John Toll, SETAC North America President

John TollSix months ago, I wrote to you about the challenges SETAC faces as a professional society and how the North America Board of Directors is responding. I spoke about what makes SETAC important to me. It provides a venue for us to set aside adversarial circumstances and build relationships based on camaraderie and respect, better enabling us to work with one another to solve real-world problems.

It’s now the midpoint of the 2018 board’s year and my term as president. It’s time to take account of what we’ve achieved and what we’re committed to achieving before we adjourn. Two accomplishments stand out:

  • Starting in 2018, students will be voting in SETAC North America elections. SETAC’s students and young professionals are significant not just in numbers but in the energy and ideas that they are pouring into SETAC. The board recognizes their contributions and is pleased to see students get a stronger voice in SETAC North America.
  • The board hit its target for start-up funding for a global professional certification program. This program will build on the Certification of Environmental Risk Assessors program that SETAC Europe has started. It will resemble the Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT) but for environmental risk assessors. We’ve heard from the membership that certification is important. I was skeptical at first, but over time I have come to agree. I wrote an editorial in the latest issue of IEAM that talks about the importance of elevating our professional status. A rigorous certification program is one of three key elements of the strategy, along with a stronger code of ethics and a commitment to professionalism in public communication. I’d love it if you’d take a look.

This year’s SETAC North America Board of Directors is focused on capacity building, by which we mean making it easier for you to use SETAC to help you accomplish your professional objectives. Here are a few specific examples of how we’re doing that:

  • We’ve tasked our committees with establishing specific, documented annual goals, schedules and work assignments, and we’ve strengthened the reporting system to make sure that the work gets done.
  • We’ve taken steps to ensure that our committees are fully staffed with energetic volunteers. This is not a one-off initiative; it’s a documented process that can be used year after year.
  • We’ve created inter-committee work groups to handle special projects. A good example is the work group that planned and executed the Minneapolis Town Hall, a modified version of which will be repeated in Sacramento.
  • We’ve revitalized the Development Committee and expanded its scope to include both treasure (fundraising) and talent (finding opportunities for contributors to provide in-kind services in lieu of monetary contributions). This is a win-win. It creates opportunities for you, our members, to get more involved in the work of SETAC, and it allows SETAC to accomplish more while remaining fiscally responsible.
  • We’ve created a living document that will allow us to track ideas that our committees experiment with at annual meetings and ad hoc work groups to come up with new ideas to track. This efficient ideation and tracking system will help keep the meetings fresh and vital.
  • We’re looking for ways to harness the abilities of our Interest Groups (IGs) and regional chapters (RCs) to bring new members – at all stages of their careers – into SETAC. We’re asking IGs to help us welcome new members into SETAC – not just at that first annual meeting but through the following year. IGs are encouraged to identify people in their disciplines who’ve yet to join SETAC and make the case for them to join.
  • We’re considering ways to link our RCs, for example, by organizing virtual meetings where outstanding regional chapter presentations are shared with other RCs, by sharing success stories (e.g., scientists in the classroom) across RCs. We’re soliciting ideas for experiments that we can try to better connect the RCs to SETAC North America.
  • We’re working on plans to engage our IGs in holding more workshops and focused topic meetings, and on ideas about how to fund those activities.

SETAC North America’s 2018 board wants you to get more out of your SETAC membership, and we want it to be easier for you to do so. Our efforts are designed to create more meaningful opportunities for members to get involved and receive the opportunities and the benefits that come with that.

The members of the 2018 board are excited about SETAC’s future and grateful for the opportunity we’ve been given to help shape it. We want to help and encourage you to do the same. The benefits of active membership far outweigh the benefits of passive membership. If you’re not already an active member, or if you’re only an active member for one or two weeks out of the year, then here are a few good ways to become more engaged:

  • Pick a project that you find interesting and important. Write a brief objective statement. Break it down into one or a few major tasks. Create a schedule for completion. Try to identify one of a few people from each of the SETAC sectors (private, government and academic) who would be a good fit for your project. If you can’t come up with names, don’t worry; SETAC will help you with that. Next – and this is a key step – contact our scientific affairs manager, Tamar Schlekat. Send her your project proposal. Ask her to review it and advise you on how to proceed. Schlekat, or someone else she puts you in touch with, can help you find a home for the project in one of our IGs. She can help you staff the project with volunteers from the three sectors. She can make introductions. She can advise you on resources you might not know that SETAC has and can make available to you and your team. She can keep an eye on your progress, advise you on how to keep the project on track, and suggest places and ways for you to report out on your team’s work.
  • Get your name added to the list of people actively seeking a SETAC committee assignment by contacting our membership manager and awards specialist, Laura Swanson. Tell her if you have any particular interests or if you’re just interested in serving wherever SETAC needs help. You might not get an assignment immediately, but you will get an assignment.
  • Become a liaison between your RC and the SETAC North America geographic unit (GU). Our scientific affairs manager, Tamar Schlekat, can help you get started if you contact her. Our RCs operate independently, but they could benefit from greater connection with the GU and other RCs. This is not going to happen without strong commitment on the part of individuals willing to build meaningful bonds. We don’t presently have anybody focusing on how to connect RCs to one another or how to build stronger bonds between the GU and RCs. There is much that could be done. Technology improvements are creating new opportunities all the time. Maybe you will be a part of the team that cracks the GU–RC and RC–RC integration puzzles.

These are just three good examples of ways that you can get more out of your SETAC membership, while giving back to SETAC at the same time. If none of these is right for you, then ask me; I probably can help you find something that works for you. The more you give, the more you get.

Author’s contact information: johnt@windwardenv.com

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