Created: 27 November 1998 Updated: 21 January 1999 - added item about the Severe Weather Symposium
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 and my second report here.
The Council consists of (see Article VII.1 of the Constitution):
Newly -elected Councilors:
* Council Members not in attendance at this meeting.
$ Council members about to finish their terms.
# Dr. McPherson's appointment to the position of AMS Executive Director has been approved by the Council; he'll be replacing Dr. Hallgren, a change to take effect in January 1999, I believe.
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.
Attendance at this two-day Council meeting (held at AMS Headquarters on 1-2 October), was marginal. There were four Councilors not present, making us a pretty tight-fit quorum. 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 [Rick Rosen], the Publications Commissioner [Wayne Schubert], the Planning Commissioner [Charlie Hosler], the Professional Affairs Commissioner [Ray Ban], and the Commissioner of Education and Human Resources [John Snow]). The minutes, dutifully recorded by Werner Baum, will appear in a future issue (likely in January 1999, although the minutes of the September 1997 meeting have yet to be published!!) 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.
As a Council veteran, now, I was prepared for how things actually went. I came away from this meeting feeling just a bit better than at the Council meeting last January in Phoenix. I will detail some of the reasons for this in what follows. This is a feisty Council! I was proud to be a part of this bunch. As before, I am providing an assortment of impressions and informational tidbits, again in no particular order.
In the past, I mentioned that only four Councilors are elected ... the fifth comes from a "traditionally underrepresented segment" of the Society's membership. Just for the record, there are three such segments. They are:
This year's appointee is Otis Brown (oceanography), last year's was George McVehil (atmos. chem./upper atmos.), and the year before that, it was Wilfred Brutsaert (hydrology). Hence, hydrology is next up when Wilfred rotates off the Council.
I have expressed my lack of sympathy for the hydrological segment of our membership elsewhere. They were among the groups (oceanographers were also involved) seeking to change the name of Monthly Weather Review, apparently because they didn't want to publish "hydrology" papers in a "weather" journal. It has been my feeling all along that there is nothing that prevents them from publishing within the existing journals except perhaps their own self-imposed constraints. In fact, it appears that the selectees for the editorship of the new journal already have published papers in Monthly Weather Review!! Thus, it seems that not everyone in the hydrology community feels so restricted by the current journal formats. So why do we need another journal?
Furthermore, in my experience, the word "hydrometeorology" is typically pronounced "HYDROmeteoroLOGY" by hydrologists, and not pronounced by meteorologists at all! In other words, the term is an orphan in the meteorological community, and is being promoted virtually exclusively by hyrdologists, with their own agenda in mind. I have struggled to develop collaborative relationships with hydrologists, who usually have been too busy with their hydrology to work out a true interactive disciplince between meteorology and hydrology. It's a natural thing to pursue one's own discipline in preference to some hybrid, even if there is merit in the cross-disciplinary work ... such cross-disciplinary work typically is an orphan, without support (=$$) from the infrastructure of university departments, etc. This journal's existence in a meteorological society can have only one real purpose ... to foster that interaction. I am not confident that this journal is necessary to foster the interaction. Why doesn't the comparable society of hydrologists develop such a journal?
Nevertheless, my opinion obviously was a minority one. When the vote was called, I was the only one opposed to approving the formation of the new journal. Given the tide against my opinion, this was a done deal before the vote was ever taken, of course, and my lone dissenting vote was only conspicuous but not effective. I remain to be convinced the AMS should sponsor this new journal. If somehow a miracle occurs and this journal's formation does lead to a burgeoning of hydrologist-meteorologist interactions, then I will renounce my opposition gladly. But I'm from Missouri ...
It was very clear at the meeting that this study has a number of characteristics that are important to the members! They should be aware of what the AMS is going to be using in its march toward the future. I want to urge the members to read it and express themselves to anyone on the Council they wish ... that's why I've provided e-mail addresses wherever possible, after all. And the AMS is trying very hard to get the word out via their home page. Note that this study is not involved with predicting what meteorological science and technology will look like in ten years! Rather, it is an expression of what the AMS itself wants to look like in the year 2010. If you have not contributed to this, in spite of all the opportunities that the AMS has been providing, then don't gripe if the AMS is going down some path you don't like!
This represents a vision of what the AMS is going to look like in ten years, and it is guided by five major themes:
1. Multidisciplinarity: It is felt by the framers of this vision that the future of meteorology is inextricably linked to multidiscipinary work with: oceanographers, hydrologists, biologists, etc. I'm not quite sure what the American Meterological Society expects to do with all these non-meteorologists ... fostering multidisciplinary work isn't as simple as sponsoring meetings with scientists from different disciplines attending. I'm all for extending the scope and quality of multidisciplinary science, but I continue to believe that it is largely a matter of providing resources to support the actual scientific work, not preaching the gospel of "multidisciplinarity" without being able to support it. It will be interesting to see what the AMS can do to foster multidisciplinarity!
