SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
2 November 2017
Volume 18 Issue 11

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Why Am I a Member of SETAC?

Charlie Menzie, SETAC Global Executive Director

Charlie MenzieI recently traveled to SETAC meetings in Latin America (Santos, Brazil) and Africa (Calabar, Nigeria). While traveling, I wind up in conversations with other passengers curious about what I do, who ask, “What is SETAC?” and “Why are you associated with them?”  The question of why someone is a member of SETAC has gotten lots of attention recently as we seek to make membership available to scientists and engineers around the world, especially in the developing countries. Why should they join SETAC and why should they consider becoming life-long members? I think the answers vary from person to person but include some combination of professional, economic and personal reward or fulfillment.

As I reflected on my motivation to be a life-long member of SETAC, I read some of the testimonials written by others. These capture views from our tripartite underpinnings of academia, business and government, and they include thoughts from former students. For example, Rebecca Lazarus has now moved from being a student into her professional career but wrote from a student perspective:

After attending my first SETAC North America meeting in New Orleans, I was greatly impressed with all of the opportunities and activities planned for students, including the Student/Mentor Dinner and Noontime Seminars. This past summer, I contacted the North America Student Advisory Council to become more involved and was enthusiastically welcomed and encouraged to participate and volunteer with this committee. As a second year Ph.D. student, being part of this larger scientific community has already begun to play a valuable role in my education and professional development. SETAC keeps me informed about advancements in the field of ecotoxicology, student activities, short courses, and awards and provides access to scientific journals I use on a regular basis. This past year at my first Student-Mentor Dinner, I made a valuable contact who down the road would serve as a collaborator. This truly shows how SETAC strives to create student–mentor connections and provides key networking opportunities for students at all stages in their education.

One of our long-time members Don MacKay writes:

SETAC has proved to be one of the most enlightened and progressive societies. Its focus on the environment is increasingly relevant as ecosystems are stressed, and we try to work towards a sustainable society. Its involvement of government, business, and academic partners on an equal footing is constructive and badly needed in our often confrontational society. Its global perspective is wonderful. I find it the ideal venue for academics, business, and government agencies from across the globe to meet, share experiences, enthusiasms, and ambitions. It is a "must join” society for young environmental scientists. One of my great pleasures as a long-time (i.e., old) member is to stroll among the posters and listen to presentations at the annual meetings and sense the enthusiasm and dedication of young scientists. They are our hope for tomorrow! It is great to hear from my peers about their scientific advances and to experience their joy with new discoveries and insights into our complex and fascinating ecosystems. It is also enjoyable to occasionally poke fun at them and be on the receiving end as well! It is a joy to be part of the SETAC Community.

As SETAC’s Global Executive Director, I need to pay attention to numbers such as the status of our membership, revenues, dues, planned meetings and workshops, and publications. The value of SETAC to its members intertwines with all of these considerations. From a global perspective, there is substantial group of long-time SETAC members who view SETAC as their professional home and other SETAC members as part of their professional family. An additional sphere of members comes in and out of the society depending on personal, professional, opportunistic or economic circumstances. I see both groups as integral to SETAC’s mission of supporting the development of principles and practices for protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity. The core membership serves as the hub that sustains and advances SETAC’s mission. This essential group does much of SETAC’s joyful heavier lifting to lead initiatives, serve in governance, develop critically important workshops and participate in one or more of SETAC’s 26 Interest Groups.  The sphere of members that come and go from SETAC share their ideas and research at our meetings and engage in topics of particular importance either geographically or for particular periods. 

While achieving SETAC’s mission requires both types of members – core and intermittent – it is essential that we sustain and grow a strong core membership. Growth of our core membership is important because we continue to grow geographically with an increasing presence in developing countries. There is a need for core members in those countries as well as core members from developed countries to help support SETAC’s growth and influence in developing countries.  The support from SETAC members in developed countries to developing countries currently involves personal engagement as well as some financial support from membership dues and contributions. Growth of our core membership is also important because there are increasing challenges to environmental policies related to the protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity. Those are challenges to our mission, and we cannot be complacent.

