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Erica Nol

President's message regarding SFO

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President’s Message

The much anticipated meeting to further discuss the organization of a new Society For Ornithology (SFO) in the Americas is now over. Many of you will have already heard that there is a move to merge all ornithological societies in the Americas, for the purpose of developing efficiencies in publications and providing innovations that will reverse the general decline in memberships seen in the larger societies over the last decade. The SFO meeting was held in a hotel in Dallas, Texas last month. Below we include the press release of that meeting for all interested members of SCO-SOC. There is still much work to do, including having the councils of each participating society determine whether they want to join SFO! Attendance at the meeting did NOT imply that any particular society would necessarily vote to merge with this larger body.

The Dallas meeting was attended by Society Presidents or Vice-Presidents of all major general ornithological societies in North America (including me as your representative), Council members of the American Ornithologists’ Union (which included many of the past-Presidents of the AOU), plus the President of the Neotropical Ornithological Society (representatives from the Waterbird Society and the Raptor Research Foundation were not present). Interestingly, the most contentious topic was how this new society might become more international. It was clear that the small, original organizing committee had not fully developed ways to incorporate the different needs of non-US countries. However, some models were proposed including 1) outright dissolution of national societies (like SCO-SOC), 2) 'chapter' status (e.g., the model used by the Wildlife Society), 3) national status (i.e., the model used by The Nature Conservancy (e.g., SFO: Canada) and 4) affiliate status (e.g., Bird Life International affiliates like Bird Studies Canada). The exact models were not discussed and will be by a new sub-committee of the newly formed organizing committee as the old committee was abolished at the end of the Dallas meeting. There was a clear statement that the new SFO should represent ornithology in the Western Hemisphere, although this may be a long-term goal.

Much of what was proposed was good and further details will emerge by next month in the form of a draft plan. There was discussion about our journal, Avian Conservation and Ecology, filling the shoes of the conservation journal of SFO. There was also a genuine feeling that SFO would be diminished without full participation by Canadians (and not just through their individual memberships in SFO which I assume would happen anyway). Fred Cooke, participating as a past-President of the AOU, was particularly forceful on the need for further thoughts on this topic.


Francais ici:


Message de la présidente

La rencontre tant attendue visant à poursuivre les discussions sur la fondation d'une nouvelle Société ornithologique des Amériques (SFO) est maintenant terminée. Plusieurs d'entre vous ont déjà entendu dire que des discussions sont en jeu afin de fusionner toutes les sociétés ornithologiques des Amériques dans le but d’augmenter l'efficacité dans les publications et d’innover afin d’inverser le déclin général des adhésions observé dans les plus grandes sociétés ornithologiques au cours de la dernière décennie. La réunion a eu lieu dans un hôtel de Dallas, au Texas, le mois dernier. Ci-dessous, nous reproduisons le communiqué de presse de cette réunion pour tous les membres intéressés de la SCO-SOC. Il y a encore beaucoup de travail à faire, y compris la décision du Conseil de chaque société participante de se joindre ou non à la SFO! La participation à la réunion ne signifiait pas que la Société devait nécessairement voter afin de joindre cette Société plus englobante.

La réunion de Dallas réunissait les présidents ou vice-présidents de toutes les grandes sociétés ornithologiques de l’Amérique du Nord (y compris moi-même, en tant que votre représentante), les membres du Conseil de l'American Ornithologists’ Union (qui comprenait la plupart des présidents sortants de l’AOU), ainsi que la Presidente de la Société ornithologique néotropicale. (aucun représentant de la Waterbird Society et de la Raptor Research Foundation n'étaient présents). Fait intéressant, le sujet le plus controversé fut de déterminer comment cette nouvelle société pourrait devenir plus internationale. Il était clair que le petit comité d'organisation d'origine n'avait pas pleinement développé les moyens d'intégrer les différents besoins des pays autres que les états-Unis. Toutefois, certains modèles ont été proposés, y compris 1) la dissolution pure et simple des sociétés nationales (comme SCO-SOC), 2) le statut de «chapitre» (par exemple, le modèle utilisé par la Société de la faune), 3) le statut national (c.-à-dire le modèle utilisé par Conservation de la nature), 4) le statut de membre affilié (par exemple, études d'Oiseaux Canada dans Bird Life International). Les modèles exacts n'ont pas été discutés et seront soumis à un nouveau sous-comité du comité d’organisation nouvellement formé, étant donné que l'ancien comité a été aboli à la fin de la réunion de Dallas. Il y avait une déclaration claire que le nouveau OFS devrait représenter l'ornithologie dans l'hémisphère occidental, bien que cela puisse constituer un objectif à long terme.

