Global Executive Director’s Corner–Farewell
Michael C. Mozur
Life is a series of journeys, and I am very pleased that I was able to include an exciting SETAC sojourn in my own personal journey. Following a career of more than 33 years as a US diplomat, and eager for new challenges and to make a substantive contribution on the environment, I came to SETAC over six years ago with great enthusiasm and interest in promoting the Society’s compelling goal of “Environmental Quality through Science®.”
These six years flew by in an instant. It was quite the adventure to explore the world of SETAC meetings, which took me to continents, countries and cities new to me, such as Australia, Africa, China, Venezuela, Kenya, Tanzania, Porto, Goteborg, Seville and even Milwaukee. Doing my part to launch our concerted outreach―to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and other international organizations―and to lead the very effective UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative through its second phase and into its third made for a wonderful work program. And to have a role in reinforcing the inter-disciplinary discussions and collaboration within the Society was particularly satisfying to this non-scientist. Stated simply, it was great fun.
But more meaningful to me was to be in a position to make a small contribution to making SETAC the well-recognized and truly global organization that it is today. Promoting SETAC around the world was like pushing on an open door; the great reputation the Society had achieved through its science, meetings, workshops and journals made my job easy. I simply had to walk into the room and my international interlocutors immediately asked how they could work with SETAC. My task quickly became one of putting people and ideas together, and I think that a lot of great things fell into place to the benefit of the Society and, most importantly, its individual and institutional members.
It was particularly rewarding to be part of SETAC in 2012, a year of incredible success. We held a landmark World Congress in Berlin, with a record number of attendees, and opened the road to the next World Congress in Orlando in 2016. Moreover, we welcomed Africa as a full geographic unit (GU), embarked on a collective effort to bring SETAC into the mainstream global discussion on sustainability, highlighted student participation around the world, enjoyed continued cutting-edge scientific discussion, and featured our collaboration with UNEP, including the UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Equally important in challenging economic times, the Congress generated a very positive financial result that will help support SETAC Europe going forward. At the same time, impressive meetings in Kumamoto, Japan and Long Beach, California in the US, plus large regional chapter conferences in all GUs, made for an impressive balance between global and local SETAC science. Our collaboration between North America and Latin America in the US National Science Foundation-funded Pan-American Studies Institutes short course on agro-industrial air pollution was very well received. We also welcomed a new Editor-in-Chief to ET&C and inaugurated a modern web portal and upgraded membership database. And then there were the successful SETAC Europe Special Science Symposia and other activities; the list goes on.
With four years until the next World Congress in Orlando, I envision a Society with an even larger membership, pushing beyond the 7,000 mark; with at least one if not two additional GU offices; a Society fully digitally engaged, with an active electronic outreach from GU meetings (congratulations to SETAC North America for initiating this in Nashville this year). I can see producing even more competitive and higher-ranked journals, webinars stemming from workshops and such other undertakings as certification programs and technical papers. Underpinning this will be a growing sense of global community among our members, across geographies and languages, and united by the common love and commitment to the science that has brought SETAC together in the first place, way back in 1979.
As I leave, I remain concerned that this global dimension of SETAC is not fully understood or appreciated by much of the rank and file membership. SETAC members quite naturally concentrate on their annual or bi-annual GU meetings and the wonderful science and networking those meetings offer. Few in the membership see the global program as the interconnected mix of our international collaborations along with activities related to the GU annual meetings, global workshops, advisory groups and publications (journals, books, this very Globe) . All of these, taken together, generate our science that we transmit to the broad community of relevant international environmental organizations and national environmental policy makers around the globe.
Few SETAC members know that the World Council and its global activities, which include global science and communications coordination, are supported by more staff than either of the GU-specific programs in Pensacola or Brussels. Taken together though, this combination of global and GU activities, and the respective staff efforts, make for a very powerful mechanism for conveying tripartite science to policy-makers around the world.
