ScienceWriters 2018: NASW business meeting

NASW business meeting

By Gaius J. Augustus

Committee updates, awards, and discussion of two constitutional amendments marked this year's business meeting at ScienceWriters 2018. Of note was the intensely discussed amendment to change the eligibility criteria for officers of NASW.

The meeting was led by incoming NASW President Siri Carpenter, who began by thanking outgoing board members and welcoming new board members. Several updates were announced:

  • NASW Cybrarian Russ Clemings, Kathryn Jepsen, and other members of the Internet Committee have completed the new website design.
  • Thanks to the Freelance committee, NASW has a new partnership with the National Writers Union, which will allow writers to access NWU services for contract advice and grievance handling.
  • The governance committee has been formed to review and evaluate NASW governance policies. They have focused on three types of policies: 1) the nomination of officers, 2) representation on the board, and 3) the campaigning of officers.

Next, Carpenter thanked Lynne Friedmann for her work as longtime ScienceWriters editor, and announced two new hires. Sarah Nightingale has been hired as the print and digital editor, and Ben Young Landis is the new social media engagement editor.

This year's Diane McGurgan Service Award was presented to NASW volunteer Czerne Reid, who joined NASW in 2005 and became Education Committee co-chair in 2013. Co-chair Ashley Yeager said of Reid, "She does everything at 120%."

Carpenter briefly introduced two proposed amendments to the constitution:

  • Alter the number of signatures needed to bring a constitutional amendment to a vote from the current threshold of 20 signatures to a new threshold of 5% of regular members. The purpose of this amendment is to keep the bar low to propose an amendment while allowing the threshold to better reflect membership numbers.
  • Strike the following language from Article 4 Section 1: "A substantial majority of an officer's science-writing activities shall be journalism. Officers may not write press releases or otherwise act on behalf of an institution or company to affect media coverage while they serve in office. Officers who engage in such activities shall notify the Board immediately. They may remain on the Board, but the Board shall appoint another fully qualified member to carry out the officer duties." This language would be replaced with language that any regular member can be an officer.

What followed was an open discussion of these two outstanding amendments. Speakers were limited to 30 seconds.

The most anticipated discussion was that of the amendment to allow PIOs to be officers of NASW. The discussion brought to the microphone people both for and against the amendment, and lasted the majority of the meeting.

Paper ballots were distributed to members and completed ballots were collected at the exit. Results of the vote are expected in about a week.

Carpenter's last words to NASW members were those of unity. "We are and will continue to work toward ensuring that NASW is a fair and welcoming organization to all science writers and that our leadership structure reflects our values," she said.

Oct. 14, 2018