#EntSoc13 – One for the record books.

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This post is not about Bioinspiration. Instead it is about the “service” part of my job. Read the post if you are interested in the Entomological Society of America, otherwise please stay tuned. Another bioinspiration-related post will be posted soon. There is a plea for symposia-ideas for the International Congress of Entomology in 2016 related to Insect Bioinspiration and Insect Biomechanics at end of this post.

I really love my primary professional society. I have been a member of the Entomological Society of America for almost 20 years now, and I have seen it go through changes – most of these changes resulting in a more inclusive and vibrant Society. Ever since my student-days I have tried to be involved within the leadership of the society; as Section leader of my section (first called Section B-> then the poorly named IPMIS-> and now PBT, Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology) and currently as a member of the Program Committee for the Annual Meetings.

How does one get to organize the arguably premier entomological conference? Hum, well, what happened was that my PhD advisor, Robert N. Wiedenmann, was elected president of the Society a few years back. I greatly admire Rob, he is one of my favorite people, so I may have, inadvertently, told him that I would do anything to help him make his term successful. Guess who called me back a few weeks later to ask me to serve as one of “his” Program Committee Co-Chairs for the Annual Meetings in Austin in 2013? Of course I said yes, also because the other co-chair Luis Cañas (the Ohio State University) has been a long-time friend. We were going to give the Society an international flair – with Central-American-Western-European-Midwestern sensibilities.

What does it mean to be on the Program Committee? Well, it is basically a 3-year commitment.

The first year you sit in on bi-weekly conference calls and you listen to the current Program co-chairs organize “their” meeting. You take LOTS of notes, and you try to ignore the increasing panic becoming obvious in their voices. During that first year you are also in charge of organizing the Student Competition, which means that at the summer meeting (held at the site for the Annual Meeting) you start badgering the Section Leadership (president and vice president) for names of moderators and judges, and try to figure out where the heck you are going to put all the sessions. No matter how organized you are, how supportive the ESA staff, the week before the Annual Meeting you are going to have missing judges – so this is where you start calling in favors and shaming people to “volunteer”. (This issue is worth a whole different post, and upon reflection this was my least favorite part of my term on the Program Committee). By the way this is where you sign up to volunteer for ESA.

The second year you get to put the program together.

To organize all the symposia I went back to basics and used sticky notes. Top left shows me dividing up the P-IE, and bottom right shows my son entering info into ConFex.

The Program Committee hard at work during the Summer Meeting. Top left – assigning symposia to rooms. Top right – ESA staff entering choices into ConFex. Bottom – sifting through all the submissions looking for duplicate entries, spelling mistakes, etc.

Left: Program Committee of #EntSoc13 at Summer Meeting in Austin. Right: The people who make the meeting go smoothly Tori D. (ConFex), Cindy M. (ESA) & Rosina R. (ESA).

And then, the meeting just starts, happens, and ends. And all the while you just bask in the glow, because the ESA staff has everything under control.

The awesome ESA staff. They make the meeting run smoothly.

The third year you that you serve on the Program committee you still attend the conference calls, the summer meeting, and you are in charge of the Poster sessions. But your primary purpose is to serve as a wise sage to the new Program Committee Chairs and Student Competition Chairs. A lot less work is involved, and you get to go more sessions, talks and posters at the Annual Meeting. Or at least that is what I think you do, guess I will find out next year.

As you might have heard by now the meetings were a big success. We had a record registration of almost 3500 entomologists, we had a record number of symposia and talks. Some of the things I am most proud of that we accomplished:

It is important that we “do the right thing,” looking out for each other and ourselves and, importantly, holding each other and ourselves accountable. As a professional society, we need to have clear policies, and we must be willing to act when ethical transgressions are found. Not necessarily to act swiftly, but to act fairly and boldly. –  R.N. Wiedenmann, President of the Entomological Society of America

Harassment of ESA participants of Entomology 2013 will not be tolerated in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, gender, or sexual orientation in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Retrieved from the http://entsoc.org/entomology2013 website.

Things I hope to help improve:

Serving on the Program Committee is a big commitment. It requires time away from your academic job, from family, and it costs money since you are committed to pay registration and travel and hotel to all three Annual Meetings. No, “I think I’ll skip this year and send my grad student”. (NB: travel to summer meetings and hotel are paid for by ESA)

I am glad that I was able to serve the Society as Program committee co-chair. I learned a lot, especially about the Society itself. The Entomological Society of America has many members, all from different backgrounds and with different reasons for why they are members and why they attend Annual Meetings. I myself often feel different from my entomology colleagues because of my non-traditional job description and my research & teaching interests, but being this involved in the ESA’s functioning always makes me realize that none of us really fits in a neat box – thank goodness! After almost 125 years the Society is strong and yet not content with the status quo. And because I am a glutton for punishment, I am also involved in the Program Committee for the 2016 International Congress of Entomology to be held in Orlando. (Please consider submitting symposia topics on Insect Bioinspiration and Insect Biomechanics – contact me!).

And then there were these reasons:

  1. Ten pounds of candy.
  2. Good friends.

As promised:

Below are my archived tweets from the Common Names & Program Book Index saga. I love how you can just see that I get pissier and pissier over the course of a few months.

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