Now is the time to begin planning for the AAG annual meeting, one of the largest venues in the world for sharing and communicating the broad range of contributions by geographers to basic and applied knowledge and to problem solving. The 2014 annual meeting will be held April 8-12 in Tampa, Florida. This is the first annual meeting to be held in the southeastern United States in over a decade and the first ever in Tampa. The excitement of a new venue, coupled with the intellectual stimulation that we all expect of an AAG annual meeting, promise to make the 2014 AAG annual meeting particularly noteworthy.

The AAG annual meeting traditionally has a number of featured themes that help to provide some structure to this diverse and rich meeting. Some of the featured themes emerge organically as the Local Arrangements Committee and the AAG meeting staff organize the thousands of abstracts and hundreds of special sessions submitted for the conference. Other themes are provided directly by AAG members, and I invite all of you to suggest provocative and engaging themes for the Tampa meeting. The setting of the meeting itself suggests numerous potential themes including environmental hazards, emigration, the aging of America, among others. There are many other current issues and developments that merit consideration as a featured theme, and I encourage you to submit suggestions.

In addition, the AAG Executive Committee and Executive Director have developed three overarching, “core” themes for the Tampa meeting that we believe are of sufficient interest to engage all meeting participants, that are of themselves interconnected and cross the human, physical and methods dimensions of the discipline, and that, most importantly, are of such weight and significance that collective focused attention is warranted. These themes are “Geographies of Climate Change,” “Racism and Violence in America: Fifty Years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy.”

Climate change is one of a myriad of environmental concerns facing humankind today and is representative of the inherent scientific complexity and uncertainty of these concerns, their political and policy contextualization, the challenges of formulating adaptation and mitigation strategies, and the importance of effective communication. The “Geographies of Climate Change” theme was selected to highlight the complex scale interactions of climate change including the observed and anticipated spatial differentiation in potential impacts and vulnerability. The Presidential Plenary session on the opening day of the conference will “kick off” this theme. Presenters include: Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research and currently Professor of Climate and Culture in the Department of Geography at King’s College London, and author of Why We Disagree about Climate Change; Linda Mearns, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Weather and Climate Impacts Assessment Science Program, and project leader of the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) which is providing high-resolution climate change projections for the impacts community; Susanne Moser, an independent researcher and consultant on adaptation, science-policy interactions, decision support, and climate change communication; and J. Marshall Shepherd, the current president of the American Meteorological Society and a faculty member in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia, whose research focuses on urban influences on climate. Numerous other sessions on the “Geographies of Climate Change” will be held throughout the annual meeting, and I urge you to keep this theme in mind as you submit an abstract and/or propose sessions.

I am writing this column on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Fifty years have passed since that landmark event, and many of the commemorative addresses acknowledge the considerable progress that has been made with respect to civil rights over the past half century. However, Florida is the location of a harsh and sorrowful reminder of the continuing pervasiveness of racism and violence in the United States. We would be remiss, while in Tampa, to not collectively consider the broader implications of the death of Trayvon Martin and the complex and disturbing trial that followed, and to explore our potential contributions to a path forward. Hence, a core theme of the meeting is “Racism and Violence in America: Fifty Years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.“ Fifty years ago the March participants sought comprehensive civil rights legislation, desegregation of public schools, greater access to employment for all groups, and an increased minimum wage. The featured theme for the AAG annual meeting provides an opportunity for us to explore past, current, and potential future contributions of geographical research to understanding and addressing progress in these and related areas. It will also enable all of us to reflect on our personal actions and commitment to reducing racism and violence. AAG Past-President Audrey Kobayashi and Professor Joe Darden from Michigan State University are leading the planning effort for a collection of plenary and special sessions and public events around this featured theme, and they request your input and suggestions.

The potential for GIScience to contribute to the formation of public policy has been demonstrated, but not fully realized. The third core theme, “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy” will explore the expanding role of GIScience in the public policy arena, both generally and also with respect to climate change and racism and violence. This theme also encompasses another dimension, that of federal and state policy-making regarding GIS itself. In particular, the roles of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) in developing a new strategic plan for the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) will be highlighted during several special sessions. Again, your assistance in contributing papers and posters, and organizing special sessions around the featured theme of “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy,” is requested.

As noted above, the featured themes attempt to provide some structure to a large, exciting, highly attended meeting. But, as always, the AAG annual meeting is an open meeting, and I look forward to your contribution to the meeting and to being submerged in the diverse set of paper and poster topics that we all expect at our annual meeting. Instructions for submitting abstracts and special sessions are found at http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting. Keep in mind that the “early bird” registration discount ends October 23.

See you in Tampa!