2. Inclusiveness: The AMS wants to be inclusive of a wider range of members than are represented currently. The traditional view of the AMS as a "scientific" society is to evolve with time toward a more "professional" society ... no longer a clique dominated by Ph.D.-level research scientists, but representing more fully a meteorological community that will increasingly be dominated by non-academic types. Operational forecasting meteorologists (public and private), meteorological professionals working for the private sector, environmental consults ... etc. PLUS ... there appears to be considerable movement to attract back to the AMS some segments who have been drawn toward other societies (like the AGU) ... notably atmospheric chemists and those involved with atmospheric electricity. Interestingly, the NWA still is seen by some within the AMS as a threat to the AMS, and there are segments in the AMS who struggle to know how to interact with operational forecasters (public or private!). It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
Strictly speaking, it's not entirely obvious that inclusiveness is a good thing. If the AMS wants to be "inclusive" to non-professionals, or hydrologists, or oceanographers ... this might dilute the "Meteorology" part of the AMS to the point where the society gets dragged by non-professional meteorologists in directions that the meteorologists don't want to go. I'm not saying this will happen, of course. Only that it might. I'll have more to say about "inclusiveness" later.
3. Outreach: The AMS wants somehow to develop better means to provide meteorological information to the public. This is certainly a laudable goal. There are some interesting aspects of this, notably what sort of "lobbying" the AMS can do. I am pretty sure there is considerable interest to push this to its legal limit, as it is clear that the meteorological community has not been very effective on its own behalf in political circles.
4. Communication and computer technology: This aspect of the future is changing at a rate that most of us simply can't follow very closely. What seems incredible to us is already "old hat" in techno-geek circles and the wave is always farther on than most of us know. I'm still excited about the Web! I think it's pretty clear that the future of the AMS is going to be tied to this ... I'm hopeful that more members, with time, will feel "empowered" by the ease of electronic communication to express themselves to the AMS. It's possible that the future will see a more responsive AMS than it is at present. I urge you to get involved in any way you can, and let folks know what you think. The new journals on-line is a fine example of some advanced thinking by folks at the AMS, notably Keith Seitter.
5. Finances and development: The AMS is getting much more aggressive in their fund-raising. It's likely that this will continue to evolve toward more and more private sponsorship of the various AMS activities. For example, the growth of private sector and public support for scholarships has been phenomenal, driven hard under the leadership of Dick Hallgren. Look for fund-raising to be a continuing theme in the future of the AMS. Without resources, many ideas whither and die, so I am supportive of the effort to get actual resources to make things happen, if the AMS can do so. Perhaps of some concern is the process by which new resources are allocated.
Implementation. Note that the "adoption" of this 10-Year Vision Statement by the Council says virtually nothing about how this vision is going to be implemented. The incoming Executive Director will be working with the Executive Committee, the Council, the Commissioners, and even the membership, to develop plans for implementation of this view of the AMS. Opportunities for involvement abound, so start thinking about where you want to contribute!
The question of awards and how they are handled has been the focus for some vigorous discussion within the Council. Naturally, much of the substance of that discussion must remain confidential. Nevertheless, the members should know that the whole structure of the process leading to AMS awards has been under review. It was the general feeling within the Council that the process was overdue for review and revision, so an ad hoc committee, very ably chaired by Judy Curry, was charged with developing recommendations for the AMS award programs. Some proposals for change have been moving toward implementation, many of which involve technical details about the process that aren't of much general interest. However, some basic ideas are worth sharing here. For instance, the notion of the lectureships:
as an award has been pushed hard, in an effort to get more widespread understanding of the recognition that a lectureship provides. Efforts are underway to get more clear statements of the "frames of reference" for the awards ... e.g., is an award a "lifetime achievement" award, or a "one-time contribution" award, or can it be either or both? The reconciliation of the Society's awards with those of the STAC Committees is being considered. The AMS Awards Committee selections (not those recommended by the STACs) are being focused to include mostly (if not totally) former award winners, so that the credentials of the candidates can be reviewed by a group of people familiar with the field. The members should be aware that the recommendations of the committees carried forward to the Council are given very serious consideration as we deliberate the approval of the recommendations. Service on these committees has a large impact on who receives AMS awards.
