June 17, 2015

Day 1, June 2015 AGU Meetings Committee

Posted by Laura Guertin

This is the second of a three-part series of my time at AGU headquarters starting my term on the AGU Meetings Committee. View the Pre-Meeting and Day 2 posts for the complete story.

In my previous post, I discussed the purpose of the AGU Meetings Committee and the key initiatives the committee will address from now until end December 2016.  This post provides highlights of the range of content covered at the meeting and approaches to these discussions.  Before I dive in to the details, I have to say that AGU is extremely appreciative of the volunteers they have serving on committees and with other parts of the organization.  AGU staff are so welcoming, friendly, and professional, and I immediately felt comfortable being a rookie on the Meetings Committee.  AGU is committed to their volunteers having a positive volunteer experience, and they expressed this often (they also provided a full breakfast and toys to play with, which sure helps keep us volunteers happy!).

I also witnessed that AGU is always keeping its members and their role and function as a member organization front and center – literally.  At the tables we were seated at, these tent cards were positioned with questions to revisit throughout the day to keep the members in mind.

Four questions committee members were asked to keep in mind throughout all of our discussions today and tomorrow.

Four questions committee members were asked to keep in mind throughout all of our discussions today and tomorrow. (1) What member perspectives are important to consider in this decision (career stage, discipline, US vs. not US, etc.)? (2) How do we think members might react if they were present in this discussion? (3) What other stakeholder perspectives/viewpoints are important to consider in making this decision? (4) If members could voice their opinion, would they think this was well aligned with our strategic plan and what priority would they place on this?

The other item that greeted us when we sat down was the following graphic, which I think does an excellent job capturing the primary objectives determined by AGU leadership (which can also be viewed online).


Our committee chair, Rick Murnane, started us off with a fun ice-breaking activity (where Rick and I ended up compared our favorite Avengers, Thor and Captain America) and challenged us to reflect upon our favorite AGU Meeting, explain why that was our favorite meeting, and explain why each of us accepted the invitation to be on the Meetings Committee.  AGU clearly put a lot of thought into who should serve on this committee – national and international members, a student member, faculty, and someone with a specialty in workplace communication (form Visionary Leadership), someone from the Royal Swedish Academy, from the World Bank… again, an impressive diversity of members.

Frank Krause, AGU’s Chief Operating Officer, started with an AGU Meeting Porfolio Review for all of us to understand the breadth of AGU’s current meeting portfolio and roles of the various meetings.  Although the AGU Fall Meeting may be the first meeting that comes to mind when everything thinks of AGU, there is also the Joint Assembly/Meeting of the Americas, Ocean Sciences, Chapman Conferences, and the upcoming virtual student poster competitions and student conference through the new GeoLEAD initiative (Geoscience Learning, Engagement and Development).

Next up was Chris McEntee to present on how the Meetings Committee supports achievement of AGU’s strategic plan.  The important takeaway for me from her talk was the three overarching themes of AGU’s strategic initiatives: leadership/innovation, community/engagement, and content/quality.  I also jotted down this quote she posted during her talk:

In a knowledge based organization… who makes the decision is far less important than the quality of information and insight on which the decision is made.  —  Chris McEntee, Executive Director of AGU

The sessions then continued on the topics of Meetings Strategic Review (“transforming while performing”), Creation of the Meetings Strategic Plan & Task Force (where should AGU meetings go? And how should AGU get there?), the 2015 Fall Meeting Changes and Improvements, Establishing Criteria for Late Breaking or Scientific “Hot Topics” Identification, Organizational Partnerships, International Conference Collaboration Guidelines (what should be the criteria for meetings in all countries?), and Development of Partner RFP Evaluation Criteria.  As you can see, we covered a full slate of topics!

Instead of providing all of the nitty-gritty details of all of these discussions, I thought I would share some of the interesting facts I learned as they relate to the AGU Meetings Committee discussions:

  • More than 90% of the scientists that attend the AGU Fall Meeting are presenters
  • For the 2014 Fall Meeting, 1,100+ scientific sessions were submitted, there were 16,000 posters, 24,000+ attendees, and 40% of the attendees were from outside of the United States
  • The largest increase in AGU meeting attendance is because of international scientists and students
  • The Joint Assembly is only called the Joint Assembly when it is held in Canada.  When the same meeting (every 2-3 years) is held in Central or South America, it is called the Meeting of the Americas
  • There is a drop of 600-700 abstract submissions to the ocean sciences sessions of the Fall AGU Meeting when there is an Ocean Sciences meeting the following February
  • In 2008, 654 session proposals were submitted to the AGU Fall Meeting.  In 2015, 1,116 session proposals were submitted.
  • The second largest of category of membership outside of the United States are the members from Japan

After an amazing dinner at Restaurant Nora (America’s first certified organic restaurant), it was time to catch up on a day’s worth of emails (we all know how that goes!) and prepare for the second and final day of the Meetings Committee meeting!