Does anybody want to be president? Anyone?

Mar 02 2015 Published by under [Education&Careers]

No, I'm not taking on the 2016 election at this stage. Rather, I'm interested in a growing trend I'm seeing across a few scientific societies I work within. I've run the nominations side of a society before and I'm familiar with the process of getting people to agree to put their names on a ballot. Some people are happy to be nominated and others begrudgingly accept, but generally you can get good people on board.

I'm starting to see a change is the nominations process that can only be described as "more desperate'. It used to take asking about twice the number of people you planned to have on the ballot in order to get enough yeses. Recently nomination committees are reaching further and further for ideas. The churn through potential candidates seems to be at an all time high. Why?

People appear to be declining society service for the simple reason that they have devoted their "extra" time to submitting proposals. If you want to nominate someone who is research active, it is damn near impossible to get people to agree to be named. A lot of the names I'm starting to see on ballots are either deanlets who aren't running labs or fresh meat (just post-tenure) who are naive enough to agree (See: Me, last year).

Whereas I am all sorts of in favor of societies getting a broader swath of people involved (All middle-aged white guy ballot? Um, no thanks.) it appears as though a lot of folks are starting to batten down the hatches and avoid service they would have previously said yes too. My poll is wildly anecdotal, so I would be curious whether others are seeing something similar.

Will there be a long-term affect here? I have no idea.

6 responses so far

  • Alex says:

    And it's not like all of the other administrative, service, and paper-pushing aspects of academic work get any lighter, which makes it even less attractive to take on more outside service as time goes on.

  • Yeah, society service tends to rank well behind university service to those making decisions.

  • mytchondria says:

    Guess that's why you end up with a fuckkennutter like McKnight punching down on the 'riff raff' from his presidential perch.

  • I'm truly grateful you finally found a home for that comment.

  • […] Related Reading: Does anybody want to be president? Anyone? […]

  • Simon Goring says:

    A bit late to the game, but I want to put my two cents in. I think we're going to see a long term decline in smaller societies, and a trend toward attending larger meetings. The trade-off is so skewed now. If you're going to put in the time to work on the executive of a society you want some benefits. So if you're not getting paid, it would be nice to get some prestige, and there you're looking at big societies, not the Southern Delaware Society for Pigeon-Falcon Interaction Sciences.

    For early career researchers the trade-off isn't so bad because you're told service is important, but, more than likely the Eastern New Hampshire Springtail Ecology Association isn't going to mean too much to a hiring committee.

    I have a few other society names I'd like to try out, but I've run out of points.

Leave a Reply