4S Council Meeting, 28 July 2020

In attendance: Stephen Zehr, Hsin Hsing Chen, Roopali Phadke, Paige Miller, Bryn Seabrook, Belén Albornoz, Noortje Marres, Katie Ulrich, Duygu Kasdogan, Joan Fujimura, Angela Okune, Wes Shrum, Noela Invernizzi, Amanda Windle, Ana Viseu, Pablo Kreimer, Lesley Green

The meeting was called to order by Joan Fujimura at 8:10 AM U.S. Eastern time

May 2020 Council meeting minutes were approved unanimously.

Update on virtual conference: Joan Fujimura reminded Council that pre-recorded presentations are an option for participants.  There are six sub-plenaries developed by organizers.  A plenary also is planned, which will be organized by Joan Fujimura and Ulrike Felt. Fujimura indicated that the conference schedule should be available very soon.  The registration number is currently above 1700, which is very good for a virtual conference.  We expect the numbers to increase with final registrations.  We are likely to receive about $100,000 revenue from the conference, which is essential for the operation of the society.

Wes Shrum suggested that we emphasize to participants that, technically, the conference will be like a large zoom meeting.  Noortje Marres asked whether there will be a place for people to go to find technical assistance.  Shrum indicated that the company we’re using will provide much technical support.  Fujimura added that an email will be sent to participants providing information on how to seek technical assistance.

Budget Report: Paige Miller discussed the budget document sent to Council members prior to the meeting.  Miller confirmed that there is good budget news, which may allay past concern about the financial situation of the society.  Miller forecasted where the society will be going into registration for the Toronto meeting.  A significant buffer is necessary so we can cover advanced expenses.  Miller felt that we’ll be okay in that regard.  We’ll also be submitting a new travel budget request to the National Science Foundation soon for student and low-income member travel to the conference.

Miller reminded Council that there is always some uncertainty in meeting and technical support expenses.  Our non-meeting expenses for the year have remained relatively stable.  Miller projected that our budget will sit around $306,000 at the end of the calendar year and at $221,000 when the Toronto registration opens.  However, Miller also reminded Council that we’re well below our steady state budget of $400,000-$450,000.  A goal is for Toronto to bring us back to this steady state.  Fujimura questioned one of the expense lines that is linked to the conference site, which we will not be using since the conference is virtual.  Shrum indicated that this advance expended money may or may not be returned to the society.

Conference organizers have asked for additional financial support.  This request will be sent to the budget committee.  Marres asked whether the additional $8000 request was included in the $28,000 budget line for organizers.  Miller explained how the society typically interprets support for program chairs.  Organizers use the money as necessary, since expenses vary year to year.  Shrum added that the total amount also varies year to year, but perhaps this could be regularized over time.  Amanda Windle asked for information about past years’ budgets to trend changes, which would provide useful information to Council.  Fujimura reminded Council that expenses will vary year to year in part due to conference location.

Marres asked about the accounting services line.  Miller replied that this money is for tax services.  Marres asked whether accounting services examines our books.  Miller replied that we conducted an audit in 2013, but we might be due for another one.  Shrum added that there are different levels of auditing.  Our society would only need the simplest review.  Shrum indicated that our accounting firm is supposed to look at our books on a yearly basis, but there seems to be no reports sent back to Miller.  Marres suggested that this review would be useful for transparency purposes to the membership.  We wish to maintain a high level of trust.  Fujimura indicated that the Budget Committee will discuss an audit review.

Further discussion of the budget ensued.  Amanda Windle asked questions about expenses for the two journals.  Miller explained the categories for the journals and why some expenses differ (e.g., hosting fees for ESTS).  Marres asked about application fees for ESTS, which might be covered by authors’ grants.  Angela Okune indicated that at this point there are no fees, but it could be discussed further.  It was acknowledged that there are equity concerns among different categories of authors if we apply these fees.  Katie Ulrich asked about payment of taxes.  Miller indicated that the society does not pay taxes as a non-profit organization.  Fujimura asked about fees for Stephen Coffee’s technical work.  Shrum and Miller indicated that Coffee is an hourly worker and that his contract separates out his conference fee from hourly work for the society.  Miller added that it is very difficult for Coffee to distinguish between conference and non-conference work.  The cost for his conference work is around $30,000 per year.

