November 2008

Minutes of the ESA Governing Board 
November 18-19, 2008 
Washington , DC

Members Present: Sunny Power (President), Mary Power (President-Elect), Norm Christensen (Past-President), Laura Huenneke (VP for Public Affairs), Meg Lowman (VP for Education and Human Resources), Bill Parton (VP for Finance), David Inouye (Secretary), Josh Schimel (Member-at-Large), Emily Stanley (Member-at-Large), Ann Kinzig (Member-at-Large). Rob Jackson (VP for Science) arrives at lunch.

Staff Present:
Katherine McCarter (Executive Director), Cliff Duke (Director of Science), Elizabeth Biggs (Director of Finance), Sue Silver (Editor), Teresa Mourad (Director of Education), Nadine Lymn (Director of Public Affairs), Ramona Crawford (Development), David Baldwin (Publications).

Tuesday 18 November 2007. 9:05 meeting is called to order.

I. Roll Call & Agenda

  • The Governing Board unanimously adopted the proposed agenda.
  • The minutes from 2, 3, and 8 August 2008 were unanimously adopted.

II. Reports

  • Report of President Power
  • “I made it through the first three months of presidency!”.
  • During Board orientation yesterday, there was discussion about one issue President Power would like to pursue:  understanding the demographics of our membership, which has implications for attendance at the annual meeting (e.g., many people only come to one, and don’t return), fund raising, etc.
  • There will be an effort (led by Public Affairs) to share information with the new Obama administration about what the ESA considers to be priorities for actions related to ecological issues. 
  • David Baldwin points out that the ESA doesn’t have an official policy on privacy of personal information (such as the database of membership information).
  • Report of Executive Director McCarter and the Office Staff
  • INTECOL has declined the ESA’s bid to serve as secretariat.
  • British Ecological Society and ESA are combining their archives in JSTOR so that members of either society will have access to both sets of journals.
  • The agreement with CAPES, a Brazilian consortium, for distributing ESA journals, is close to completion.
  • Membership has dropped a little (9,971), as expected with the lower attendance at the Milwaukee annual meeting, but library subscriptions are essentially unchanged. 17% of the membership is from outside the USA. 
  • Development: Ramona hopes to increase the % of members who contribute to the Society (6.4% now). A mailing has been sent to about 250 potential SEEDS donors. The Development Committee membership will be updated soon. Ramona will ask Board members to help screen potential donors from the Consultative Group on Biodiversity.
  • Frontiers is getting more papers, more proposals for special issues (only 2 a year), and more letters (which as of next year will be put online as there is no longer enough room in the journal). As of December, issues to US addresses will not have a plastic mailing envelope (they are required for international addresses). 
  • Science: The biofuels conference and workshop are still having active outcomes, including publications.
  • Public Affairs Office: Opening plenary speaker for 2009 meeting has been chosen: Sandra Postel (Global Water Policy Project).  Many issues have been brought to the PAO (e.g., Asian oyster introduction to the Chesapeake Bay).  ESA is joining several other societies for a January congressional briefing on the science of climate change. PAO has helped with policy training for other organizations, and Nadine will join an AIBS colleague to help train young faculty at University of New Mexico this winter.  ESA will collaborate with NEON to lead a field trip for congressional staffers to the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Research Center (near Front Royal, VA, and outside the 35-mile radius within which some activities for congressional staff are restricted).
  • Publications: Society journals are doing well in terms of submissions, time to publication, and the new Web site, but there is a growing backlog of papers awaiting publication (editors were asked to help by increasing the rejection rate).
  • Education: The workshop about NEON sponsored by NSF for faculty education (development workshop on continental-scale ecology for faculty from undergraduate institutions) was very successful (Liz Blood from NSF was very pleased).  ESA has begun collaborating with a group focusing on ocean science education.  There are now 50 SEEDS chapters, and the program is growing, but there is only about one year of Mellon funding left. It would be nice to have more followup with SEEDS graduates to facilitate their entry into relevant employment.
  • Report of Vice President for Finance Parton 10:55 AM
    • First Quarter Financials (McCarter)

The budget is in good shape at present, but there is a lot of uncertainty about how the current economic situation will affect the Society, in terms of membership, subscriptions, and attendance at the annual meeting. Staff will monitor the revenue and expenses closely to detect any trends.

