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The President's Environment

The President's Environment is published 3x/year. Past Issues of the President's Environment can be found in the archives of The Bulletin.

Join SFS! (And Bring a Friend!)

By President Dave Strayer

September 2014

Fuller and Penrose

Abstract. Strayer is asking you to help recruit new members to SFS, which will benefit both SFS and the new member.

One of the first rules of good communication is to direct your message to the right audience. You might think that the SFS membership is exactly the wrong audience for a column about joining SFS – after all, you’re already a member! So why am I writing to you today about joining SFS?

As an SFS member, you already understand how members are essential to the very survival of the society. Scientific societies are wonderful, almost subversive, associations. We are run not by a government bureaucracy to promote some social good, nor by a company to make profits, but by our members to benefit members and their interests. We choose the mission, structure, and activities of the society, and we all benefit from those choices: SFS meetings, publications, web resources, and on and on. If we don’t join and participate, then these activities disappear, and we all lose these benefits.

Now you could argue that someone can benefit from these collective activities without joining SFS, and indeed many non-SFS members come to our meetings, read our publications, and visit our web site. But being a member and participating in SFS benefits you personally, apart from these collective activities, and it’s hard to get these full benefits without joining. I was slow in coming to understand this, and I suspect that many non-members don’t understand this either.

Way back in grad school, I thought that you built a career by reading scientific papers and writing good papers of your own. But scientists, like all human beings, are highly social animals, and so much career advancement occurs through personal contacts rather than journal pages. People who will never read your papers will come to your talk or walk past your poster, and remember you when you apply for a job or a grant (or even ask you to apply for a job or a grant!). You can talk with people after their presentations at the SFS meeting, sit next to them at a lunch, work with them on an SFS committee, or have a beer with them, and make connections that you just can’t make by reading and writing papers in your office. Now you have colleagues to work with on new research, consult for advice about a difficult dean, ask to do a review or join a committee, or share just benthos jokes with.

Being a member of a scientific society is a terrific way to make these contacts, and so advance your career. Although there are many fine scientific societies, SFS is exceptionally friendly and open, is economically priced (see the appendix to our new strategic plan for cost comparisons of SFS to other societies), and offers a good package of benefits, especially for students, so it’s a great choice for a freshwater scientist. All of this means that we can help our students and colleagues advance their careers by encouraging them to join SFS. Again, you SFS members already know all of this, so you could say that I’ve chosen the wrong audience for my message today.

But in one sense, you are exactly the right audience for this column, because you do understand all of this. Although many people join SFS out of the blue, the recent survey by our Long-Range Planning Committee reminded me that many of us joined SFS (or NABS) because of a referral from a mentor or friend. (I joined in about 1981 because Ron Hall, a post-doc in my doctoral advisor’s lab, wouldn’t stop talking about how great NABS was, and he in turn had been recruited by his doctoral advisor Tom Waters, one of the Grand Old Men of our society. I’m sure that many of you could relate similar stories). Because humans are social animals, word of mouth is still our most effective recruiting tool.

So as an SFS member, you are uniquely well positioned to help us recruit new members. We all know bright students or colleagues who aren’t yet SFS members, and we can all work to diversify our society by getting the word out to someone with a different background, age, geographic origin, or way of thinking than ourselves. So take a few minutes this week to help both SFS and that student or colleague by nudging them to join us.

p.s. The Milwaukee meeting is shaping up to be a great one – check out the meeting website

p.p.s. The comment period for the proposed new EPA rule on defining the "waters of the United States" is open until 20 October. Consider submitting a comment about the science behind this important new rule.

-- Dave Strayer, President
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