer selected by the IRTF Chair.  Occasionally,
   review by the IETF or IESG may be appropriate.

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   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.


   [1] Internet Architecture Board and Internet Engineering Steering
       Group, "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 2", RFC 1602,
       IAB, IESG, March 1994.  Soon to be replaced by "The Internet
       Standards Process -- Revision 3", Work in Progress.

   [2] Huizer, E. and D. Crocker, "IETF Working Group Guidelines and
       Procedures", RFC 1603, March 1994.


   Abel Weinrib
   Intel Corporation, MS JF2-74
   2111 NE 25th Ave.
   Hillsboro, OR 97124

   Phone:  503-264-8972
   EMail:  weinrib@intel.com

   Jon Postel
   USC - ISI, Suite 1001
   4676 Admiralty Way
   Marina del Rey, CA  90292-6695

   Phone: 310-822-1511
   EMail: postel@isi.edu

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