Governance Changes Proposed for ASPB

This year, ASPB is 90 years old90TH

Over the past nine decades, we have changed in many ways to ensure that our Society remains relevant to and serves the needs of the membership. For example, we created a professional support staff; we installed an Executive Director; we grew the governance structure from five officers to an executive committee of 22 members; we launched The Plant Cell (25 years ago!); we changed our name; we’ve run lab leadership workshops; ASPB members work with and help educate elected policy makers on your behalf; and recently we’ve embraced a new subdisciplinary section.

Those changes are continuing and, indeed, accelerating as the ways in which plant biologists carry out and communicate their research rapidly evolve.  We are providing new services for members and entering into a relationship with you that requires quick response times.  With an increased speed and more to offer, it is also important that ASPB’s governance is able to plan well into the future while still managing the day-to-day logistics of the present.

Toward this end, the Executive Committee, ASPB’s current deliberating and voting body, has recommended a change in the governance structure. The Executive Committee is scheduled to vote soon on the specific proposed changes to the Society’s governance documents that would be necessary to implement this new structure. If the proposed changes to the Constitution are approved by the Executive Committee, they will be put to the membership for a vote in the spring and enacted if approved by you.

Well in advance of that vote, we’d like to take a moment to explain what the Executive Committee is recommending and how it reached this decision.  What is proposed is a governance structure with two collaborative bodies.  There would be a large and diverse deliberating body called the Council that would be dedicated to providing vision, context, and continuity for the Society without the burden of operational logistics, such as approving budgets and new initiatives.

The second body will be a smaller Board of Directors (BoD) that meets much more frequently to deal with issues and needs as they emerge.  This seven-member body will also be representative, in that it will be comprised of your officers and elected representatives – the individuals you select to serve in these capacities.  We refer to this as a collaborative structure because BoD members will also serve on the Council so they will be intimately familiar with the vision of the Council and therefore well equipped to implement its plans.

Another important change involves representation.  Because ASPB membership is genuinely and increasingly international in scope and reach, the Executive Committee feels that the BoD should have at least one representative from outside the US.

As to how the Executive Committee developed this proposal, an ad hoc committee comprised of a diverse group of ASPB members studied the problem and proposed a governance redesign that will provide the flexibility that governance now needs while maximizing the breadth of ideas and member representation.  The idea was vetted by several of ASPB’s past leaders before being presented to the Executive Committee, which made additional refinements that further improved the initial concept.

For additional information regarding the rationale behind and timeline for these proposed changes, please download the “Proposed Restructuring of ASPB Governance” document (.pdf format).

Clearly, there is much to think about, so to provide you with the time and opportunity to discuss these changes and to make suggestions aimed at improving this new governance design we invite you to offer your comments and questions below. We look forward to hearing from you and to considering your suggestions and input.

Julian Schroeder, President

Richard Dixon, President Elect

Alan Jones, Immediate Past President

Peggy Lemaux, 2012-2013 President

Crispin Taylor, Executive Director

13 thoughts on “Governance Changes Proposed for ASPB

  1. “Because ASPB membership is genuinely and increasingly international in scope and reach, the Executive Committee feels that the BoD should have at least one representative from outside the US.”

    Is there a precedent for this? E.g., Is there an instance where a U.S. member is on the BoD of any non-U.S. scientific society? We are not (yet?) the International Society of Plant Biologists.

  2. That’s a good question; thanks for asking.

    We are not aware of the reciprocal precedent you ask about (although we have not searched exhaustively). But neither are we aware of any other national plant science organization that has as high a proportion of non-nationals among its members as ASPB does.

    ASPB certainly serves the needs of U.S. members, but it also serves an international community of plant scientists: almost 40% of ASPB’s members are from over 70 other countries. Beyond the membership rolls, annual meeting attendees also come from dozens of countries, and the proportion of articles published in Plant Physiology and The Plant Cell whose corresponding authors are from outside the US significantly outweighs the proportion whose authors are from inside the US. Therefore as a society we feel that the BoD should be representative of this broad constituency, so we propose to include a representative from outside the U.S.

    Thanks again for your question.

    Crispin Taylor (for the authors of the original post)

  3. Although the letter and the more detailed description given in the Newsletter are informative and well explained I was disappointed that the time line for the Society’s vote is so short for such a large change in the governance. There is also little in the way of a resource for members to engage in debate on this very important issue for the society (this blog does not seem to allow such discourse), would it be possible to have an interactive discourse about the pros and cons of such a move?

  4. Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, absolutely, discourse and discussion are most welcome and strongly encouraged! That’s exactly why we first published the open letter and the accompanying rationale document right here on ASPB’s blog in mid-December: we feel that these pages represent an effective, open, and timely venue for this kind of conversation.