    • Investment Update (Parton)

Our investment portfolio has lost $162,000 since the beginning of the year (a 13% reduction in our portfolio).  The portfolio is 60% equity, 40% bonds.

III. Discussion / Action Items 11:15 AM

  • Ethics Complaint. 

Chair Pat Flebbe of the Professional Ethics and Appeals Committee joined the meeting by speaker phone and gave a brief summary of the history of the complaint filed by an ESA member concerning a paper published in an ESA journal.  The Board greatly appreciates the efforts of the Committee in investigating this case and making recommendations, and President Power will contact the parties involved to communicate the sense of the Board about this issue.

  • Presidential Centennial Committee (Christensen)

Christensen was asked by the Board to suggest names for a committee that would help to plan events related to the Society’s centennial celebration in 2015. Existing committees will also play significant roles, including the Historical Records Committee, Future Meetings Committee, Program Committee, the Publications Committee, and the Governing Board.  Older ESA members who have observed a significant part of the Society’s history might be appropriate members of the new committee.  We should ask all the ESA committees to think about how they might be involved in the celebration, including both celebrating the history and looking toward the future.  Ideas are proposed such as:  reviving the Ecological Classics column in the Bulletin, publishing similar papers with historical insights into significant ecological papers, developing an ecology-related board game (maybe reviving Steve Hubbell’s successful Extinction game, or an ecology-related version of Monopoly). 

  • Studies involving ESA members (President Power)

We have no official policy about collection of data from or ESA members, such as making the membership names and addresses available for surveys conducted by others on behalf of ESA, and archiving the original data collected from member surveys.  The data behind the original WAMIE study, for example, seem to be lost.  Some aspects of this issue will be addressed by the new privacy policy that will be drafted by Katherine and her staff.  A new data policy was adopted: “Whenever possible, and consistent with any IRB regulations imposed on the person or persons conducting the survey, data from surveys on behalf of ESA and involving ESA members shall be the property of the Society.”

  • Vegetation Panel (Jackson/Duke)

Since its original appointment in 1995 this has been a committee with successive three- or five-year appointments, and the current term ends 31 December, 2008. Jackson suggests that this be changed to make the panel a permanent standing committee.
A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board supports extending the Vegetation Panel for an additional three-year term, and requests that the Council consider at the 2009 annual meeting a proposal to establish the Vegetation Panel as a permanent standing committee. 

  • Millennium Conference Series (Duke) 2:03 PM

The Science Office proposes a process and timetable for future ESA Millennium Conferences:  A call for proposals will be announced in early September two years before the target year, with proposals due by end of October. The Past-President will convene an ad-hoc committee of five to seven members to review proposals, and a winning proposal will be announced by early December. VP for Science will serve as an ex officio member of the organizing committee.  
A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the proposal from the Science Office for a process and timetable for future ESA Millennium Conferences.

  • Principles for Involvement in Extramural Programs (Duke)

The Board is presented with a Draft Principles for ESA Involvement in Extramural Programs (revised from the July 2008 version). 
A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the proposed Principles for ESA Involvement in Extramural Programs, dated October 2008.

  • TIEE

TIEE has been supported by ESA since 2004, hosting this peer-reviewed electronic publication and providing services of the ESA Education Coordinator.  NSF funding for this publication is ending, and Dr. Charlene D’Avanzo, who has led the effort to date, has asked ESA to assume responsibility for TIEE. The Publications Committee has prepared a report, which is presented to the Board.

A survey of members of the ESA Education Section (N=71 responses) found high support for TIEE. Estimated cost of maintaining TIEE is $27,000/yr (primarily Education office staff time, Webmaster time), but this may be an underestimate given the previous grant-funded budget.  There is one issue per year, with a significant number of pages; the 2008 issue is close to completion.  The Education and Human Resources Committee would need to be involved (one of Teresa’s staff members is essentially the managing editor at present), as would Publications (whose membership would have to be changed to reflect the new responsibility).