A common theme to virtually all of the Council meetings I've attended has been the frustration at the low number of nominees for the awards. How many of you are aware that any voting member can nominate someone for an AMS award? You merely have to consult the AMS Bulletin (e.g, see the p. 2582 ff. in the November 1998 issue) and you'll find procedures outlined for doing award nominations. The STACs and the Awards Committee are being urged to seek more qualified nominees, but they can't do it on their own. If you've ever griped that someone got an award you felt they didn't deserve, while someone you know has been overlooked ... here's your chance to get involved and fix the situation! The AMS has a number of awards, some of the STAC committees have awards they oversee, and special awards can be given that don't fit within any of the current "frames of reference" for the existing awards. Recognition is can mean a lot to someone you know, and it's within your power to see to it that a deserving individual gets that recognition.
I've had a lot to say about this in the last few postings, but barring something unforeseen, this is coming to an end. For myself, I've satisfied my curiosity about how this all works. The AMS generally has been responsive to my inquiries and I now believe that the explanation for the large conference registration fees lies in their use to underwrite the AMS infrastructure (some of which is only marginally associated with conferences!) that those fees support. From here on, my involvement with this topic (in general) will diminish. The members have to decide for themselves how to deal with the question of how much infrastructure they are willing to support. I recently attended the NWA Annual Meeting, and I must say that the NWA has chosen the low-cost option to quite an extreme extent. If I were on the NWA Council, I'd probably be recommending that their members should consider supporting more infrastructure than they do at present. Their low-cost options have the effect of making the members (and their organizations) do virtually all the work associated with putting on a conference. Their meetings and regional conferences are certainly characterized by minimal cost, but the results (in tangible terms; e.g., a Preprint volume) are also minimal. Perhaps both organizations should consider moving toward some middle ground. However, it's not up to me to push the AMS members toward some goal of mine. Make your thoughts known, and participate!! Non-participation is equivalent to voting for the status quo, except it disqualifies you (in my opinion) from being able to gripe about the situation.
A final item of concern to me on the topic of the Budget is the projects chosen for support from the "excess interest income from investments" of the AMS. The development of this policy of spending the excess interest income to support "worthy projects" is certainly something I am happy to see ... but I still am not pleased with the way in which projects come up for approval. How many of you are even aware that you can submit projects for consideration? Basically, it seems to me that the present "system" looks a lot like a "good ole boys club" .. if you are part of the system, you get your ideas included for consideration. If not, well, too bad. I believe that some systematic method should be developed to make members aware of this possibility and a committee (not the Executive Committee, either!) developed to wade through the proposals and then make recommendations to the Council about which projects should be supported.
Doug Lilly has sent the following to me ...
Aside from issues of fairness and democracy, I believe that open and accessible meetings would enhance the interest of members in AMS activities. As I understand, the lack of obvious interest and participation of members is a concern of the officers.
This isn't necessarily an easy thing to do ... if part of the Council meetings were to be open to the membership, a venue with a "gallery" would have to be found (perhaps rented). There isn't space at AMS Headquarters for such a meeting if the membership attended in any substantial numbers. Different arrangements would have to be made for the Council Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting. The Council would have to reserve the right to keep some portion of their meeting closed, as Doug has noted. However, I think it might be enlightening for the members to see what actually goes on for themselves. As Doug has suggested, this might encourage more participation by the membership. I have no preconceived opinion one way or the other, here. Perhaps the Constitution and/or By-Laws might have to be amended to deal properly with this issue. What do you think? If you have any feelings on the issue, please contact me or Dick Hallgren, Ron McPherson, Gene Rasmussen, or Keith Seitter.
I think that a comparable discussion of openness ("glasnost"?) could, and perhaps should, be applied to some of the Commission Meetings, as well. The Publications Commission meeting comes quickly to mind ... recall my comments on the Publications Commission Meeting I attended. For many of us, publications and conferences are our primary interactions with the AMS, and it would be especially valuable to have an enhanced sense of openness with respect to the decision-making in publications.
I am astounded at the slow pace with which formal Policy Statements of the AMS are reviewed and revised. I have been involved in a couple of these, and I get frustrated at how glacial the process is. I try to make my input regarding the statements available to whomever is leading the process as soon as possible, but even when I have stalled for what seems an embarassingly long time, I find I am a paragon of promptness in comparison to some. I don't know how to fix this, but I certainly think that our process needs to be hastened.
I have occasionally asked what purpose these statements serve. I may not be their most ardent supporter, but apparently lots of folks come to the AMS to seek the opinion of the profession regarding certain topics. It behooves us to have these statements reflect the realities of meteorology as best we can, so I am supportive of trying to get these reviewed and revised regularly. If you have a problem with one or more of them, be sure to contact the appropriate STAC Chair.
