In The Field

AGU: Looking for a future

Change is in the air this year at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting, and not just because of the gossip in the hallways about what might happen at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen this week.

No, the AGU changes are far more navel-gazing and concern the future of the 50,000-member society itself. Last year its longtime executive director Fred Spilhaus said he would step down; this fall the society launched an extensive soul-searching exercise to not only identify the next executive director but also re-evaluate AGU’s overall mission. Consultants have been busy canvassing members for opinions (full disclosure: as a lapsed member and media representative, I participated in one of these interviews) and the lobby of the Moscone West conference center is now decorated with perky graphic posters full of ideas generated during these brainstorming sessions.

It’ll be interesting to see where all this internal scrutiny leads the society. Like other major scientific organization, it built itself up to a position of strength and influence over the past few decades, but is now struggling to figure out its future in a changing media and scientific landscape.

Judging by the buzz in the hallways and the youth and enthusiasm of the members coursing through Moscone this week, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with an answer.


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