This global theme is very important to the members from our newer GUs. Certainly, colleagues in North America and Europe face plenty of professional hurdles or obstacles. But our members from Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Africa face more and much more daunting challenges. Our colleagues wrestle with extremely limited official and personal resources, the high cost of travel over great distances and extremely unreliable and inaccessible internet and communications. They lack face-to-face time for connecting with fellow SETAC members in their own GUs and struggle to network with the global SETAC community, both of which need masterful English skills. As I take my leave, I can only urge SETAC members to explore each and every opportunity to network globally and to support our developing GUs within our broader community; such collaboration will surely benefit members individually as well as the global Society itself.
I must highlight the many opportunities for involvement within SETAC that are available to our members. SETAC has an outstanding governance structure and culture, both globally and in the GUs. Less strong is member participation in the working level of governance, that is, in the committees that support the World Council or the GU councils or boards. These committees are critically important to the Society’s vibrancy and effectiveness, and to its future, because committee work often leads to councils and presidencies. So I would like again, in this parting note, to urge all SETACers to consider becoming involved in our committees so that governance will benefit from our best and most energetic. Understandably, our advisory groups are flourishing because members are following their professional and scientific interests. This is great for the Society, and we should be pleased and proud of that level of member engagement. Our committees merit the same interest.
(from left) Mike Mozur, SETAC Asia/Pacific President Koji Arizono, SETAC Africa President (acting) Patricia Bi Asanga Fai, SETAC North America President Barnett Rattner, SETAC Latin America President Gustavo Somoza, World Council President Tim Canfield and SETAC Europe President Paolo Masoni
Perhaps my proudest moment, among many, as SETAC Global Executive Director came last November in Long Beach, where we were able to bring together for the first time the president of the World Council and the presidents of the five SETAC GUs. I have to say that it was emotional for me to see all five GU presidents stand up and take a bow in front of the hundreds attending the Long Beach opening ceremony. And it was even more satisfying to have the chance later in the week to work with the three presidents of the newer GUs (Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America) and SETAC staff to address their thorny operational difficulties, working through membership administration, communications and outreach, science coordination, finance, and information management issues. They are fellow players eager to make their contribution to our global SETAC team. It was an honor to work with them, and I wish them every success in the future, particularly Patricia Bi Asanga Fai as she leads SETAC Africa in its first year as a new GU.
Our beloved Graeme Batley marketing the Sydney World Congress at the 2006 North America meeting
For readers still with me, willing to stroll down my particular memory lane, I warmly recall my initial meeting in Montreal in 2006 with Graeme Batley and his kangaroo friend inviting us to Sydney for the 2008 World Congress. During 2007, when I was new to the organization, it was particularly memorable to undertake our joint efforts in the World Council and with SETAC Asia/Pacific to organize the Sydney meeting. I made many friends and found numerous willing collaborators who were eager to join me in achieving the strategic objectives of SETAC’s global vision.
Having Ricardo Barra and Yogi Naik with us in Sydney at the World Congress helped us prepare the ground for the great progress both Latin America and Africa have since achieved, and put Africa on track for achieving full GU status last year at the Berlin World Congress. The years 2008 and 2009 were when the global program fully coalesced. By then, SETAC was an active stakeholder in SAICM, and I was able to join the preparatory meetings in the fall of 2008 in Rome, leading up to the second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-2) in Geneva in May the next year.
Regional workshop participants, March 2009, Dar es Salaam
A true groundbreaking accomplishment involved an outstanding team of SETAC volunteers and staff who put together a regional capacity-building workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, funded by SAICM, for Africa. Christina E. Cowan-Ellsberry, Kees van Leeuwen, Phillip Jennings and Diana Graham, together with Katrien Arijs and Barbara Koelman of the Brussels office, Mimi Meredith from Pensacola, and Larry Kapustka as our valued consultant, joined me in putting on the March 2009 workshop attended by representatives from 22 countries. The workshop and training materials were a great success, and it was great to hear subsequently from the head of UNEP Chemicals in Geneva that our project, approved in the third round of SAICM projects, was in fact the first to be completed fully and reported from the initial pool of some 90 projects. This was a testimony to the tremendous work of our volunteer instructors, Larry, and Brussels-based Katrien and Barbara, who handled logistics in far off Tanzania.
