Something is Happening in SETAC Latin America
Pedro Carriquiriborde, Universidad Nacional de la Plata and Gustavo Somoza, SETAC World Council
Since its establishment in 1999, SETAC Latin America has slowly but steadily grown, joining together professionals from several Latin American countries. An interesting growth spurt has occurred in the last four years, evidenced by the increase in members, the rise of regional chapters and the diversity of activities. The SETAC Latin America program in 2012 featured two significant regional chapter meetings, with some 720 attendees meeting in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil, in September and 380 participants gathering in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October, both events were reported in the Globe late last year.
Resembling a population growth curve, after a lag phase of almost ten years with member numbers below 100, SETAC Latin America membership doubled in the last four years as if it was going into a log phase. At the end of 2012, membership reached a new record of 248 members from 20 different Latin American countries (including Puerto Rico and excluding Mexico because it is part of SETAC North America). This exciting news indicates that SETAC Latin America is moving in the right direction. The challenge for the leadership is to maintain the trend in the upcoming years, but prospects for continued success are very promising.
As in other geographic units, travel across Latin America involves long distances and is quite expensive. The organization of local chapters rose as a way to shorten distances and keep members’ interactions strong. In 2006, the Argentine membership started organizing biannual meetings addressing issues of local interest. In 2010, the first steering committee of the Argentine Chapter was established. In 2012, the first board of directors was elected. Last year, a proposal was submitted by the SETAC Latin America Council suggesting the inclusion of the Uruguay members to create a broader group, the Rio de la Plata Chapter, and it is still under discussion. In 2009, after the Lima SETAC Latin America Meeting, a Peruvian group of members started to organize periodic local meetings, and something similar was experienced in Venezuela that led to the Cumana SETAC Latin America Meeting. Last year, the SETAC Latin America Council also received a request from Colombia to establish a new chapter. This fact moved the SETAC Latin America Council to propose that members of Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela organize the Andean Chapter in order to increase the critical mass of the chapter.
Perhaps the most relevant step in recent years was the joining of the Brazilian Society of Ecotoxicology (ECOTOX) as a Brazilian Chapter of SETAC Latin America. After several years of negotiations, during the Bombinhas Meeting of ECOTOX in September 2010, the proposal submitted by the SETAC Latin America Council received a favorable vote by the ECOTOX membership to join SETAC starting in 2011. Founded in 2000, ECOTOX brings together a large number of Brazilian professionals working in the field of environmental toxicology and chemistry in academia, government and business. The addition of ECOTOX to SETAC Latin America will boost the growth of the GU, increasing the interactions and activities within the Latin American community. In addition, it will provide Brazilian professionals a framework to interact with other colleagues and SETAC experts around the world.
Last year, the number and diversity of activities in SETAC Latin America expanded. Traditionally, activities were limited to biannual meetings of the geographic unit and publication of extended abstracts as grey literature in a regional book. Later, the meetings organized by the rising SETAC Latin America chapters helped increase the frequency of interactions among members. In addition to the traditional meetings, interaction with other societies such as the Toxicological Association of Argentina (ATA) allowed the organization of joint symposia that publicize SETAC work in new environments. At the same time, SETAC Latin American members more frequently participant in global SETAC committees and workshop steering groups.
In 2012, a select number of studies presented in the Lima and Cumana meetings were published for the first time as a special section in ET&C. This section, chaired by Pedro Carriquiriborde and Afonso Bainy, aimed to promote the publication of environmental studies conducted in Latin America in SETAC journals. In addition, this section will let ET&C readers know about current investigations in Latin America.
The diversification of activities also included the organization of specific workshops such as the “Latin American Risk Assessment of Pesticides (LATARAP)” workshop organized by Steve Mound, Paul van den Brink, Paula Mirabella and Pedro Carriquiriborde. The workshop was held in Buenos Aires in 2012 with the support of Crop Life International. This was the first workshop independent of a SETAC Latin America meeting, based on a submitted proposal and approved by the SETAC Latin America Council.
Other activities included a number of courses including “Risk Assessment of Pesticides,” given by Keith Solomon in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2010, and “Regional Atmospheric Transport of Contaminants: Mega Cities and Agro-ecosystems,” lead by George Cobb and Karina Miglioranza in La Plata, Argentina, in 2012 and funded by the Pan-American Advanced Studies Institute Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
SETAC Latin America has experienced exciting development in recent years and a lot of potential exists for continuing growth. However, new opportunities present new challenges.
- Growing sustainably
According to the number of people attending SETAC Latin America and regional chapter meetings over the past few years, there is the potential that SETAC Latin America membership may grow to around 600 members in the next four years. However, actions directly focused on this goal should be implemented (i.e., close work with ECOTOX Board of Directors; membership desk at SETAC Latin America activities; courses, seminars, etc. with clear benefits for members).
- Tripartite balance
Traditionally, participants from academia dominate membership in SETAC Latin America. One important goal for the next years will be to demonstrate to Latin America governments and businesses the value the Society has in other parts of the world by providing support and advice to ensure Environmental Quality Through Science®.
- Organized development
Until now, all activities were in some way managed by SETAC Latin America Council members. The increase in membership and the number and diversity of activities will require the creation of committees (science, finance, membership, etc.). They are usually led by one Council member but will require the participation of other members.
- Bottom-up participation
Perhaps the main challenge ahead will be to change the way SETAC Latin America members see their own role inside the Society. Traditionally, members expect initiatives to be derived from the Council members, but, members need to know they are the engine of the Society, and their initiative submitting proposals for organizing their own activities is essential for getting back the best fruits the Society can yield.
- Top-down support
At the global level, SETAC receives the support of renowned international organizations and companies. Most of them have offices and branches in Latin America. One challenge will be to obtain the support of these organizations at the geographic unit level, not only for sponsorship opportunities but also by encouraging their employees to join and actively participate in SETAC Latin America. Likewise, getting support from local organizations will be also very helpful. If your organization is interested in learning more about ways to support SETAC Latin America, please contact the SETAC Latin America council directly.
The changes that SETAC Latin America has experienced in the last years have turned the geographic unit into a more dynamic and active organization. In the next years, several new challenges will have to be faced, but surely exciting times lie ahead for SETAC Latin America.
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