President’s Letter – The Transparency Project

Judy CallisThe word transparent has multiple meanings. For us scientists, we might first think of a solution in a tube or vial being transparent, defined by Merriam-Webster as “having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly”. As in, did your chemical dissolve? But the transparency to which I refer is the second set of definitions in the dictionary: “free from pretense or deceit,” “readily understood,” and most relevant for this letter, “characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

ASPB is an active and multifaceted organization with diverse activities including outreach, professional development, publishing, and advocacy, among others. Because of these various endeavors, understanding how ASPB works toward achieving its missions can seem challenging, and you may find it difficult to see how you can contribute to and benefit from ASPB’s missions. Recent reorganization changes may complicate this as well. In the fall of 2015, the main leadership committee, previously called the Executive Committee, was reorganized into two different committees—the Council and the Board of Directors (the latter affectionately abbreviated “BoD”).

In the coming year, together with Past President Rob Last, President-elect Maureen McCann, the chairs of the standing committees, and the outstanding ASPB staff, we plan to inform and highlight the activities of various committees and people in ASPB who work to advance one or more of our missions. In the President’s Letter, I hope to provide insights on the hard work our committees engage in throughout the year. Finding more ways to communicate ASPB activities to you, its members, is a major aim for the coming year.

In fact, let me start with our missions. In 2018, the Council articulated the following working statement on our missions:

ASPB Mission Statement

  • To nurture plant scientists through leadership and learning opportunities
  • To provide venues and platforms for communicating plant science research
  • To promote scientific quality, innovation, and integrity
  • To increase awareness of the importance of plant science
  • To inform, communicate, and positively influence policy related to plant biology in the United States and internationally.

In this letter I highlight the nature and activities of the Board of Directors, which is chaired by the president-elect (last year, that was me!). The seven-member BoD is the main decision-making body of the Society for all matters not specified for other bodies by our constitution. The BoD consists of the president-elect, president, secretary, treasurer, and three elected members (one elected from among eligible Council members and two from the membership at large). For the list of recently elected BoD members, see page 5 of this issue.

The BoD takes action on issues brought to it directly by staff, committees, and the Council. The BoD’s smaller size facilitates the frequent communication with ASPB staff and decision making that need to occur during the course of the year. The BoD balances furthering our missions with enforcing fiscal responsibility so that ASPB may be alive and well through the next 100 years.

In 2018–2019, under President Rob Last’s leadership, ASPB established regular standing meetings for both the Council and the BoD; however, both committees—but the BoD especially—have additional email and phone conversations throughout the year. This additional communication is needed to discuss and craft new policies and initiatives and to respond to membership and to national and international events in a timely manner. The evolution of high-quality conference call services has greatly facilitated these conversations (remember when there were all kinds of technical problems with conference calls? I admit they haven’t gone away completely, but . . .).

Also, in the spirit of being transparent and informing our membership, summaries of Council and BoD meetings will [soon] be posted on our website. We will include as much content as legally and ethically appropriate in these summaries, but please remember that some conversations (regarding personnel, for example) will have to be redacted. We appreciate feedback on how we can do better to inform you, our membership, and we ask that you remember that this is an ongoing effort.

ASPB History

Quick Quiz
How many ASPB members were there in 1925? What was the annual membership fee in 1925? Answers next time . . .

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