Why I belong to SCB
and what I hope SCB will do
in the next two years
Paul Beier, President of the SCB Board
(from the SCB Newsletter, vol 18 no 3, August 2011)
It is no exaggeration to say that my academic title (Professor of Conservation Biology) would not exist if SCB had not created Conservation Biology as a discipline 25 years ago. That is a reason to be grateful, but it is not why I belong to SCB. I am a member for two reasons. First, I am nurtured by this global community of conservation practitioners. The Society sponsors the leading journals that provide outlets for my work; these journals are also where I go several times a year to learn what my fellow practitioners are doing. The International Congresses of Conservation Biology (I’ve attended 10 of them) let us all meet face to face to celebrate our diversity and successes – and to share our tribulations and burdens in a supportive atmosphere. SCB’s policy initiatives and Code of Ethics try to make the world a safer place to practice conservation science without political interference. We need each other. There is no other global community of conservation professionals. I benefit from this community. I love this community. I want SCB to continue to provide global, regional, and local communities for conservation biologists, struggling to save life one region at a time, one society at a time, one continent at a time, one ocean at time, and one planet at a time.
My second reason to belong to SCB is because I want science to be used – really used – in conservation activities and decisions. SCB is (thankfully) not alone in this goal, but we are an effective player. In 2011, SCB participated in a summit of professional societies on how to communicate climate change in an increasingly skeptical world, and we will participate in another summit on education of conservation professionals. To demonstrate that we walk our talk, in 2006 SCB became the first professional organization related to natural resources and conservation to take responsibility for our greenhouse gas emissions. We run the Smith Fellows program to launch stellar post-doctoral scientists in careers as practitioners. We run a policy office that keeps conservation science relevant to policy decisions by the US government.
So as I start my two years as president of the Board of Governors of SCB, my over-riding goal for Board action is simple: let us continue to nurture the community that nurtures us, and to promote the generation and application of conservation science. The details are important, and I will discuss them in the next paragraphs. But as I work with the Board, I will try to remember that the details are indeed details, and that we should keep our overarching goals in mind. How does each proposed activity build community? How does it make SCB a more effective voice for the use of science in conservation?
On to the details: Due to our decision (10 years ago) to become a truly global organization, SCB held Congresses on every continent except Antarctica. They have been fantastic events, but they came at a cost to community: many people on limited budgets could not attend Congresses far from home. Although I resolutely supported (and continue to support) the globalization of SCB, I was dismayed that our rotation of Congress venues meant that most members of every Section found it hard to attend most Congresses. To remedy this, our new strategy promotes communities at two levels: International Congresses in odd-numbered years, Section Congresses in even-numbered years. North America, Europe, and Asia will hold Congresses in 2012. My hope is that all Sections will hold Congresses in 2014, by which time every SCB member will find a Congress nearby in about 60% of the years.
On the topic of community-building, section development will probably be the number one challenge for the Board for the next two years. In March, the Board decided to allocate a portion of your membership dues directly to the section of your choice, and to give each section greater access to email lists of their members. When you renew your membership, we’ll also force you to opt-out of Section membership (our old policy left you Section-less unless you opted in). Look for more big steps to promote the autonomy and strength of our Section communities. SCB is also undertaking a major overhaul of our website, which needs to become a vibrant virtual community for all of us. Finally, SCB is in the initial phases of considering if and how to sponsor a new journal in Marine Conservation Biology. Such a journal could do much to promote both community and science for members of the Marine Section.
In the science and policy realm, let me first share some good news. Conservation Letters just turned three years old, which means its first-ever impact factor was just issued. It performed astonishingly well for a new journal, with a rating second only to Conservation Biology in the discipline. Kudos to our fine editorial team and our partners at Wiley-Blackwell! But onward… During the coming year, the Board will take steps to improve SCB’s engagement on global policy activities including IPBES (“Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” – think IPCC for biodiversity) and IUCN. Please contact Board members Jeff McNeely and Sue Mainka to participate. My additional goals in the science-policy arena are for SCB to help promote development of data repositories for biodiversity and conservation, and to support initiatives to promote learning about the effectiveness of conservation interventions. If you’ve read Conservation Biology during the past 10 years, you have been stirred by the rhetoric and activities of Nick Salafsky, Andrew Knight, Kent Redford, Andrew Pullin, Bill Sutherland (all past, present, or future SCB Board members) and others on evaluating conservation interventions. I think it’s time for SCB as an organization (not just as a publisher) to advance this agenda. Finally, inspired by a paper by Jim Manolis and colleagues (Conservation Biology 23:879-886) and my experience in the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program (http://leopoldleadership.stanford.edu/), I would like to see SCB promote integrative (as opposed to academic) conservation leadership, changing the way that scientists, policy makers, managers, and citizens interact with research and with each other. I believe promoting such leadership presents a great opportunity to expand the influence of conservation science and improving conservation effectiveness.
I’m looking forward to working the Board and our Executive Office and all of you to promote conservation science and this community of conservation professionals. If you want to offer advice, I’m not on facebook or twitter, but your postcards are welcome. Better yet, join an SCB committee, serve as an officer or board member of your SCB Section, chapter, or global organization, attend every Congress of Conservation Biology you can, and keep moving… onward!