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Message from the President

Martin E. Feder

I have only good news to report. Our Annual Meeting in Atlanta was a great success, both in numbers (10 percent larger than the previous year's meeting) and in content. Two articles in Science and one in Nature featured accounts of the meeting. A highlight of the meeting was the inauguration of the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, which brought an international array of scientists to Atlanta. At the meeting, Treasurer Kimberly Smith reported that the total balance in SICB's checkbook now exceeds $1,000,000. Our total membership now exceeds 2,200, or more than 10 percent higher than its bottom during the 1990s. From this position of scientific, numerical and financial strength, SICB is able to take actions to guarantee its long-term future and to consolidate its position as the leading scientific society in integrative and comparative biology. Indeed, the SICB Executive Committee has approved several significant investments in SICB's future. Among others, these include:

  • There will be NO abstract fees for the 2001 Annual Meeting in Chicago.
  • The early payment membership dues rate for full members will be decreased by 10 percent for the 2001 fiscal year.
  • A special $25,000 Program Innovation Fund will be used to underwrite new elements in our Annual Meeting program for the 2001 Annual Meeting in Chicago. SICB will also waive registration fees for all symposium participants.
  • The SICB Web site will be largely reconfigured by mid-2000, with a variety of new features to benefit SICB members and their scientific and educational activities.
  • Clearly, it has been a long haul since the crises of the early 1990s. Many members, officers and Business Office personnel have worked extremely hard to extricate SICB from these crises, and the current membership owes them all a considerable debt of gratitude. We have now put this crisis entirely behind us and it's time to look to the future.

One change that will already have taken place by the time you read this is that the SICB Business Office will have moved from Chicago to Virginia. SICB will miss its association with Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc. (SBA) in Chicago, and I'd like to acknowledge some of its contributions. The management team assembled by Laura Jungen was instrumental in discovering the financial crisis of the early 1990s, formulating a solution and standing behind our society when it had few assets. Peter Studney, Laura's successor, brought us out of the 1990s in our present robust condition. Our spectacular meetings of recent years have been largely due to the support of Convention Manager Wilma Salvatore. Those of you who have had the privilege of discovering Wilma's unique personality will miss her greatly. We'll also miss Susan Heckman and Janice Nason, who operated the office so cheerfully and responsively, and Christine Bennett, who edited this newsletter.

Our new management company, Burk and Associates Incorporated (BAI), is very much a family affair. Dick Burk founded the company more than 26 years ago. His wife Sue is the meetings director, and his son Brett is our executive director [lest concerns arise, let me assure you that Brett's daughter, age 6, is already working at Annual Meetings.] Brett himself is a lapsed graduate student (in anthropology) and so ought to have excellent intuition regarding the wants and needs of our student members. BAI will offer us considerable savings over the management fees paid to SBA. But BAI is NOT a cut-rate organization when service is concerned. BAI manages approximately eight other life science organizations, and we contacted each of these while considering BAI's bid. All of these organizations were extraordinarily enthusiastic about BAI. As Nick [Humphrey Bogart] says at the end of the movie Casablanca, "...I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Undoubtedly, there will be glitches associated with making this transition. When these occur, please do not suffer in silence, but instead contact BAI and/or me.

As I wrote above, SICB must now take actions to guarantee its long-term future and to consolidate its position as the leading scientific society in integrative and comparative biology. Some of these actions must involve recruiting new full members; let me explain why. SICB is blessed with a large number of student members, which represent our future. For the present, however, our student members are a large number of 'hungry mouths to feed.' For its student members, SICB underwrites much of the cost of providing American Zoologist, other member benefits and registration at the meeting. It provides free sleeping rooms at the meeting to every qualifying student who requests aid. SICB can continue to provide these benefits only if the number of full members is large enough and if enough full registrants attend the Annual Meeting. It is largely in hopes of recruiting many additional full members that we are taking the actions described above, including reducing full member dues, eliminating abstract fees and investing in program innovations at the Annual Meeting. This means that additional full members will need to join SICB and come to our Annual Meeting. If they do not, we will have to reinstate abstract fees, higher dues and higher registration rates and spend less on programs. SICB will soon mount a number of initiatives to recruit additional full members, including a focus on those members who left the society during the crises of the 1990s. But SICB needs YOU to play your part by recruiting full members. Again, if we are not successful, we will need to raise prices and cut benefits, which nobody wants.

Other actions include improving our Annual Meeting and our journal, so that more people will want to be a part of SICB. You'll hear more about plans for this, including an improved Web site, an electronic American Zoologist and expanded meetings, as these plans develop. SICB needs your help in two ways. First, we need your ideas on program innovations that will bring more people to the Annual Meeting. The Executive Committee has already made $25,000 available to implement these ideas, and more could be made available. If you have ideas, please communicate them to your divisional program officer, the society program officer (John Pearse) and the chair of the Program Advisory Committee (Bob Dores). Bob's committee will advise us on disbursement of funds, so it's a good idea to contact him. Second, we need your input to an electronic survey being conducted on the SICB Web site. I know that many (myself included) hate surveys, so as an inducement we've included one item on which every SICB member has a strong opinion: THE TIMING OF THE ANNUAL MEETING!! Although it's tough to promise anything in the abstract, let's see if there is a consensus for another meeting time.

Thanks again for your support of SICB, and I look forward to welcoming you to Chicago for our 2001 meeting.