ISIE - transition to an independent society

As announced in my presidential address in Chicago and again in February, ISIE has been seeking to incorporate as an independent organization. Since its foundation in 2000, ISIE had been organized as a project at Yale University, taking advantage of the fantastic tax-free status of not-for-profit organizations in the US and the support provided by this eminent institution. This arrangement has served the ISIE very well through its first two decades and has instilled a level of academic rigor, vibrancy and focus on talent that is exemplar among scientific societies. The association with Yale has also imposed tight constraints on how tasks could be organized and high costs of doing business. With the benefit of being part of Yale came a certain level of inflexibility which the council felt would hamper the future development of the ISIE if it was pertained. The council decided to explore options of incorporating the ISIE independent from a university institute. Exploring the legal systems and cost levels in different countries, ISIE officers recommended to incorporate ISIE in the Netherlands, something the Council approved in principle at a meeting in Les Diablerets. Our treasurer, Ester van der Voet, and our executive director, Paul Hoekman, have been working hard on establishing the required material for the incorporation, which involved working with a public notary, consulting tax advisors, and translating revised by-laws into Dutch. The Council will soon debate and vote on these by-laws, and our objective is to have the transfer of the organization become effective by the New Year. The following changes should affect the membership experience:

  1. Fees are no longer collected by Wiley but by the society itself. Watch out for the renewal notices! This lowers costs and avoids delays in membership fees becoming available to the ISIE. The solution Paul is implementing should be easier to handle for members.
  2. Members will have more of a say. In the Netherlands, the principal governing body of a society is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the members. While we foresee a continuation of delegating of many tasks to a Board (Council), the AGM gives members more of a voice and a stronger decision making mandate.
  3. Member support has shifted from Judy Crocker at Yale to Lizelle dela Cruz.
  4. A lower cost base will give the society more freedom, either to offer more services and programming or to reduce fees. I am eager to hear members' vision for how we should use this freedom.
  5. Access to the Journal of Industrial Ecology will be organized through the ISIE webpage via a Trusted Proxy Server (TPS). This will ease the access.

We recognize that there are potentially down-sides of the new arrangements for the ISIE. Involving an AGM is potentially more time-consuming. Officers will now longer enjoy legal protection through Yale University. ISIE will have fewer tax-free privileges compared to what we enjoyed at Yale. (Donate this year!)  I think that overall, the advantages largely outweigh the disadvantages.

As we move ahead, the Council has significant freedom to adjust its operation and to take advantage of new opportunities. If I am allowed some day-dreaming, I would wish for the following:

  1. Change the timing of the terms of the president, so that the biannual meeting does not fall into the first semester of a two-year term. The meeting is the most important happening and the president should have responsibility for and influence over the meeting, together with the conference organizers. If we want such a change, it means that we need either a one-year interim presidency to bring us to the new schedule or one or two extended presidencies.
  2. Use the financial freedom to facilitate a push for open science. I personally believe this is the way of the future, but significant change to the way research is performed, development of skills and capabilities of research teams, and investment in infrastructure is required. ISIE could play a role in developing community standards and platforms, as well as getting science agencies to invest in infrastructure and training. I see the ISIE role mainly as one of facilitation and leadership.  
  3. A growth of the membership. While our field has grown substantially, the membership has developed slowly. Heinz Schandl, our president-elect, has the ambition to organize more of the scientists active in the field. We are currently elaborating how to do this. Becoming more relevant will be key.

I would be happy to hear from our members both what they think about the imminent changes and what their wishes and recommendations are.