–Julie Winkler

DOI: 10.14433/2013.0016



Strengthening the AAG Through Cross-Disciplinary Outreach

Who belongs to the AAG? Who attends AAG annual meetings? Who reads and publishes in AAG journals? Hopefully, the AAG is the scholarly society of choice for professional geographers. Certainly that is the goal toward which the AAG must continue to strive, and recent substantial increases in AAG membership and annual meeting attendance point to strong progress toward this goal. But what about scholars and practitioners from other disciplines whose professional interests overlap with those of geographers? While many, if not most, geographers actively participate in more than one disciplinary society, my impression is that it is less often the case that those in other disciplines participate in the AAG. Is the AAG equally as attractive to scholars and practitioners from other disciplines as their scholarly societies are to geographers? Do non-geographers participate in AAG annual and regional meetings, read AAG journals, or submit quality manuscripts to the AAG journal suite at the level that geographers contribute to other disciplinary societies?

The AAG has been presented with a unique opportunity to experiment with modes of outreach to members of other disciplinary societies. J. Marshall Shepherd, Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia and an active AAG member, is currently the President of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), an organization for which I have served in several volunteer governance positions including Commissioner for Education and Human Resources and, more recently, Planning Commissioner. This mutual familiarity with organizational structure and culture provides a comfortable environment for both organizations to explore cross-disciplinary outreach. For the AAG, this is an opportunity to more broadly reach out to members of a scholarly society in which there is already considerable presence by geographers and in an area (physical science) where greater involvement from non-geographers could be highly beneficial to the AAG. Likewise, geography is an obvious choice for the AMS to broaden its cross-disciplinary interactions given the already large membership in the AMS by climatologists within geography, the increasing use of GIS methods and models in atmospheric science, and the relatively recent recognition of the importance of greater participation by social scientists in the weather and climate enterprise.

Credit for initiating this joint outreach effort goes to the AMS, and to date most activities have taken place at AAG annual meetings. At the 2012 annual meeting in New York City, Louis Uccellini, AMS president at that time and currently director of the U.S. National Weather Service, moderated two panel discussions that were organized by a small committee composed of atmospheric scientists and geographers. The first session highlighted the opportunities and challenges faced by younger scientists when communicating across disciplinary boundaries, whereas the second session included chairs from several of the AAG specialty groups as panelists and focused on potential linkages between geography and the atmospheric sciences. At the 2013 AAG annual meeting in Los Angeles, Marshall kicked off his AMS presidential year with a special session on extreme weather-climate and the built environment, the theme of the upcoming 2014 AMS annual meeting over which Marshall is presiding. Many of you may also remember the AMS booth in the exhibit hall at the AAG Los Angles meeting. This focus on the AAG annual meeting has been appropriate, in my mind, given the relatively greater presence of geographers, although primarily physical geographers, at past AMS annual meetings compared to that of atmospheric scientists at past AAG annual meetings.

The close proximity, both temporally and spatially, of the 2014 AMS (Atlanta, February 2-6) and AAG (Tampa, April 8-12) annual meetings, overlapping themes for the two meetings, and society presidents who are grounded in both organizations make this year a particularly opportune time to further strengthen linkages at the membership level between the AAG and AMS. With this in mind, the AAG will have a formal presence at the upcoming 2014 AMS annual meeting. Although plans are still being formulated, a major activity will be an AAG booth in the lively, well-visited exhibit hall at the AMS annual meeting. The booth will prominently display information on AAG publications, the upcoming Tampa meeting and future annual meetings, AAG K-12 educational outreach activities, and more generally on the diversity and breath of geography. Meeting attendees will have an opportunity to speak with AAG members and staff, and hopefully will be inspired to become more familiar with AAG publications, participate in future AAG meetings, and even become AAG members. Membership application forms will, of course, be available. In addition to the AAG booth, a “Meet the Presidents” session has been scheduled where Marshall and I will informally engage with meeting attendees on improved linkages between atmospheric science and geography and the benefits that the AAG and AMS can provide for both disciplines. The overall goal of these activities is to enhance the visibility of the AAG within the atmospheric science community.

This type of outreach is a relatively new endeavor for the AAG. In the past, AAG interactions with other disciplinary societies have primarily occurred at the executive director level through multiple-society advocacy organizations such as the Consortium of Social Science Associations or the American Geosciences Institute. In contrast, the outreach activities described above are explicitly directed at the members of scholarly societies. Clearly, this initial effort focuses on a single disciplinary society, although one with potential for interactions across the breadth of geography. The upcoming AMS annual meeting presents an opportunity to experiment with outreach strategies, evaluate their effectiveness, and potentially develop a model for outreach to a broad range of disciplinary societies. The AAG’s first and foremost obligation will always be serving the needs of geographers, but its reputation and long-term viability also depend on the how the AAG is viewed from outside the discipline. The AAG needs to be highly visible to, and well regarded by, scholars and practitioners across a multitude of disciplines, and active outreach is one means to promote greater visibility. I welcome your thoughts on potential outreach opportunities for the AAG to other disciplinary societies and look forward to hearing from you.

–Julie Winkler

DOI: 10.14433/2013.0014 



What’s Around the Corner?


Thank you for the opportunity to serve as president of the Association of American Geographers. This is an unexpected, but much appreciated, honor and responsibility, and I am excited to represent the AAG and its membership during the upcoming year. Throughout this year, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts regarding the AAG … I look forward to the conversation.

