SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
19 February 2015
Volume 16 Issue 2
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A Message from the SETAC President

Barnett Rattner, Federal Government, USA

With a smile and admittedly a bit of trepidation, I write to you as SETAC President. As a charter member, I have personally experienced the growth of our society from a few hundred members in North America, focused on an interdisciplinary approach to chemical hazard evaluation, to thousands of members in a global organization, addressing diverse topics from nanotechnology and toxicogenomics to climate change and sustainability. A recent article by SETAC Executive Director Charles Menzie says it all, “SETAC meetings, workshops, and publications offer unique opportunities for us to share our discoveries and our knowledge. … At the core of SETAC is the idea that we can make a difference with respect to the development of the principles and practices for protection, enhancement, and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.” SETAC has been my professional home for 35 years, and this year I plan to devote much of my energy to our society as a debt of gratitude and thanks.

In my opinion, science can be very “faddish.” Oftentimes, we recognize, dissect and solve a significant problem; yet in other instances, we eventually realize that there are no reasonable solutions to a problem, and scientists, regulators and society sort of moves on. With our expanded scope in a world of specialization, it will always be a challenge to maintain a diverse core membership engaged in solving multi-disciplinary problems. Other long-standing challenges for the global scope of SETAC are differences in the language and culture of science. As the patience and attention span of mankind is shrinking, we need to find ways to improve the timeliness and communication of our science. This might be accomplished through digital capture and dissemination of the content of our meetings and workshops through social media and the like, although nothing takes the place of attendance, face-to-face interaction and the re-invigoration that occurs at our conferences.

The SETAC World Council (SWC) continues to focus on administrative and scientific activities that will strengthen our society.  During my tenure as SETAC Vice President, I focused on long-range planning and, through writing efforts, teleconferences and meetings, the SWC has continued to update and sharpen our strategic plan and vision for the future. For example, we continue to emphasize support for our new and smaller geographic units to ensure their success, affordability of our meetings for students and new professionals, expansion of our scientific scope while maintaining our traditional areas of focus, contemplating how best to communicate our science without being an advocacy group, and pursuing strategic alliances with other scientific societies and entities to foster interchange of knowledge to best address complex environmental issues.

We have great expectations for 2015 and look forward to another landmark year of geographic unit meetings, starting with the SETAC Europe 25th Annual Meeting, which will take place from 3–7 May in Barcelona, Spain, with the theme “Environmental Protection in a Multi-Stressed World: Challenges for Science, Industry and Regulators.” This will be followed by the SETAC Latin America 11th Biennial Meeting from 7–10 September in Buenos Aires, Argentina, entitled “The Role of Science in Environmental Decision-Making.” Next, the 7th SETAC Africa Conference, “Identifying Knowledge Gaps and Research Priorities in Africa: A Pivot for Sustainable Environmental Development,” will take place from 5–8 October in Langebaan, South Africa. And we will complete the year with the SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting from 1–5 November in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the theme “Buzzing With Science: Cross-Pollination for Environmental Progress.”

Once again, our student members have organized a great training opportunity. The 4th Young Environmental Scientists (YES) meeting will be held from 14–19 March at the Petnica Science Center in Serbia. Check out the cool video on the YES website highlighting soft-skills and professional development sessions, laboratory training, career talks, and platform and poster sessions. Registration for this meeting is free and some travel support is available.

Two Pellston workshops have been approved. “Simplifying Environmental Mixtures–An Aquatic Exposure-based Approach via Exposure Scenarios” will focus upon refining and simplifying complex decision tree frameworks by assessing chemical discharges from municipal, urban and agricultural sources. Through the use of toxicity databases, exposure modeling and computational risk assessments, a key output of this workshop is forecasting circumstances when chemical exposure may represent a potential concern. The second workshop, “Improving the Usability of Ecotoxicology in Regulatory Decision-Making,” will examine and compare the use of standardized test methods conducted under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) with non-GLP studies published in peer-reviewed journals. One of the overall goals is to enhance the reliability of ecotoxicology studies and use of peer-reviewed published research findings in fostering robust risk assessments.

Another area of emphasis in the coming year is our ongoing Global Horizon Scanning Project, which seeks to collect and prioritize the most important environmental issues we need to address. And finally, efforts are underway for a special student luncheon and workshop on how best to conclude a talk or scientific paper using sound principles of ecotoxicology as opposed to broad claims and unfounded quantum leaps of faith.

As we enter 2015, I look forward to working very closely with the SETAC Global Executive Director Charles Menize, Immediate Past President Peter Campbell, Vice President Patrick Guiney, Treasurer David Phillips and the new, seasoned members of the SWC. I will continue to rely on SETAC North America and SETAC Europe Executive Directors Greg Schiefer and Bart Bosveld, respectively, and their dedicated staff that make all aspects of our society operate efficiently. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our exiting Past President William Goodfellow for more than a decade of service to the SWC.  In closing, I look to the challenges of 2015 and look forward to seeing, meeting and interacting with our diverse membership.

Author's contact information: brattner@usgs.gov

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