What do I see as the value of SETAC to me and to our membership? Why be a long-time core member? What can we envision SETAC offering us as it continues to evolve and grow? Certainly, there are the immediate tangible benefits that come with membership such as access to journals, the SETAC website and reduced meeting registrations. However, as core members come to learn, the value of a SETAC membership extends well beyond this. Value not only derives from what SETAC offers but also from the personal investments of members into the workings of the society. In particular, volunteering time reaps great professional and personal rewards. I have benefited greatly at a professional, economic and personal level because of my investment of time to SETAC.

During my journey within SETAC, I met other volunteers such as my friend Peter Chapman who recently passed away. Peter’s well-deserved reputation rests not only on his extensive body of published work but also on investment of his personal time as a mentor, workshop leader, meeting organizer, committee chair and participant in myriad activities within SETAC and other organizations. If Peter or I were not investing and volunteering our time to SETAC, we would not know one another as we did, and our professional and personal lives would be a little less for that lack of connection. With that backdrop and a note of gratitude to Peter, here are some of the ways SETAC provides or is developing value for members:

  • Members benefit from exposure to the integration of science and application available through SETAC. Because of SETAC’s mission and membership composition, SETAC can and does address changing technical and regulatory landscapes. Problem solving requires integration of information from multiple disciplines. As a result, SETAC has been broadening its scope to recognize and embrace the need for integration, and SETAC as a society provides the place to accomplish this. It is for this reason that we are reaching out to the engineering sciences, health risk assessors and toxicologists, LCA practitioners, economists and policy folks. SETAC is the society where you not only gain in-depth knowledge of specific scientific matters but also learn how the pieces fit together to address complex problems. This is part of the idea behind the risk certification program; risk assessment and management is an integrative process.
  • SETAC provides its members with an exceptional opportunity to network. Networking has been a main attraction for core SETAC members and is something that we try to instill in students. Networking for our members is valuable to advancement of their professional careers, financial reward, knowledge building and quality of life. We have many activities directed at this, and we use terms like “my professional family.” We can capture that sense of belonging by identifying and celebrating SETAC families that arise in academia, business and government. We view students as our future and therefore invest in mentoring programs, assistance with careers and their professional development.  Importantly, we invite students to engage in the workings of the society so they can experience that personal investment as well as the rewards that come from it.
  • SETAC is the organization within which we are developing programs and training for members acquiring needed certifications and learnings essential to their careers and for solving environmental problems.
  • SETAC is the organization through which our members can be a “voice for science” in a world that needs to hear that voice. This includes outreach to policy makers, the public, and K-12 educators and their students. 
  • SETAC is uniquely global. SETAC members have a window on activities around the world, including opportunities to participate in ways not easily possible elsewhere. This through training international training programs, webinars, news and our internationally oriented meetings and Interest Groups. 
  • SETAC can be the place where members learn about funding opportunities as well as on how to secure funding. This can apply to all three parts of our tripartite organization.
  • SETAC offers our members critical training through workshops and professional training courses. 
  • SETAC provides members with a forum for tackling tough technical and regulatory matters that affect government agencies, academic research and business.

I continue to be a member of SETAC because I want to make a difference. I did not fully realize that particular motivation at the beginning of my SETAC membership. When I first joined, I was interested in furthering my professional career and learning about new developments in the diverse array of SETAC sciences. SETAC’s journals and meetings contributed greatly to my professional development and business success. However, as I engaged further and participated in SETAC’s committees, Interest Groups, workshops, professional training courses and eventually governance, I found deeper and more fulfilling reasons to being a member. I have listed those in the bullets above. However, this list does not fully capture my continued motivation for membership. I have received a lot from SETAC, but to make a difference, I have to give. For me, that means giving back to the society, especially to our students and young scientists around the globe. It also means advancing SETAC’s mission to develop principles and practices for protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity. We have a very strong internal voice for science as evidenced by our meetings, workshops and journals. Our future includes strengthening our external voice for science. That voice needs to be credible, factual, informed by our tripartite perspective and effective. This is why I am a member of SETAC.  

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