Workshop Development and Review: The Role of the SETAC North America Technical Committee (SNA TC)
Katherine von Stackelberg, SNA TC Chair
Developing and conducting technical workshops, Pellston workshops, and focused smaller meetings is a large part of what SETAC does, and all members are encouraged to consider submitting workshop proposals for important scientific issues. The Technical Committee (TC) plays an important role in how workshops are developed by providing both a thorough technical review of the proposed topic and how the topic will be addressed, but also an administrative review, including a review of the makeup of the steering committee as well as proposed participants (e.g., ensuring a balanced contribution from SETAC’s tripartite academic, business, and government membership, encouraging NGO participation when feasible) and funding sources.
Technical workshops are designed to provide a forum for discussing and ideally resolving important technical or policy issues in environmental science. In general, the approach is to assemble an interdisciplinary group of scientists with complementary backgrounds, interests, professional affiliations, and viewpoints. One of the most important functions of the TC is to provide an unbiased and thorough review of all aspects of the proposed workshop.
There are two general categories of SETAC workshops: Pellston workshops, named after the location of the first workshops (University of Michigan Field Station, Pellston, MI, USA) and technical workshops, including small meetings, with separate SOPs for each type. The determination of what kind of workshop to propose is typically a function of the anticipated breadth of interest in the topic across the SETAC membership, the urgency, importance, and timeliness of the topic, and the likelihood that the workshop will significantly advance scientific understanding of the issue. A further important criterion is the level of SETAC technical and financial commitment sought by the applicant (e.g., full SETAC sponsorship, co-sponsorship, or simplyendorsement).
In all cases, the tentative steering committee or individual will develop a pre-proposal (concept paper) that clearly describes the topic to be examined, the workshop objectives, the anticipated range of participants, any potential funding sources, and the benefits to be obtained from the workshop. This pre-proposal is submitted to either the NA Board (technical workshop or small meeting) or the World Council (Pellston). The TC reviews the pre-proposal to determine whether the proposed topic is timely and broadly of interest, and if the designation is appropriate (e.g., the topic is so controversial or cutting edge that it should really be a Pellston rather than a more focused workshop). The TC provides specific recommendations to the steering committee so that the final proposal will be easier to put together.
Not all workshops are automatically reviewed by the TC. Those proposed by or through the North America geographic unit are required to be reviewed by the TC. Pellston workshops, and workshops proposed through other geographic units, are reviewed by the Science Committee under the auspices of the World Council. However, the chair of the TC, or another designated individual from the TC, typically serves as a liaison to the Science Committee, and the liaison often asks the TC to assist in providing input to the Science Committee.
Any member who is thinking about planning a workshop is encouraged to get in touch with the SETAC Pensacola office to discuss the options. Of course, members of the TC are always available to discuss ideas, explain the process, and brainstorm approaches with the goal of fostering communication and developing interesting and timely workshops!
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