Executive Directors' Corner
Charlie Menzie, SETAC Global Executive Director
Just say “Yes” to YES, the Student-Led Young Environmental Scientists Meeting
What do Landau, Germany; Aachen, Germany; Krakow, Poland; Petnica, Serbia; Gainesville, Florida; and Stockholm, Sweeden, have in common? They are all sites for the YES meetings – a student-led, -organized and -implemented experience by and for students of SETAC. I had the good fortune and honor to be invited to the most recent YES meeting at the University of Florida in Gainesville, which was the first YES meeting held in North America. (Read about the YES meeting from students who were immersed in this experience).
I can share my perspective as a long-term SETAC member and someone who is keenly interested in the future of our society. The vibe, scientific excellence and energy present at the meeting all bode well for the next generation of environmental scientists and for SETAC. While the presentations were excellent and the courses well-received, I was especially impressed by the engagement among students. There was a feeling of community similar to that experienced by longer-term SETAC members who consider SETAC to be their professional home. That engagement mixed scientific dialogue with social activities and, of course, lots of fun. There was clearly pride among the students in their ability to organize and bring together attendees from around the world. I was pleased to see that this effort was supported by local sponsors as well as some of our Global Partners.
YES2016 opening ceremony speakers: (L to R) Bryan Brooks, Erica Brockmeier, L. Cody Smith, David Dreier,
Bekah Burket, L. Blair Paulik, Tammy Mandell and Charlie Menzie.
Photo courtesy of A. Olufolajimi
YES is reflective of what is occurring within SETAC at a global scale. Student and young scientist involvement in SETAC continues to grow within the scientific, social and leadership arenas. A student was recently elected to the SETAC Latin America board; young scientists play key leadership roles for various regions and responsibilities within SETAC Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe and North America. This year, SETAC will sponsor travel for student ambassadors from Europe and North America to participate in the EcoTox Brazil meeting, which will be held from 7–10 September in September in Curitiba, Brazil. EcoTox Brazil is associated with SETAC Latin America, and Brazil will again be the site of the 2017 SETAC Latin America meeting. The student ambassadors will network with their colleagues in Brazil prior to the meeting and will engage with students at the meeting. The goal of this effort is to provide students in Brazil with more direct insight into what it means to be a student within SETAC, and student ambassadors are ideally suited to provide that information. The student ambassador effort is being coordinated by Blair Paulik, current chair of SETAC North America Student Advisory Council (NASAC).
The SETAC Argentina Chapter meeting will occur from 11–14 October in Córdoba, Argentina. The Argentina chapter is a very student-oriented group, with many students making presentations and setting out posters. Karsten Liber, SETAC North American President has been invited to attend, which I think is terrific as Karsten has worked extensively with the NASAC and can provide his perspective to students in this Latin America chapter.
There are several additional efforts underway among our smaller geographic units (GUs) to facilitate the exchanges of information and lessons learned, while providing some travel opportunities for students and young professionals. Under the guidance of Ross Smith (SETAC Asia/Pacific), Ike Onwurah (SETAC Africa) and Karina Miglioranza (SETAC Latin America), these three GUs are holding regular teleconferences to share information and plan workshops and activities that involve their GUs as a collective. SETAC is also seeking grants to support travel for students and young scientists to the GU meetings. We are currently waiting to hear on a grant to support travel to the 2016 SETAC Asia/Pacific Conference, which will be held from 16–19 September in Singapore, and we are preparing a grant proposal to support a joint activity and exchange of students and young scientists between Africa and Latin America for their 2017 meetings.
