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Message from the Secretary

Penny M. Hopkins

There is a Chinese saying that asserts, "May you live in interesting times!" I have belonged to SICB (TSFKAASZ - Thanks, Tom) for more than 30 years, and there are more interesting changes occurring in the society at this time than during any time that I can remember.

The most conspicuous change in the society is the switch to electronic communication formats. We can now register for Annual Meetings, pay our annual dues, submit abstracts, gain access to the Annual Meeting program and read the newsletter electronically. This may seem to some as a mixed blessing, but in the long run these electronic advances will enhance our communication with all members. We have a new Web meister, Ruediger Birenheide, who is currently rebuilding and rewriting the entire SICB Web site. He wants to survey the membership to find out what attributes are important to our members and he hopes to introduce several new features. If you would like to have some input into the new Web site, please take the time to log on and participate in his survey at http://daphne.bio.uci.edu/survey.php3.

We are still uncertain about the general membership reaction to the electronic newsletter. The various divisions were asked to discuss this format at the Atlanta meeting. The feedback was mixed - no clear preference for electronic or printed newsletters emerged from those discussions. The printed newsletter costs SICB about $30,000 per year. If we convert to an exclusively electronic newsletter, the money used for printing could be used for other SICB programs. There are, however, members of the society who prefer to read from a printed page and may not have the predilection to print the newsletter in its entirety from the computer. Clearly, we do not want to exclude any of our members from the news of the society. I would like very much to get your feedback about the electronic format. Please feel free to e-mail me at phopkins@ou.edu with your comments, suggestions or just general feelings about the electronic newsletter. The society and I appreciate your input.

Other new and exciting changes that are in various stages of development include changes in the strategic plan for the society and an online member directory. Last summer, members of the SICB Executive Committee met to set goals and priorities for the coming years. Some of the most important priorities include increasing the size of SICB, renewing the educational goal of the society, enhancing the electronic presence of the society and reducing the membership costs. Look for important developments in these areas in the coming months.

One of the more interesting changes proposed by the Executive Committee is the Program Innovation Fund. This fund will be used to support new ideas for symposia and other activities that will help to bring more people to the Annual Meeting and to help our current membership have a more meaningful experience at the meeting. If you have ideas or proposals for new programs, please let Program Officer John Pearse hear from you at pearse@darwin.ucsc.edu.

Finally, one of the biggest changes and one that will potentially impact every aspect of the society is the change in the management of our national office. As you may (or may not) have known, for almost 10 years the management of SICB has been in the capable hands of Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc. (SBA) of Chicago. SBA took our rather unstable society and guided us onto safe financial ground at a time when the ground beneath our feet seemed to be literally shaking. We all owe a great deal of gratitude to SBA for their help and guidance during the unsure years of the '90s. The new management company, Burk and Associates, Inc. (BAI), will begin management of SICB this year. I want to thank Christine Bennett of SBA who has directed and edited the newsletter over the past few years. She has guided the transition of the newsletter from printed to electronic format with a grace and talent that is enviable and commendable. We thank her for her hard work and efforts. Also, I would like to personally thank Tom Wolcott, my predecessor in this office, for his guidance and help in the transition. Good luck, Tom, in your research and in your - now - ample free time. You have left a pair of clown shoes that will be hard to fill.