Une grande partie de ce qui était proposé était bon et d'autres détails apparaîtront ici le mois prochain sous la forme d'un projet de plan. On a discuté de notre revue, écologie et conservation des oiseaux, qui jouerait le rôle de revue de conservation de la SFO. Il y avait aussi un sentiment qu‘une véritable SFO serait diminuée sans la pleine participation des Canadiens (et pas seulement par leurs adhésions individuelles dans la SFO qui, je suppose, surviendrait de toute façon). Fred Cooke, participant en tant que président sortant de l'AOU, a particulièrement insisté sur le fait que de nouvelles réflexions sur ce sujet étaient nécessaires.

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Response to the document "A Vision of the Society for Ornithology"


Thanks for passing along some considerable concrete ideas and direction. A couple of points:


1. As currently described, the SFO is US-centric. While the overall goal is to encompass all of the Western Hemisphere, data from non-OSNA societies (e.g., NOS, SCO-SOC and other non-OSNA members of the Ornithological Council who have participates/are being invited to participate) are not included in the overall summary of membership, finances, journals, etc. The suggestion of a "Canadian partner of the SFO" implies a 2-tiered membership unless there is also a "United States partner of the SFO". While BirdLife International is truly international, it works with local partners, even in the UK (the RSPB) where it is based. I think there is still a strong tradition of "Canadian ornithology" (as there is likely a strong "Mexican ornithology" tradition) and it would be a shame for these to be assimilated by the larger US influence.


Someone else pointed out the embarrassment of the "World Series" of baseball being contested with American (and 1 Canadian!) team. Similarly, the name "SFO" implies a global (or at least non-geographical) reach.


2. The point was raised that the SFO would allow for larger conferences where working groups could also meet. I'm not a fan of large (> ~600 people) meetings, where I spend most of my time plotting how to run form one concurrent session to the next to make the talks I want to see, or trying to track down the people that I want to chat with in a massive crowd. The World Seabird Conference in 2010 hosted about 800 people; I only found out recently that certain non-presenting colleagues were there at all. Yes, fewer, larger conferences are cheaper to execute, but I think after a period, there would be fatigue. Furthermore, the timing of such conferences would undoubtedly overlap with field seasons somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, and if they continued to be held at the same time (e.g., the AOU meeting is often during the seabird breeding season in Canada), then participation would be decreased. How would these SFO conferences interact with/replace NAOC, IOC?


3. With respect to journals, the SFO planning committee should devote considerable thought (or make clear that the likely have already!) about how the journal costs will be passed on. The PLoS model is out of reach for many with small research budgets, as articles cost ~$3000 each. This represents about 10% of the annual value of a typical Canadian NSERC Discovery grant in Ecology & Evolution. Conversely, bundling journals forces libraries to subscribe to all or nothing, and one need look no farther than the recent backlash against Elsevier for compelling reasons to oppose bundling journals (e.g., http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/publishers-be-damned-7544703.html). The journals are described as "open-access" in some places, but pay-for-access (for a year) in others.


4. In a similar vein, the SFO planning committee should deliberate at great length about the publisher of the proposed journals. Fields Medalist Tim Gowers (and about 7700 other mathematicians) are actively boycotting Elsevier. The same could eventually happen to other large publishing houses where control of pricing and distribution are out of the sponsoring society/ies control. It might be cheaper to package journals with Wiley, but this must be weighed against the cost of access, copyright, and control (among others. I don't know what the solution to this is, but there should be informed discussion.


5. Rather than reinvent the wheel, has the SFO examined the recently-launched Peerage of Science (http://www.peerageofscience.org/) as a mechanism for submission and review? It allows for double-blind reviews, assessment of the reviews themselves, and journals can thereafter offer publication. Something to consider.


6. What plans are being made to archive online-only journals? A recent study found that only 15% of electronic-only journals are adequately preserved (http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/preservation/potential-crisis-may-be-brewing-in-preservation-of-e-journals/).


The SFO is an intriguing idea, and I know it's impossible to please everyone, so this is just my 2 cents (Canadian).

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