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Todd Jones, 2010 SIVB  President

President's Report

This is my last report as President of the Society for In Vitro Biology.  My 2-year term ends at the annual meeting in June and President-Elect William Smith assumes the helm. 

I have enjoyed the privilege of leading our Society over the past 2 years and I sincerely appreciated the trust that you placed in me.  I hope you find that the trust has been well-founded.  I am confident that SIVB is on solid footing and the incoming leadership is primed to guide SIVB into the future.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity to use this forum as my “bully pulpit” on a rather wide-ranging set of editorial topics.  And this, my final Report will continue that trend, but instead of being retrospective like the past few reports, I intend to look forward and challenge you to consider what the Society for In Vitro Biology should, and can become.

The inspiration for this editorial came from an article that appeared in The Scientist this past March1.  In it, Steven Wiley posted the question, “To join or not to join” a scientific society?  Like many of us, Steven is a member of multiple societies and, every year, he is asked to renew his membership and, every year he has to question the value of re-upping his membership.  Is there sufficient value in belonging to a particular society that justifies the cost?  This is a sensible and pragmatic question and one that is being answered often in the negative, as evidenced by declining membership numbers in many professional societies, ours included.  Steven makes a valid point that the traditional benefits provided by society membership, typically a subscription to the Society journal and a venue to present and hear new research, may no longer be sufficient.  For many, present company included, access to the journal is no longer compelling as we have journal access via other means, usually online via an institutional subscription.  Having a hard-copy of the journal is nice, but I prefer to have a readily-available pdf of my favorite article available on my computer and a print-out for easy reading (and margin-scribbling).  Similarly, the Society’s annual meeting is no longer the draw it once was as there is no shortage of other meetings one can attend, many often with specific topics where the most recent research can be reported in depth.  While Society meetings are still valuable for their networking opportunities, that value has diminished as new, other networking tools have become predominant.  This is not to say a Society shouldn’t provide journals and not have an annual (or biennial) meeting – these are essential, must-haves for any Society, but they are not sufficient benefits in and of themselves to entice potential new members.

So, what then is the value of belonging to a scientific society and, more specifically, how can our Society make itself more valuable to its membership?  A scientific society, like any service organization, needs to provide sufficient value, a significant return on investment, to warrant the dues paid by its membership.  The more tangible and unique the benefit, the better.  Societies need to be able to clearly define the benefits they provide to their membership and differentiate their “product” from other, competing societies.  Truly successful societies will continually develop innovative membership benefits in order to maintain membership and attract new members.  Relying on the status quo is simply not sufficient.  What I think many Societies fail to do, and, in all truthfulness I think SIVB is one of them, is to evolve with the times and adapt.  What was important to our members 20 years ago is simply less important today; have we kept pace with the needs or wants of our membership?  If we do not identify those needs, we will be in danger of becoming irrelevant. The mission of most societies is to promote and develop their scientific specialties and to provide opportunities for their members to present and discuss the science, to network, and to enjoy the camaraderie of colleagues.  The Society for In Vitro Biology does many of these things well, but can we do better?  What new, innovative products should the Society be offering?  More directly, what other benefits should you, the membership, be requesting, or demanding, from our Society?  In business, the mantra is “Innovate or die” and I think that challenge is one that every scientific society, including ours, needs to embrace emphatically. 

So, with this final President’s Report from me, I am going to challenge you, dear SIVB members, to be the agents for innovation and to offer your creative solutions to take the SIVB to a new level of service.  I want you to suggest new or expanded services and novel benefits that will bring additional value of membership to you.  To enhance the return on your membership investment dollar.  To offer compelling reasons for every current member to remain a member and to entice new members to join.  This is a call to action and the time is right.  We are sufficiently stable financially that we can now plan strategically and initiate programs that will take time to develop.  The SIVB Long-Range Planning committee, ably chaired by President-Elect (and by the time you read this, President) William Smith has taken this charge and has been working on a strategic plan for SIVB.  They will be handing off the template to the new President-Elect David Songstad for implementation.  Any ideas that you would like to promote can be directed to them, or to me, or to any of the officers of the Society or the respective Sections.  We are all dedicated and committed to making the Society for In Vitro Biology the society of choice for all plant and animal scientists utilizing in vitro technology.  When the question, to join or not to join, arises, I want the answer to be affirmative.

There.  Done.  My last sermon (at least for now).  But before I sign off completely, I would like to thank several people who have helped me immeasurably over the past 2 years.  First, I would like to recognize the Board of Directors (please see the website for names and affiliations) for their dedication and service to the society.  It has been a pleasure working with the Board and I am confident that we have steered the Society towards a prosperous and vital future.  Secondly, I would like to thank the Section Chairs, Dennis Laska (IVACS) and Peggy Ozias-Akins (PBS) for all of their help and cooperation.  We are a diverse society, with 2 clearly differentiated sections, but over the past 2 years Peggy and Dennis proved time and again that we are ONE united society.  Lastly, I must also thank our Managing Director, Marietta Wheaton Ellis, and her staff at New Beginnings Management for their efforts on behalf of the Society.  At the risk of being redundant, I am going to restate exactly what I said in my annual report: The staff of NBM “are dedicated and talented individuals and I would have been lost without them.”  Your dedication and devotion to the society is deeply appreciated.  Even more sincerely appreciated is the help (read: “hand-holding”) you have provided me over the past 2 years.  And, finally, I thank you, SIVB members, for giving me this humbling opportunity to lead the Society for the past 2 years.  I hope I have served you well and I look forward to serving SIVB in new capacities in the future. 

Sincerely,

Todd Jones
President, Society for In Vitro Biology

 

 

1Wiley, S.  (2010)  To join or not to join.  The Scientist.  24 (3): 33.