Job ads

Want to advertise your jobs on this page and on the ABSW's members only mailing list?

Details here...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

New dawn breaks over Dana

Ted Nield, Chair, ABSW reports on last night’s Committee meeting

Last night your Executive Committee met at the sign of the squashed blueberry – otherwise known as the headquarters of our friends the “British Science Association” (yes, yes, you know who they are) at the Dana Centre. At a previous meeting the Committee decided the Chair should communicate the highlights of its evening conflabs using the new tools of communication now at our demand - and so this is it.

The first piece of news is that I am going. (No, nothing to do with having to write these reports.) With great pleasure, I announced to the Committee that Natasha Loder (of The Economist) had agreed to take on the role of Chair. Moreover, we have agreed on an “orderly handover” during the World Conference of Science Journalists this summer - to which of course you must all come (Click the ad to the right and register NOW!). Natasha will then stand for election along with the rest of the Committee in the usual way at the 2010 AGM.

I am particularly delighted to have been able to find someone so young, able and energetic to take on this role. Natasha and I have served together on the committee before, and she has recently re-joined us as World Conference Liaison Officer. Handing over to her early at the World Conference will not only allow me to avoid remaining in post for an unconstitutionally long period; it will allow her to use the momentum of that great event to give impetus to an agenda for change – change that the Association must adopt if it is to survive in this rapidly shifting world of science communication. Natasha will be consulting widely with your newly reinvigorated Committee about what form those changes should take; but you can take it from me that she does not want for ideas, nor the commitment to see them through.

I was also able to introduce yet another new member of the Committee, Ian Adamson. Ian is a mathematics Masters student from Kings College, and as a staunch supporter of last year’s Briefing sessions, has agreed to take over from me as their organiser for 2009. The Committee welcomed him and decided to begin a consultation with you all about what topics might be covered in the coming year. Committee member Mun-Keat Looi has already initiated this discussion on our lists. Part of what we wish to achieve in the future is greater regionality, so Committee member Chrissie Giles has agreed to take on the role as Regional Groups Coordinator on the Committee.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Lincolns Inn Fields has generously offered to host the briefings next year, replacing an identical sponsorship deal that we enjoyed last year from the Geological Society of London. We are very grateful to them for the free use of their rooms, and to the RCS’s Jane Hughes, whose initiative this was.

Free briefings

The Committee also accepted my proposal that in the coming session Briefings should be free. We introduced charges at a time when the Association’s finances were at a very low ebb indeed, and we couldn’t afford for any of our activities to be on the wrong side of the balance sheet. Now, thanks to you for paying your dues (and for sterling work by Jacob Aron in combing through our membership database and writing to those who had forgotten or paid the wrong amount) the time has come to relax this condition in order to welcome more colleagues to these excellent networking events. As Committee member Wendy Grossman said “The best thing the ABSW can offer its members is each other”.

So for that reason, non-members will still be charged (or asked to join!).

Awards 2009

The Committee accepted a proposal (from Natasha Loder and Committee member Sunny Bains) to offer a measure of membership involvement in one of the two ABSW Awards that will be on offer this year. Members will be aware that we were unable once again to raise sponsorship for our long-standing awards, and it seems increasingly likely that in the future we shall have to run them quite differently from the way we did them in the past. However, to keep the brand alive, this summer at the World Conference we shall be offering two awards only – a Lifetime Achievement Award (which is in the gift of the Committee) and a Best Newcomer Award, which will be open to online nominations. Watch out for further instructions soon from Natasha and Sunny.

Golden shower

We discussed much besides, and many people were thanked for their continuing work; but these are not the minutes! However, for those eagerly awaiting it, I should report that progress on the design and implementation of the Association’s new website (being developed by Committee member Mike Nagle) has now resumed. There was a slight hold-up when Mike’s brand new laptop “went for a swim” (in lager, apparently – and not Mike’s either) and had to be dried out.

One last thing. Since I became Chair, leading your Committee’s efforts to save and raise money and to put the Association’s accounts onto a more professional basis, has been your Treasurer, Martin Ince. Like me, he has also announced his intention to step down this year. (Actually, constitutionally I didn’t have a choice; but treasurers can go on forever, because it’s so difficult to find them.) If you are not frightened by figures and can hold your nerve in a crisis, Martin would like to hear from you.

Ted Nield