UNEP Executive Director with the SWC President Mike McLaughlin and Mike Mozur at ICCM-2 in Geneva, May 2009
This important success became one of our calling cards when Mike McLaughlin led our delegation to the major global ICCM-2 meeting. There our team of officers (including World Council officers Derek Muir and Jane Staveley, SETAC Europe President Eamonn Farrelly, and SETAC Africa branch President Yogi Naik) networked with key people, including UNEP Executive Director Steiner, and reached out to our partner organizations (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) IUPAC and International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) in promoting the science dimension of the chemicals management challenge.
SETAC with IUPAC and IUTOX at ICCM-2, Geneva, May 2009
With this foundation in place, we proceeded to focus internally in boosting science support to members, including those organizing together into global advisory groups. Bruce Vigon’s arrival in late 2009 as Global Scientific Affairs Manager, duties that complemented his work on North American issues, was a start, and I am very pleased that he and Roel Evens in the Brussels office are providing consistent and professional support to our advisory group community.
UNEP DTIE head Sylvie Lemmet (right), Sonia Valdivia and Guido Sonnemann of the Life Cycle Initiative, and Mike Mozur
Our collaboration with UNEP and other international organizations stands out as the essential building block of the global program, including our work together in the UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and with SAICM, with OECD (on nanomaterials and PFCs), the GEF (on emerging chemicals and on mercury) and of course ISO (on LCA and now soils). The SETAC alphabet soup of collaboration extends beyond this list, with benefits to GUs. In each case there are opportunities for members to showcase their expertise while contributing to the common, shared global effort on the environment.
(left to right) David Piper, UNEP; Erik Smolders, SETAC Science Committee Chair; Per Baaken, head of UNEP Chemicals; Mike Mozur, Agneta Sunden, UNEP; and Bruce Vigon
It was also great fun to join our SETAC Latin America colleagues at their biannual meetings in Montevideo, Uruguay, Lima, Peru and Cumana, Venezuela. It was particularly satisfying to me, given my diplomatic experience in Latin America, to be able to support a great group of people committed to promoting SETAC and its science in that region.
SETAC Lating America Board, Cumana, Venezuela, October 2011
I can offer the same sentiments with regard to colleagues in Asia/Pacific and Africa, both areas new to me as I came to SETAC. Both GUs held great meetings, beginning with the World Congress in Sydney in 2008, and both face bright prospects going forward. Please give some thought to joining SETAC Africa in Lusaka, Zambia this September and SETAC Asia/Pacific in Adelaide, Australia in 2014.
Peter Campbell and Mike Mozur in Moscow
It was certainly a pleasure to work with Peter Campbell and SETAC Europe to promote SETAC in the former Soviet Union. “Tsar” Peter and I traveled to Moscow to connect with scientists there, and thanks to funding support from the International Science and Technology Center, we were able to host a group of former Soviet scientists in Portland and Milan. This initiative continues to gain momentum as a group from the SETAC Europe Council joined Russian colleagues at a notable Moscow conference in February this year.
It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with our publications volunteers, the Editors-in-Chief of ET&C Herb Ward (supported by Diana Freeman) and now Allen Burton and his team, and Rick Wenning (and Jenny Shaw) at IEAM. These journals, and our publishing partner Wiley-Blackwell are critical to our scientific program. Joe Gorsuch and now Larry Kapustka have worked closely with global Publications Manager Mimi Meredith to produce a steady stream of insightful SETAC books. And, thinking of SETAC communications, we are all deeply indebted to Globe Editor-in-Chief John Toll and his colleague Nancy Musgrove for our simply outstanding monthly newsletter, and I personally want to thank John for allowing me to promote the Society and its global program so frequently in this venue.
As I leave SETAC, I wish all in SETAC every success and thank you for your wonderful friendship and professional collaboration over these past years.