    In addition to the blog post and the newsletter articles, we’ve highlighted the potential change in the past three monthly Member Chatter e-news briefs, on ASPB’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and in a major block on the ASPB homepage. Indeed, it could be argued that by publishing our open letter before the Society’s executive committee has considered and voted on the specific wording changes to the Constitution and Bylaws that would be necessary to implement it, we have somewhat preempted due process. But we did this because we and others – including the constitution and bylaws committee, which drafted those wording changes for the executive committee’s consideration – thought that it would be important to solicit the membership’s input while the changes were still being deliberated.
    Of course, the ultimate authority for ASPB IS the membership. And should the executive committee vote at its March meeting to approve the modified wording in our governance documents necessary to implement the change, then the proposed changes to ASPB’s Constitution will be put to the membership on our spring election ballot. You may rest assured that, in this instance, we will continue to reach out to the membership via as many means as possible, and we will continue to encourage discussion on the pages of this blog.

    Thanks again for your very helpful comment.

  5. I understand the need for input from outside the U.S., seeing the large contribution of foreign plant biologists to our publications. Inclusion of a single person, however, does not solve the problem. Instead, I suggest that the Society prominently declare that it welcomes ideas, proposals, initiatives, and suggestions from all plant biologists in countries other than the U.S. That would preserve the American nature of our society, but at the same time invite input from all interested parties wherever they are.

  6. Thanks for the post and putting so much thought into the future governance! I really like the concept of having 2 committees – one for ideas and the broader picture and the other for detailed administration..

    I also contemplate most about the novelty of having a non-US board member, and maybe the following points should be taken into consideration:

    1.) Non-US member input might differ dramatically depending on where they come from – Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America… How to balance it and how to choose?

    2.) Why not require a tighter connection to the US for the core board members, e.g. having a lab here or having spent part of the career in the US?

    Taken together, (although I am a German currently working here and maybe going back to Europe) would an advisory international committee maybe make more sense, especially because an international board member might also not be able to join as often as US members?

  7. The history of ASPB is that it was a society born of neglect from the Botanical Society America where plant physiology was not given the attention it so rightfully deserved in the early part of the 20th century. However over the last decades the problem with ASPB has again been one of connection to its members. It is run by a group of people who pass the torch from one to the other through a process of nominations where the results are never fully reveled and elections are simply a choice from two delivered from this non-transparent process. Years ago we had membership meetings at the national meeting, but the society made those so boring that few came and grass-roots efforts to make them more interesting were over-ruled by the Executive Committee (who in the constitution have the power to overrule the membership). So, a constant complaint of young members is that the ASPB is not responsive and difficult to become involved in to make substantive changes.
    Special treatments, like lavish dinners for the Executive Committee with high-end booze, President’s Reception for the select few, and other adornments of the ASPB royalty are largely hidden from the dues paying membership.
    Now we have a proposal to re-arrange the royal-purple carpets. No substantive changes in terms of member input and the very real potential of placing the financial rewards into the hands of a smaller elite. It is hard for me to see that this change has much to offer the general membership.

    • So as part of the changes coming down the pipe is a GREATLY enhanced web-based communication infra-structure. For level 2 (paying) members, there would be the ability to make suggestions to the council and I would like to think that the council meeting minutes would be made available to the paying members.

  8. Since we communicate by email and internet — Is the actual physical presence needed ? I am also not sure of the need of specifying one non-US member. Can you not open the position to all ASPB members no matter where they are from and let the highest vote getter be elected .
    Am I misunderstanding the issue? May be so?

  9. I appreciate the restructuring of the governing body into two elected groups. It appears that the need to select a non-US representative to the Executive Committee is thoughtful and justified. This member could take on the responsibility of chairing an International Advisory Board that represents all of the continents. This Advisory Board could be nominated by the International affairs committee and elected by all the of the Society’s members in a section of the annual ballad, once the criteria for Advisory Board members are established. It is important that this International Executive Board member be very familiar with US policies, so the suggested requirement for having spent some of her/his career in the USA seems reasonable.

  10. Incidentally, the current Executive Committee recognized that the council would need a provision to allow voting in order to provide the BOD with a clear sense of the strength of any guidance provided by the the council. It was also recognized that there is a need for some checks and balances to ensure that the BOD is acting in accordance with the vision of the council. These provisions will also likely be incorporated into the suggested changes that the membership will vote on. I believe the Constitution and Bylaws committee is working on integrating these new changes.

    I am inspired by the fact that there is such an active discussion here. I am going to look into the possibility of choosing an option for sending alerts to participants when new comments are posted. Nothing is written in stone yet, so I hope everyone continues to voice their ideas and/or concerns.

  11. Non US-members such as myself appreciate the American-ness of the Society, and that is why we joined in. Participation of one of us will not erode its cultural identity.

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