The Board consensus is that TIEE has been a valuable contribution to the ecological education community, but there are still some questions about the financial model and how the transition to ESA would be accomplished. Liz Biggs and Katherine will try to confirm the estimate for an operating budget for continuing TIEE, and the Publications Committee is asked to provide more detail on what should TIEE look like if it became one of our flagship publications, including the balance of pedagogy versus lab experiments, the identity of the journal’s closest competitors, and any ways in which the peer-review process may need to change to make it consistent with ESA practices. 

  • Site Selection 2013/2015  3:30 PM

Kiyoko Miyanishi, Chair of Meetings Committee, joined the meeting by conference phone.  Both Minneapolis and Baltimore are good options, but because of potentially easier media access, she recommends Baltimore for 2015 (the centennial meeting), and Minneapolis for 2013, and the Board concurs. Minneapolis and Fort Lauderdale are offering free use of their convention centers, and ESA hasn’t met in Florida for several decades. Fort Lauderdale is a possibility for a meeting after 2015. 

  • Program Chair 2011 (Christensen) 3:56 PM

Norma Fowler will be local host at the Austin meeting. Sharon Strauss (UC Davis) is considering the invitation to be Program Chair and Norm has another person in mind if she declines. 

  • Broader Environmental Impacts for ESA Annual Meetings (Huenneke)

ESA includes in the cost of annual meeting registration an amount to be used to offset environmental impacts of the meeting.  The Local Host Committee was asked to recommend local organizations or projects to support and the Public Affairs Committee was asked to make a recommendation for national and international organizations/projects to which ESA can contribute.  The Public Affairs Committee did not have the opportunity to discuss this request and will do so at their upcoming meeting and make a recommendation in time for the May Governing Board meeting.  The Local Host Committee will make a recommendation at that meeting as well.  Broader impacts beyond the greenhouse gas emissions of travel, including those related to habitat destruction, introduced species, and the spread of human disease could be addressed, and an effort could be made to tailor the focus to local issues (e.g. focus on water at the Albuquerque meeting).

  • 2010 Annual Meeting Theme 4:10 PM

Frank Gilliam is the Program Chair for the 2010 meeting in Pittsburgh, and has proposed “Global warming: The legacy of our past, the challenge for our future” as a meeting theme. 
A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the proposed theme for the 2010 meeting.

  • Ecological Monographs

The Publications Committee was asked to discuss several suggestions related to Ecological Monographs that grew out of the report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Publications and in conversations with Don Strong, Editor in Chief of EM.  The Committee recommends that the name of the journal should not be changed, that Associate Editor Aaron Ellison be named Editor in Chief of Ecological Monographs, and that he be paid $5,000 for this responsibility 
A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board supports these recommendations for changes in Ecological Monographs, to appoint Aaron Ellison as Editor in Chief with an initial term through December 2011, and offer him compensation of $5,000 per year

November 19, 2008
Executive Session 8:30 AM

  • Public Affairs Program Review (Huenneke/Lymn) 9:36 AM

ESA’s Public Affairs Committee dates back to 1954.  In the early 1980s a Public Affairs Office was established, which developed the Ecological Information Network, an ESA Newsletter and facilitated a Biotech Hill briefing.  Interactions tended to focus on collaborating with environmental policy and advocacy groups. The 1990s saw a shift to a facilitator role, press operations began, and there was ESA testimony on wetland issues.  There was a focus on science funding, the Public Affairs Officer position was created, communications training and policy sessions were instituted, the first ESA Congressional Fellow and Congressional Visits Day were initiated, as were press releases about papers appearing in ESA journals.  A half-time education position was also funded within the PA office.  ESA sponsored its first booth on the annual Hill science exhibition, and on average three Hill briefings were held each year.  Since 2000 the education position has become full-time and independent of the PA Office.  There are now about 20 Hill and Executive Branch meetings/yr, a Policy Analyst position was created, a second ESA Congressional Fellow was appointed, ESA sends about 10 letters/statements per year, and international media coverage has increased. 

The PA Committee has originated a number of initiatives for the Society, such as ESA position papers, the ESA Corporate Award, the Opening Plenary at the Annual Meeting, community outreach efforts, hosting policy staff at the Annual Meeting, and development of the Regional Policy Award.

