Ask not what your Society can do for you...

Apr 29 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Scientific society that is...

My BlogSis Scicurious has extensively blogged the recent Experimental Biology meeting, and I just found a great post of hers on the reciprocity, or lack there of, between scientists and their professional societies. I suggest you go and read it. now. I can wait...

I was posting a comment about my own activities with my various societies and how I try and do my bit. It grew a little unwieldy so I reproduce here instead (I'm a firm believer that any comment over 2 paragraphs needs to GYOFB'd).

My comment, now blog post is below.


[Excellent post Sci.] I am as active as I can be with a couple of different groups. My local SfN chapter is dead in the water and I've emphasized this time and again to anyone who'll listen, but nothing gets done. I'm not prepared to run it myself because I'm no longer a practicing bench scientist, let alone neuroscientist. Recently the Society sent out a questionnaire about how to engage their membership and was quite vocal in my free-text responses. We'll see what happens.

Of course, SfN also run their "blog the conference" gig and its empty genuflection to the new 'fifth estate' (us).

With the American Heart Association I respond to all their calls to action (they can afford to CapWhiz), and in addition I've spoken with my local AHA advocacy reps. I'm Facebook friends with one, and we email now and then about issues. Essentially I ask occasionally what I can do to help, and also send him tidbits of information I find on the 'choobs he might not have seen yet.

I volunteered recently to work with the advocacy and outreach groups of the American Medical Informatics Association (my prime society nowadays). We'll see what happens. It seems to me their "lobbying" efforts are more focused on big picture issues like EMR adoption, and "opt in" vs "opt out" clauses for patients.

Finally, I bombard my Congresscritters with emails and phone calls. This is done via the CapWhiz actions of AHA and SfN mostly. But the National Postdoc Association sent a call to arms late last year and I called my Representative's office in Washington and spoke to his staffers (I got a 'real' thank you letter in reply too).

When it comes to State level actions I'm more bereft. My local Senator is on emotional sabbatical and TBH doesn't have the best political history. TN is voting on a "don't say gay" bill and only just tabled a "freedom of education" bill - this bill would give protection to teachers who wish to give the teaching creationism and other bullshit and equal footing in the science classroom. Ostensibly this happens as "counter balancing the theory of evolution". I am trying to increase my local outreach efforts, but it's also a matter  of finding time and a few prime causes to invest in.

One of our local museums, The Pink Palace, does a lot of outreach and I kind of know the Director, so I need to get on that...


And now I reiterate Sci's questions: What do you do for your Society and our society? What efforts do you make, or if you don't, what do you think are the principle reasons for not getting involved?

3 responses so far

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    For one society, I've helped to look after their webpage for a long while.

    For a second, organized a symposium at annual meeting.

    For a third, fourth, and fifth, I've judged student presentation and poster competitions.

    Modest involvement. Because I'm an interdisciplinary kind of guy, I belong to a lot of societies, and I can't work with all of them. It might be different if there was one society that was absolutely key to me; I might be much more active in that one.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Societies often have student memberships at reduced price, and sometimes organized things for students. I would advise any student who is fairly confident of career choice to become a student member of the appropriate society(s). Couldn't hurt!

  • Dr Becca says:

    Awesome post, Brooks! You put me to shame.

    I "ran" to be the Young Investigator council member of my small, niche society, but I lost the election to someone with tons more organizational/admin experience.

    I filled out that SfN questionnaire as well, and most of my answers for why I didn't do much in the way of society-related extracurriculars were along the lines of "didn't know how to get involved" and "didn't know X existed." I think the society may need to restructure its promotional strategies--they need to make people feel more personally invested in the society, that their membership is not simply dues to be paid so that they can go to the meeting.