The focus of this inaugural column is the AAG’s new long-range planning effort. At their Fall 2012 meeting, the AAG Council voted that an eight-member committee be appointed for a one-year period to review and update the AAG’s long range plan, approved in 2002. The committee is now in place, and will meet for the first time in September.

“We live in interesting times” is an apt descriptor for the challenges currently facing scholarly societies, whatever the discipline they represent. The environment in which scholarly societies operate is undergoing rapid and dramatic changes that have significant implications for their future missions, and even their viability. Consequently, many scholarly societies have either recently undertaken, or are currently undergoing, long-range planning efforts. For the AAG, this is an opportunity for us to reflect on recent successes, identify new opportunities, address vulnerabilities, and enhance the AAG’s agility to respond to both anticipated and unanticipated change as we turn the corner into a new era for scholarly societies.

A central theme in the current long-range planning of scholarly societies is the viability of their business model. For most scholarly societies, including the AAG, income generated from publications and meetings is used to help support other activities, such as career services and educational outreach. Recent and anticipated future changes in the demand and delivery of publications challenge this business model. The recent and ongoing campaign by some for open access to scholarly publications is perhaps the most visible of the drivers of this challenge, but the increasing resistance of libraries to pay large subscription fees at a time of reduced budgets is also a concern. Additionally, the online availability of academic journals has potential consequences for society membership that may also impact the current business model. Scholarly publications are now more widely accessible, making the receipt of a society’s journals a less important membership benefit than in the past. Thus, the future contribution of publication income to a society’s bottom line is highly uncertain, which places greater emphasis on other revenue generating activities, such as professional meetings. And of course, any challenge to membership may also impact attendance at professional meetings. Other challenges that scholarly societies face include competition for membership from popular generalist (e.g., AAAS) or “quasi-generalist” (e.g., AGU) organizations, and changes in the expectations of members in terms of the services that scholarly societies should provide. For example, my perception, based on experience with three different scholarly societies over the past few years, is that members expect their professional society to play an ever greater role in shaping policy and advocacy. Not that long ago, scholarly societies rarely served as a broker between different sectors (i.e., academia, government, private) of a discipline, nor did they actively lobby for resources of general benefit to the discipline or the public. Yet, these types of activities are becoming increasingly common.

An encouraging trend for the future viability of scholarly societies is the continued interest by scholars and practitioners in these organizations. A survey conducted by The Scientist found that over 80 percent of the respondents belonged to a professional society, and most had memberships in multiple societies. This commitment to scholarly societies appears to be held by young and old alike. For example, over 50 percent of the early career biologists surveyed by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) belonged to at least one professional society. Also, almost all respondents of a recent survey by Wiley of their young scientist’s advisory group felt that scholarly societies will continue to be relevant into the next decade and beyond. According to the AIBS survey, a sense of community, particularly through attendance at professional meetings and the opportunity to interact face-to-face with other attendees, is a motivating factor for society membership across all career stages, whereas access to journals is no longer considered by many, including older members, to be an essential membership privilege.

These and other surveys suggest that scholarly societies will remain an important component of our professional lives, but that societies will need to adjust to changing membership expectations and potential alterations in their revenue stream. Traditionally, the AAG and other professional societies have served to disseminate scholarly research through their journals and conferences, facilitating the peer-review process by volunteer editors and reviewers. But the AAG and other scholarly societies also play an important role in articulating the significance of a discipline, as well as its past and potential future contributions to society at large. This is a particularly important role for a relatively small discipline like Geography; where the collective voice as represented by the AAG can be heard more loudly than our individual voices. The AAG’s career services and professional development activities are important functions for younger members. Education outreach is another common society function, and the K-12 and university outreach offered by the AAG is exemplary. The AAG, like other professional societies, engages in public policy activities, recognizes excellence through society awards, and disseminates small travel and research grants. The AAG’s long-range planning effort is an opportunity for both recent and long-term members to reflect on the AAG’s functions and ask: Which functions need to be strengthened? Which are no longer relevant or can be weighted less heavily? What new activities will enhance the AAG’s relevance for younger members and/or for the decades to come?

The AAG enters this planning process in a very strong position. Through the efforts of its executive directors, volunteer governance, and membership, the AAG has established and maintained a reputation of professionalism and respect. Current Executive Director Doug Richardson has put the Association on a strong financial foundation, including the development of a substantial endowment. These resources provide flexibility and the opportunity for experimentation, and also provide us with a window of opportunity to observe and learn from the successes and failures of other societies.

The deliberations of the long-range planning committee will greatly benefit from the input of AAG members. Please take the time to contribute to the long-range planning process by sharing your thoughts, concerns, and recommendations. Let’s collectively work to ensure that around the corner lies an even stronger and more relevant AAG.

–Julie Winkler

DOI: 10.14433/2013.0012

For more information on the surveys mentioned above, please see:

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/14599/title/Why-Do-Scientists-Join-Societies-/ (The Scientist survey)

http://www.access.aibs.org/page/Index/ (American Institute of Biological Sciences Biology in the 21st Century Survey)

http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/02/27/are-scholarly-societies-still-relevant-to-young-researchers-perhaps-surprisingly-yes-they-are/ (Wiley Survey)