The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is changing its bylaws. Some of the changes are minor, to clarify current practices, and to comply with laws in California where SCB is incorporated.
But some changes are more substantive, so it is important that SCB members are aware of them and take the opportunity to make comments. The document that details the changes is available here.
If you are like me, you might find bylaws of scientific societies a little dull. But they are important, and it is also important that the members engage in discussions about the proposed changes. Effective functioning of SCB for us (its members and the discipline) and for the good of the planet requires that the bylaws are well considered by members.
I suspect many members will have limited time to read the document to find the substantive changes. Perhaps you didn’t even look at them? To assist you, in this post I have highlighted what I regard as the more substantive changes to help promote discussion.
The substantive proposed changes relate to:
- the primary duty of regional representatives;
- the role of the Governance Committee;
- a new Ecological Footprint Committee;
- removing the role of Editor in Chief in reviewing commissioned papers and policy statements; and
- removing committee reports, etc from the Annual Meeting.
I couldn’t help myself from making my own initial comments – see below. I will provide more considered input to the Governance Committee, with comments due by 9 May. Information on how to make comments and how they will be considered are in the review document.
I encourage others to think about these changes and send comments to the Governance Committee – get involved in your Society and how it operates. You can also add comments to this post.
Page 12. ARTICLE 8. DUTIES OF OFFICERS – Section 6. Representatives of Regional Sections
The change notes that representatives of regional sections have a primary duty to the Society as a whole rather than to regional affiliation. How should this be balanced with representing the interests of the regional sections? That is unclear to me.
Page 15. ARTICLE 12. STANDING COMMITTEES – SECTION 4. Charges of the Governance Committee
The role of the Governance Committee will be expanded to include a role in reviewing the Society’s governance structure and evaluate the functioning of the Society’s Board of Governors and committees.
The document does not indicate the reason for this change, but keeping an eye on how to improve the administration of the Society seems wise. But hands up who likes being reviewed? The answer is usually “It can be helpful – so long as it is not too often.” But “too often” for some can be “not often enough” for others.
Page 20. ARTICLE 12. STANDING COMMITTEES – SECTION 13. Charges of the Ecological Footprint Committee
This is an addition to the bylaws, establishing the ecological footprint committee. The proposed addition is:
”The Ecological Footprint Committee shall:
(a) work with Society staff to estimate the Society’s ecological footprint and produce an Annual Report with recommendations to reduce or improve such impacts,
(b) identify suitable projects that generate carbon dioxide reductions and make recommendations to purchase carbon offset rights through formal agreements to offset the greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental effects of the Society that cannot practicably be reduced.
(c) disseminate information on these efforts through a variety of outlets.”
This seems like a good idea. I’m not 100% sure about the wording. For example, (b) has a large focus on carbon dioxide, but it would seem better focused on all anthropogenic greenhouse gases. And “Ecological Footprint” seems like unnecessary jargon to me. Why not name it the Environmental Management Committee? Regardless of the semantics, this seems like a good initiative. Do any other scientific societies have similar committees? How do they operate?
Page 23. ARTICLE 15. COMMISSIONED PAPERS AND POLICY STATEMENTS – SECTION 2. Formal Commissioned Statements.
It is proposed that papers and policy statements commissioned by the Board of Governors will be considered by the Society’s policy committee and Board of Governors and then published in Conservation Biology, specifically removing any role of the Editor in Chief in determining suitability.
The extent of the change seems more than “Clarification”, which is the only reason given in the review document.
Is anyone aware of similar cases where the editor of a journal has no role in determining the publication of some content in that journal? This change seems inconsistent with ARTICLE 14 that states “The Board of Editors is responsible for the selection and editing of papers for publication in Conservation Biology”.
Edit: The proposed change to the bylaw states that policy statements would be sent to the journal for “expedited review”, and then publication. The role of the Editor in Chief or Board of Editors in this review process is unclear. Who runs the review process and how does it operate?
Declaration: I am an Associate Editor for Conservation Biology, so I might have a tendency to be more sensitive about this change than other members.
Page 30. ARTICLE 21. ORDER OF BUSINESS
Reports from the journal Editors, standing committees, Regional Sections, and ad hoc committees will no longer be considered at General Members’ Meetings. The reason for this is not provided. Sure, such reports can be a bit dull. They can contribute to long, and perhaps tedious, annual meetings, but reporting activities to members seems important to me. Perhaps written reports of activities could be circulated to members prior to the meeting, and members could ask questions at the meeting. I’d guess that has been considered, perhaps even attempted. How many members would read the reports? How to engage members in this?
Finally, I saw a couple of typos:
There should be no apostrophe in “Representatives of Regional Sections will be the Presidents of the sections” within ARTICLE 8. DUTIES OF OFFICERS – Section 6. Representatives of Regional Sections.
In ARTICLE 19. MEETINGS – Section 1. General Members’ Meetings, “may” is deleted, but something needs to replace it: “Shall”? “Will”?