Report #2 by

Chuck Doswell

on my activities as a

Councilor of the

American Meteorological Society

Created: 02 April 1998

Disclaimer: Everything contained herein is associated with me personally, and has no connection with my employer [NOAA/ERL/NSSL] or with the AMS. That is, these are my personal observations, opinions, and recommendations and have no official standing or sanction. If you are offended or bothered by any part of this, take it up with me, not with either my organization or the AMS.

If you have not seen them before, I have other writings concerning the AMS at this Website. Please consult my campaign statement for some of this, and you can find my first report from the council meetings here.


The Council - as of January 1998 Annual Meeting

The Council consists of (see Article VII.1 of the Constitution):

The asterisk (*) denotes Council Members not in attendance at this meeting. Council members about to finish their terms are indicated by the double asterisk (**)

Thus, there are 21 members on the Council (four AMS officers, two past presidents, and 15 Councilors). The Executive Director and the Secretary-Treasurer are appointed by the Council (Article IX of the Constitution), not elected by the membership as a whole; they are ex officio members of the Council, not eligible to vote. Therefore, there are 19 voting members, and so a two-thirds majority is 13 members if all voting members are present at a meeting. A quorum is a simple majority (10) of the voting members.

My Second AMS Council Meeting - Impressions

Attendance at this one-day Council meeting (held just before the beginning of the Annual Meeting), was better than at the September meeting at AMS Headquarters. There were some late arrivals owing to some airline problems, but most of the Council was present by the time the afternoon session was underway. As is standard practice, also attending (for the purpose of making presentations to the Council, but not eligible to vote) were various Commissioners (in this case, the STAC Commissioner, the Publications Commissioner, the Planning Commissioner, and the Commissioner of Education and Human Resources). The minutes will appear in a future issue (likely in June 1998) of the Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc, suitably sterilized for publication. I actually recommend that you read these minutes. There is information in them, but you can be sure that some of the entries are not so brief as they appear in the minutes! I will state right now that there will be aspects of some of the discussions that (rightfully) will not be in the minutes and will not appear here, either.

Having been to one Council meeting, I was not quite so surprised at how things went. However, I came away feeling just a bit more frustrated than I did at my first meeting. I will detail some of the reasons for this in what follows. As before, I am providing an assortment of impressions, again in no particular order.


Conference Costs: A Summary and a Challenge

The main explanation for the relatively high registration costs is that the income is being used, in part, to support many facets of AMS infrastructure, including some items that have at most a peripheral connection to the conference itself. Even with the current financial "disclosures" from the AMS, I have no idea what it costs to transport, feed, and house the AMS staffers at all the various conferences, but we are paying for them, as well. They have not broken out the costs of the AMS "suite" with lots of amenities that often shows up at conferences, either. Nor have they broken out the costs for all the "free" meals provided to the various committee and Council members during conferences. Nor have they revealed the details of the contracts the AMS negotiates with the hotels.

Many of us have known for some time that we can put on conferences far more cheaply than the AMS and I have long wondered why the AMS can barely break even with registration fees that are several times larger than what we charge at our non-AMS conferences. It seems clear now that the reason for this is that the people who put on meetings outside the AMS are basically contributing their time and effort (and perhaps that of some of their staffs) at no cost. Clearly, this means that whoever puts on a conference outside the framework of the AMS is "eating" those costs associated with making the meeting happen and fees are not being used to support activities that do not bear directly on the conference. We negotiate our own deals with the hotels where the conferences are held, presumably trying to minimize costs to the participants. We are using our own resources to get us to the meeting, to feed and house us, etc. None of these costs are being passed on the the registrants. Note that at most (if not all) conferences, the STAC members, Program Committees, and Local Arrangements Committees do a considerable amount of work to help make a conference possible without compensation, even as it is.

Thus, my challenge to AMS members is this: If we want to reduce the costs of conferences, we need to ask ourselves how much of the work for a conference (beyond what we are already doing) are we willing to do ourselves (outside of the AMS)? If everyone is satisfied with paying the AMS for the costs of putting on a conference and are pleased with what they are getting in return for their registration fees, page charges, etc., then I'll shut up. If members are not happy with all of this, then they should be willing to take on a share of the workload without compensation in order to make conferences happen cheaply. It's quite possible for a STAC Committee literally to hijack a conference from the AMS ... simply have the STAC Committee vote that it does not want to have an AMS Conference in that particular year, and then go ahead and put on the conference themselves, presumably at a substantially reduced cost, but with greater involvement on the part of the participants. I believe that doing this will send a pretty clear message about dissatisfaction regarding conference costs. The AMS does provide a service, and we cannot expect that service to be free; they have infrastructure to support. If we believe that we're not getting what we think we are paying for with this service, then the members can show their unhappiness most convincingly by hijacking a conference. If the majority are not willing to do this, then they should stop griping about the costs of AMS conferences!!







  1. Dr. Susan Avery, Chair, U. of Colorado [see above for e-mail]
  2. Dr. Robert Brammer, Applied Sciences Corporation
  3. Dr. Bradley Colman, NOAA/NWS [see above for e-mail]
  4. Dr. Jerry Mahlman, NOAA/GFDL
  5. Dr. John Snow, U. of Oklahoma

or via the AMS homepage.