Hiring new managing editor for ESTS: Fujimura announced that Katie Vann will be stepping down from her managing editor position for ESTS (but will continue at ST&HV).  The budget committee will consider how this transition will affect compensation for editorial services.  Editors for ESTS ask the society to put out a call for a new managing editor.  The Budget Committee will need to work out the financial details regarding managing editors for the two journals.  Marres asked whether this issue is also being addressed in the Publications Committee.  Roopali Phadke asked about the reason for Vann’s decision.  Fujimura indicated that the decision wasn’t based on technical reasons.  Noela Invernizzi indicated that the society lacks information about the division of labor across the journals, which will make salary adjustments more complex.  Invernizzi suggested that we compare the number of articles received and published across the two journals as an indication of managing editor workload.  Marres suggested that this question be included in overall discussions of the financial model for the open access ESTS.

Support letters for faculty who have been attacked: Fujimura reported a request from a University of Wisconsin faculty member for a letter of support in an intellectual freedom case.  Fujimura asked whether 4S Council would consider writing a letter of support, which might then open the possibility of other faculty requesting letters.  Windle indicated that the issue sounds messy and complicated and would require quite a bit of work.  Lesley Green suggested that 4S could provide assistance for scientists under attack but finds this specific request quite complex.  Marres suggested that a request from an individual scholar will need additional work.  Instead we might develop a general resolution involving freedom of expression, which the resolutions and reports committee considers.  Marres suggested that Council differentiate between general resolutions, which we could support, and those from an individual, which might be best served by a letter from the president.  Bryn Seabrook concurred adding that individual cases could take up much Council time.  Other comments were made about individual cases and the importance of support from broader academic societies.  It was agreed that Council will not provide a letter in this individual case, but would not stand in the way of the 4S president writing such a letter.

Contract for Cholula, Mexico conference in 2022: Wes Shrum indicated that there is no hotel issue.  We’re meeting at a university in Cholula, which is near Puebla.  We will have access to the entire university with unlimited meeting rooms.  The weather should be favorable that time of year.  The university is within walking distance of the largest pyramid in the world.  Out-of-pocket expenses should be very low, with plenty of low cost places to stay and eat.  When contracts were first signed Council and officers raised concerns about security.  A decision to meet in Cholula was made contingent upon satisfactory security.  A recent report from past Council member Leandro Medina indicates that the security situation is fine now.  We might, however, place an escape clause in the contract if the security situation should change.  The other question is whether the conference would be a joint meeting with ESOCITE.  Shrum reminded Council that joint meetings require additional work on financial costs and benefits.  Shrum indicated that we currently don’t have a contract but need to develop one soon and added that Cholula is one of the safest places in Mexico.  Belén Albornoz asked about possibilities for a joint meeting, since the ESOCITE meeting is cancelled this year.  Invernizzi indicated that ESOCITE would be favorable to a joint conference with 4S.  Invernizzi added that ESOCITE is a low-revenue society, so 4S would need to advance money for the conference, charging ESOCITE at a later point when revenue is available.  Invernizzi recommended that we go ahead and sign a contract.  Shrum then indicated that we need to consider two dates: one in July and one in September.  The local university favors the July option since the university is not in session.  The September date would be situated over a holiday long-weekend.  Fujimura asked Council to vote on whether the society should sign a contract with an escape clause.  Lesley Green asked what an escape clause would mean.  Council provided general agreement to sign the contract, but asked for further information about the language of the contract once it is developed.  Council agreed to vote on the July versus September dates.  Council voted 9-1 to meet in July.  Council would like to see the language on an escape clause before a contract is signed.

Committee Reports tabled for the future.

A 6S request is also tabled for the next 4S meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 9:11 AM US EST.