I get the distinct impression from this last Council meeting that there is a sort of exasperation that permeates the AMS brass ... "What do these operational people want, anyway?" For those primarily research-oriented "old-guard" of the AMS, they have been struggling to learn how to deal with operational meteorologists. "Wasn't Weather and Forecasting enough? What is the AMS supposed to do to attract the involvement of operational meteorologists? Have more forecasters on the Council? What's it going to take to make operational meteorologists a happy camp?" If they have to ask, these guys just don't get it. They don't understand the implicit disrespect this attitude conveys. Operational forecasters typically feel like Rodney Dangerfield when dealing with the AMS.
Operational meteorologists, for their part, seem to like to gripe about the unresponsiveness of the AMS but generally have done little or nothing to get involved. AMS membership in the NWS is pretty low (and NWA participation is even lower!). Thus, it seems that most operational meteorologists just like to gripe, not work for change. If they want respect, I think they have to earn that respect ... it isn't something they get for nothing. The few forecasters I know who have chosen to get involved in the AMS mostly have learned that they can have an effect, and do get respect.
From where I sit, it seems to me that both sides are equally culpable in the great divide between operational and research meteorology. It seems to me that all of us need to remember that the divide between research meteorology and operational meteorology is distinctly a human invention ... in my view, there is no such distinction. To paraphrase P.A.M. Dirac, there is only meteorology! -- research meteorology, applied meteorology, operational meteorology, observational meteorology, theoretical meteorology -- these are all non-existent, at least in principle. The task in front of all of us that belong to the AMS, or those whom the AMS would like to "include", is to work toward the good of meteorology as a whole, not just the parts with which we like to identify. If we begin to understand that what is good for one aspect of meteorology is good for all of us, then I think the attitudes and divisions finally will begin to whither away. If we can't think beyond our own sometimes narrow confines, then we are not even doing a good job of serving our own self-interest!
By the way, I believe that operational meteorologists in the private sector have a lot in common with their public sector colleagues. But I hear even less from them than I do the working-level troops in the NWS. If the AMS truly wants to be inclusive, they need to hear more from the working-level meteorologists in the private sector, too.
I managed to make my feelings on this be known at this last Council meeting. I still believe in the principle that candidates on the AMS ballot should be given the opportunity to state why they ahould be elected and what they intend to do, if elected. I got the following from Doug Lilly:
I'm hoping to carry forward this discussion, with some sort of proposal to give this at least a trial by the time of the next election (in 1999). If you have opinions about this issue, tell me or pass them on to any of the Council hierarchy for whom I've provided lots of e-mail links!
The Severe Local Storms (SLS) STAC Committee was adamant about not wanting to have its next SLS Conference in conjunction with the 2000 AMS Annual Meeting ... the committee was vigorously opposed to having their Conference out of sequence. However, they were willing to compromise by having a Severe Weather Symposium (essentially, a one-day affair) at the Y2K Annual Meeting. Within the committee, it soon became evident that there was a grass-roots movement to honor Ted Fujita for his contributions to Severe Local Storms research. The committee chair broached this topic with the STAC Commissioner and was told that it was against AMS rules to name such events for living persons. The rationale for this reaction to their request [which turned out not to be a written rule, but rather a long-standing policy] was that other living persons might be offended by not having a symposium named for them.[!]
The committee, in discussions among themselves prompted by the initial AMS reaction to their request, decided that if the AMS was not going to approve a measure that they had requested, then they would not have the Symposium within the confines of the AMS at all, if necessary, or they would name it in honor of Ted Fujita, anyway. Roger Wakimoto made a short but compelling presentation to the Council on behalf of the merit of naming the Symposium for Ted, and I pointed out that if the Council didn't approve this, the SLS STAC Committee was serious about not responding kindly to this proper request. When called for, Roger made a motion that the Council approve the SLS STAC Committee's request, and the motion passed unanimously. But that's not quite the end of the story.
The recent death of Ted Fujita renders the Council's final decision irrelevant, of course. However, before his death Ted was aware that the Symposium was going to honor him in this way. Roger tells me he was pleased that we chose to do so. I am too! Like flowers at a funeral, honors bestowed on dead persons seems to ignore the need to make the living aware of how much we appreciate their service to our community. I'm not opposed to honoring those who have passed on, but I also think we need to take very opportunity to express our gratitude to the living, before the chance to do so is gone, literally forever. If there had been a hard rule preventing such things, then I would have been working to change that rule.
My observation is that the AMS often creates imaginary problems to rationalize their policies. This concern for the possible offending of non-honored persons is a classic example of an imaginary problem. If a problem crops up, let's deal with it. But I am opposed to any effort to stifle new ideas because those ideas might stimulate some problem!