The mission of the PA office now is to work with media to convey ecological knowledge, inform national environmental and science policy, and foster federal support for ecological research and education.  Media outreach efforts include press releases, the press room at the Annual Meeting, creating podcasts, connecting media to ESA members, writing op-ed pieces, and communications and policy training sessions at the Annual Meeting.  Samples of the podcasts were played for the Board.

The current portfolio for the PAO related to federal support of ecological research and education includes budget analysis, congressional visits, the annual Hill exhibition about research and education projects funded by NSF, and working with coalitions that focus on different federal agencies of relevance to ecologists. Congressional visits to support funding for all federal agencies that fund ecological research are an important activity that has involved members ranging from graduate students to senior Society leaders. The environmental and science policy part of the portfolio includes conducting (or partnering) in Congressional briefings, field trips for Hill staff, press releases, writing statements (e.g., the recent biofuels statement) and letters (10-12/yr, e.g., the letter from President Power to the Bush administration about proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act), targeted hill meetings (smaller groups than briefings), and creating and supporting the Rapid Response Teams. 

Engagement with ESA members includes sending the bimonthly Policy News, the communication training at the Annual Meeting, PAC-sponsored sessions at the Annual Meeting, and the membership of the Public Affairs Committee.

Looking ahead:  PAC wants to:

  • Continue to interact with EHRC and Science committees, and with “Issues in Ecology”. 
  • Encourage regional rapid response teams; explore “toolkits” for members engaged in local or regional policy issues.
  • Evaluate the 2007 member policy survey
  • Recognize the new threshold of member expectations (e.g., those making visits to D.C. who want help arranging meetings with legislators)
  • Keep ESA’s reputation intact – play to strengths of being the world’s largest society of ecological scientists.

There may be additional ways to take advantage of the Annual Meeting, e.g., in terms of regional efforts related to the local region. 
It would be a good idea to remind the membership of the availability of the ESA Policy News listserv (ESANEWS).

  • Bioenergy Policy Paper Proposal 11:03 AM

ESA member Dennis Ojima has proposed development of an ESA Policy Paper “Bioenergy: Options for Decision-making”.  The intended audience for policy papers includes federal agencies, Congress, and the media.  A two-day meeting is requested, with a budget of $9,000 + publication costs (unspecified).

Concern was expressed about the feasibility of addressing this broad topic in a two-day meeting with a relatively small pool of participants.  It might be more appropriate to do something on the scale of an NCEAS workshop.  It’s also uncertain how much this effort would add at this point to the recent activity by the Society on biofuels. Although this is an issue that ESA should continue to be involved in, this particular proposal may be premature given the state of our understanding of the biofuels issue, and not well enough focused.  VP for Public Affairs Hunneke will respond to the proposal and encourage a potential future resubmission. 

  • Long-Range Planning Process (President Power) 11:25 AM

A proposal is presented for a continuous long-range planning process that will incorporate the current Program Reviews and Mid-Term Program Reviews. These operational-level reviews seem to be achieving the goal of adaptive management at the program level, but we need to make sure that a broader perspective on ESA priorities is also being addressed. The Board agreed that time beyond the normal semi-annual meeting is needed, and scheduled an extra day for the May meeting for this long-range planning.  Suggestions were made for a possible facilitator for this meeting.

  • Corporate Award

There is some risk in this award, in terms of public relations, but it is an opportunity to try and move industry toward more beneficial ecological activities by recognizing a corporation’s activities and holding them up as a role model.  Receipt of this award has not had an effect on corporate giving to the Society, and we have no information about how it may have affected corporate behavior.  Given the apparent cost/benefit ratio of this award, the consensus is that we should not give the award this year and should re-think the reasoning behind the award as part of our long-range planning. This could be considered as part of an outreach effort to a non-academic, private sector audience. 

  • May Meeting Dates

The May meeting is scheduled for 18-20 May 2009, with the first day to be devoted to a long-term strategic planning process.

  • New Business

No new business.

Meeting is adjourned at 12:16 PM. 

Submitted by David W. Inouye, Secretary