This post contributed by Richard Pouyat, ESA Vice President for Public Affairs from 2005 – 2008
The purpose of an ESA Section as described on the ESA website is to “. . . promote the various special interests of the Membership. Activities are intended to encourage research, exchange ideas, and facilitate communication between ecologists with similar disciplinary interests.” In recent years the Society’s sections have expanded in scope and now reach beyond a scientific discipline. Newer sections include Education, Environmental Justice, International Affairs, and Student. These broader topical sections have become very popular with the membership (Education: 362, Environmental Justice: 76, International Affairs: 70, and Student: 574). Moreover, this new expanded view of sections has helped the Society meet an important goal—namely to encourage its diverse community of members to become more involved in their Society. Without a doubt, the newest sections have become a way for individuals to become involved in issues or with other ecologists that go beyond the disciplines that make up ecological science. They bring together like-minded members who wish to expand the relevance of ecology beyond ecologists.
The Society’s newest addition is the Policy Section, spurred by the leadership of former ESA Vice Presidents of Public Affairs Richard Pouyat, Laura Huenneke, Alison Power, Timothy Schowalter, Ann Bartuska and Anthony Janetos. Their goal—and that of the over 50 ESA members who added their names to the petition to propose the new section—is to strengthen the intersection of ecological science and public policy.
Specifically, the Section proposes to:
(1) foster interaction among ecologists who have worked or currently work in policy positions, or have the desire to communicate with members who have public policy experience
(2) form a database of members who have policy experience that can be utilized by the Governing Board, ESA sections and chapters, Public Affairs, Science, and Education Offices, and standing ESA committees
(3) facilitate collaborative links among members through symposia, organized oral sessions, special sessions, and social events in Washington DC and regionally; and
(4) work with the Society’s Public Affairs Office to facilitate the participation of students in training exercises and one-on-one interactions with policy makers.
The Policy Section was initiated based on the realization that a significant number of ESA members have or continue to work in some capacity on public policy at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), on Capitol Hill, and with federal agencies. As a group these members represent an invaluable resource to ESA. In addition, there has been a growing desire by many ecologists to engage in relevant policy issues in their local communities and the Policy Section provides a home for these members. This newest ESA Section offers an opportunity that goes beyond the Annual Meeting and the journals published by the Society to communicate and exchange ideas to more effectively integrate science and the making of public policy.
It will hold its inaugural meeting at the upcoming ESA Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, and all interested members are invited to attend. Some early ideas have already been proposed including coordinating with ESA’s Public Affairs Office, networking events in Washington, DC, developing or sponsoring symposia and organized oral sessions on science and policy, and developing a database of members with policy experience. If you will be at the annual meeting, please join us over refreshments on Monday, August 8 from 6:30-8:00 PM in Room 1, of the Austin Convention Center. Or let us know now what you think now via the comment section of this blog!