Global Partners, Europe Partners and North America Sustaining and Affiliate Members, together with other supporters, have identified student-related programs as a top priority for SETAC and wish to help support such efforts. This has and will take a variety of forms. Several have stepped forward to help cover the costs of meeting registrations, educational travel and membership (e.g., Syngenta, Rio Tinto, and DuPont, ExxonMobil); others are supporting recognition in publishing and student luncheons at annual meetings (e.g., Colgate-Palmolive); and still others will be supporting student travel and registrations for the 7th SETAC World Congress/37th Annual SETAC North America meeting, which will be held form 6–10 November 2016 in Orlando, Florida. For many years, our Global Partner Procter & Gamble has been sponsoring a research fellowship, an annual award that circulates around the globe. At the Global Partners’ meeting in Nantes, France, ideas for supporting students and young scientists will be at the top of the agenda.
One aspect of support for SETAC students and young scientists involves providing guidance and assistance for publishing their work in the SETAC journals Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) and Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM). SETAC has created a course focused on how to get published. The goal is to implement this course at various GU and chapter meetings. Most recently, Bryan Brooks and I co-taught this course at the YES meeting. We first provided the basics – how to structure the paper, utilize the literature and provide clear understandable messages among other things – and then we gave case histories from our personal experiences. This took Bryan and I back to our earliest papers and the types of fundamental issues we needed to work through. A few that resonated with the students at the YES meeting involved “How to get started?” and “How to constrain the paper in light of all the information that is out there?” We described how certain papers originated as there is often a backstory. Bryan’s paper “Fish on Prozac” was a good example as this was a paper that grew out of a number of events. I sensed that working through these personal experiences provided an opportunity for the students to look inside the process and see that we grappled with many of the same challenges and questions they were confronting. We pointed them to the many tools and support systems that are available to aid them with publishing their work in SETAC’s journals. As we had several students for whom English was a second language, we pointed out that the SETAC journals can provide support including English language editing. More specifically, we laid out a path with a few key steps for young scientists to consider as they develop their paper for eventual submittal to ET&C or IEAM. The first recognizes that ET&C and IEAM are international journals with an international audience; therefore, the relevance (and ultimate acceptance) of the paper benefits by incorporating context that enables a broad range of readers to connect to the paper. This is a strategic step and requires careful consideration on the part of the author. In our discussions with the students, two complementary recommendations emerged with respect to establishing a proper context: a) conducting a thorough review of the literature to understand the landscape of the topic, and b) seeking guidance from mentors. Those mentors can be individuals at the local university or research institution and also individuals from SETAC’s international community. Student and young scientist members of SETAC have access to a broad range of individuals who have the expertise and who are willing to share their ideas on specific topics. A second key step is to make the key idea(s) crystal clear in the paper, so the reader does not have to wander about trying to figure out what the paper is about. A further consideration is utilizing the literature (thoroughly reviewed) in a manner that supports the paper with respect to the key idea(s) and did not bulk the paper up unnecessarily with information that - while interesting - did not efficiently support the main focus. With regard to content and interpretation of results, we emphasized the importance of ensuring the scientific integrity of the paper by providing the necessary supplementary information, recognizing uncertainties and by not extrapolating outside the scientific bounds of the analysis. We noted that SETAC actually has an award for best student paper that has scientific integrity as a central theme (sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive). Finally, we suggested that new authors, especially from developing countries or for whom English is not a primary language, have the paper read carefully by someone who is proficient in English and that the author inform the editorial office about the background of the paper and ask for a review that takes that background into consideration. The editor can then let the reviewers know about that background so that appropriate feedback and comments can be made as the paper progresses.
The YES meeting was a terrific experience for SETAC’s students and young scientists. Based on feedback from attendees, I think the meetings open new horizons. But these are not the only horizons that are illuminated. Longer-term SETAC members like me, Bryan Brooks and Mace Barron, who attended the YES meeting in Gainesville, got an opportunity to see how these students will affect the future of our science and our society. So, if you’re a SETAC student or young scientist and the opportunity comes your way, say “yes” to the YES meeting and to the various student networking activities that are currently underway. It will be beneficial to your work and professional life and will likely create life-long friendships within the SETAC community. I congratulate the students who made this year’s YES meeting a success.
Author's contact information: Charlie.firstname.lastname@example.org
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