Message from the President
Time flies. My
two-year term as president is all but over. Not that I’m broken up
about that, but it is startling how fast the time has transpired.
Looking back I can see that lots of good things have happened with
great meetings in Phoenix and San Antonio, and the promise of another
in Boston. We seemed to have really nailed down our meetings through
the hard work and conscientious treatment by our program officers and
symposium organizers, as well as the care provided by Sue Burk, Lori
Strong, and their staff at Burk & Associates, Inc. The meeting
in Boston will be the largest we’ve seen in a very long time,
packed with talks, posters, symposia, and workshops.
Integrative and Comparative Biology, also is thriving. For
the second year in a row, all the papers resulting from our
meeting last January will have appeared in 6 evenly-sized issues
published between July and December of the same year. In addition,
our editor, Hal Heatwole, has added timely book reviews to each
issue. All of these articles are sent to you now by e-mail as soon
they are ready, and then put together as issues in print form. I
trust you have all enjoyed the stunning cover photos. The Panther
Chameleon peering out of the October issue is particularly striking.
While doing so well,
our journal is also mid-way through our 5-year publishing contract
with Oxford University Press. Accordingly, I have appointed a
5-person committee, chaired by Chuck Booth, to review every aspect of
our journal. They are charged to submit a report to President
Satterlie and the Executive Committee for the 2010 meeting in
Seattle. If you have any suggestions for the committee to consider,
please send them to Chuck (firstname.lastname@example.org);
however, a survey including questions about the journal will be sent
to the membership in the spring.
As you can read in Ron
Dimock’s Treasurer’s Report in this newsletter, the Society
continues to be in good shape financially. However, the financial
decline worldwide is hitting us too. Ron and our Executive Director,
Brett Burk, have worked closely with our financial advisor, Matthew
Tederick, to protect our investments. We remain in a good position
to take advantage of conditions when the market recovers.
On the other hand, of
more immediate concern, because we need to deal with it ourselves, is
the substantial deficit we see at the end of each fiscal year. Now
that our budget is on a fiscal rather than calendar year, and we can
budget the meeting well before it occurs, we have more control. And
we can see better where all the money goes. Clearly, we need to
achieve a balanced budget. To do this, the Finance Committee, on
which I serve, have taken steps both to increase our income and
reduce our expenditures. Ron presents these actions in his
Treasurer’s Report. I ask for your understanding and welcome any
suggestions that can help us achieve a balanced budget.
Of course, bringing in
more funds from outside sources is a first goal. Our Development
Committee under Tom Daniels is following promising leads, especially
for our 2010 meeting in Seattle.
In another welcome
development, Gunter Wagner, on his own, facilitated an arrangement
with Wiley publishers, who will begin to cover the costs of all the
student best-paper awards, as well as give the awardees 1-year
subscriptions to journals appropriate to each division. Of course,
this arrangement gives Wiley recognition as well, but it is mutually
beneficial and a nice model for collaboration. We expect the
arrangement to be finalized soon so that it can begin in Boston.
Thank you, Gunter.
The person who has
worked hardest on behalf of the Society during my tenure is our
Secretary, Lou Burnett. As I mentioned in earlier newsletters, he
took on completely recasting our website with our gifted webmaster,
Ruedi Birenheide, and together they turned it into an informative and
attractive site, intuitively easy to use. And of course, such work
is never ending; he and Ruedi continually update and improve the
Lou also has been
tireless in seeing that we all follow the constitution and bylaws,
the latter not just of the Society but of the 11 separate and
distinct Divisions. No small endeavor, as each Division has its own
cast of officers, who (as might be expected of scientists) are all
very busy and have many different viewpoints and idiosyncrasies. But
Lou persists, and he prevails.
He has also had to deal
with me, and nudge me, sometimes quite sharply, to carry out my
responsibilities. In particular, he has been successful in getting
me to nearly fill all our 10 or so committees with members. No small
feat. Not that people are reluctant to serve. Indeed, I am
continually impressed and gratified how dedicated and responsive so
many of our members are to the requests asked of them. Truly more
than I can list here. Getting to know and working with so many fine
people is one of the most satisfying parts of being President. I am
confident that Rich Satterlie will have the same experience when he
succeeds me in Boston.
The few of you who read
these reports may recall that as President-Elect, I wrote in the fall
newsletters of both 2005 and 2006 that I intended to focus on four
issues: 1) increasing ethnic diversity, 2)
increasing the international character of our society, 3) expanding
our scope, especially to include more plant scientists, and 4)
addressing the re-emergence of faith-based thinking as it encroaches
into science and an enlightened worldview. These are challenging
issues, and not unexpectedly, it has proved difficult for me to get
much traction with any of them.
am encouraged that the Broadening Participation Committee continues
to address the first issue, as expressed in Pat Hernandez’s report
for that committee in this newsletter; perhaps we can make progress
in that area.
continue to be affiliated with the International Union of Biological
Sciences (and I attended their meeting last year) and the US National
Committee for the International Union of Physiological Sciences (in
which Lou Burnett and others in DCPB participate), but these
affiliations have hardly increased our international character. This
year we affiliated with the International Society of Zoological
Sciences, and Past President Ed Cooper represented us at the
International Congress of Zoology in Paris, again without much
connection to SICB. Last year I also attended the annual meeting of
the Japanese Society of Zoology. While I did not attempt to initiate
any collaboration between our two societies, I was struck by how
similar we are in both how we operate and the problems we face.
Finally, I should point out that our editor of Integrative
and Comparative Biology, Hal
Heatwole, has reached out internationally by adding Associates to the
Editorial Board from France, Japan, Germany, Scotland, and Denmark.
That is a step in the right direction.
the past three years, I have attended the spring meeting of the
Council of Scientific Society Presidents in Washington DC, where I
met and mingled with officers of many other societies much like SICB.
While enjoyable and personally enriching, I was unable to bring much
concrete benefit to our Society in terms of broadening collaboration
with other groups. The meetings and dues are expensive, and the
Executive Officers have decided to drop our membership in the Council
of Scientific Society Presidents. Our close association with the
American Institute of Biological Sciences will continue to serve a
the San Antonio meeting last year, former SICB President Mike
Hadfield offered a Resolution on Evolution and Climate Change to our
annual business meeting. It proposed that “SICB take a public
stand in support of scientific truth,” especially with respect to
evolution and climate change, and that the Society “issue press
releases and editorials, initiate and publish statements, and sign
collective statements” addressing these issues. I was greatly
encouraged that we would make some headway in this area of concern.
Peter deFur, Chair of the Public Affairs Committee, and I wrote an
opinion piece in support of evolution that we submitted to the New
York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. It was not
published. We also emailed it to all SICB members, asking for their
comments and suggesting that they submit their versions of the
statement to their local papers. Several of us did that as well, but
as far as I know none was published.
discouraging response we received in trying to get our opinion piece
published, we are in an especially favorable position for promoting
evolution and science in general this year at our meeting in Boston.
The 200th year of Charles Darwin’s birthday is next year, 2009. As
Ed Rosa-Molinar outlines in his Program Officer
Report in this newsletter, we are collaborating with the Coalition on
the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) to kick off the Year of
Science 2009 at our meeting (see:
That promises to provide our meeting with more than usual public
attention, and the presentations, workshops, and science cafés will
enrich the whole meeting. It should be a wonderful experience. I
look forward to seeing everyone there.