Serving on the BEMS Board of Directors

Editor's Note:  With the recent call for nominations for new board members, we thought it might be useful for members to have a better sense of what it is like to serve on the board.  With this in mind, we asked board members to describe their experience.  Here is what they said:

 

Rich Nuccitelli - Vice President/President-Elect


My first few months as President-Elect have been very busy. I have been working hard to raise money for the next BEMS meeting in Greece. Phil Chadwick and I generated a funding request and sent it out to all of the organizations that have funded BEMS in the past. I have written an NIH R13 Conference grant and have been trying to submit it for three days. It turns out that there are four different websites involved in submitting a grant electronically and each has its own password and log in. We have managed to get through three of them with Gloria’s help but are not quite there yet on the fourth. I have also been active in future meeting planning and proposed that we meet in Asilomar California. This site was just chosen for the 2015 meeting. I have also been chairing a committee to generate ideas for increasing our membership numbers. We have lots of good ideas that will be considered by the Board over email discussions. I have been trying hard to make a difference and encourage all BEMS members to recruit at least one colleague to join BEMS this year.

 

Jonna Wilen – Secretary

I have served as Secretary for BEMS since 2010 and this is actually my last year. Typical secretary tasks involve common society business such as communication with the members, preparing Annual Business Meetings and Board Meetings, taking minutes, and making sure that information and documents are distributed to the meeting attendees and members. BEMS is a nonprofit corporation in the District of Columbia and one of the tasks of the Secretary is to oversee that the legal acts of DC as well as BEMS constitution and bylaws are met during BEMS daily business. This year the members have accepted amendments of both the constitution and the bylaws and the task of the Secretary has been to administrate this process.

During my term, a significant decision to terminate the management contract with ASI was taken, a necessary decision.  This also implied more work for each Officer including the Secretary who must now be more involved in daily BEMS business. I have never thought of this as a burden that makes life more complicated for the secretary, but rather as a step to more involvement, which in my mind is crucial to be able to act in a in a way that help BEMS to face future challenges.

I would recommend that anyone who is interested in helping BEMS be better equipped for the future, and who is eager to work with the daily business of BEMS, to become a candidate for the Secretary position!

 

Phil Chadwick - Treasurer

The job of the BEMS Treasurer has changed completely in the 3 years I have been doing it. 

 

The shift from professional to volunteer management has meant that much of the day-to-day financial business is now the Treasurer's responsibility, so I have had to try to understand bookkeeping to balance everything up each month and keep checks on outgoings and income. This is one of those jobs that could be as large as you want it to be, but since I don't want it to be very large at all I have worked with our accountants, our bank manager and with Jeff Carson at Lawson (whose institution has a contract to run and develop our online management systems) to simplify everything that we do and automate as much as possible.   The old manual membership system required several person-weeks of work each year; the new one largely looks after itself. Payments are handled through PayPal and our membership database updates automatically. We are currently also automating the Journal subscriptions process. With these changes in place, and some simplifications to our accounts, this part of the job is actually not big any more.

 

I inherited from our management company a set of bank accounts and online US government registrations which were tied into the personal details (such as social security number and personal email address) of our former Executive Director.  A major task in the last year has been disentangling all this and getting everything linked instead to the Society's corporate identity so that when personnel change (e.g when Andrew Wood takes over as Treasurer in June) there should be no problems. It also means that we have backup so that, for example, the Secretary could step in and run the finances if anything happened to the Treasurer .

 

Those are the obvious changes, the ones that perhaps most people expected, but the more profound change is one that has affected all of  the officers of BEMS and is beginning to be reflected in the way the whole Board works. It is to do with the Society's status as a non-profit organisation under DC law. There are very strict rules on financial and corporate governance which we now have to meet (the fallout from Enron affected even non-profit organisations) and as Directors we have a strict legal duty to put the interests of BEMS before our own, always, and to do nothing which could jeopardise its future. Our Secretary, Jonna, has been working on the general implications for us all of this, and my role as Treasurer has evolved to become a kind of guardian of our financial probity.  Put simply, we now have to have excellent financial oversight, a set of rules for how we do things like choosing and monitoring the annual scientific meeting, and we have to stick to them. We also have to understand the financial implications of everything we do, and how it will affect our future. In the past we have not been so good at this, and have narrowly avoided sleepwalking into some disastrous decisions.  As well as all that, we need to know not only our financial position at the moment but also have a good idea of what it will be in a year and a reasonable idea of what it should be in five years. We have never done long-range financial planning like this before and it is really beginning to change the way we work.

 

The biggest practical implications of all of that this year have been around the annual scientific meeting. Brisbane 2012 was the first meeting we ran as a stand-alone with an external professional management company, and it was a major success. It required some tough financial decisions, but we were able to turn a projected loss in excess of $100,000 into a significant profit. The lessons learned from that were used to develop a model for how we run future BioEM meetings (in association with EBEA) in a way that maintains our financial oversight but decouples the meeting finances from those of the Society. This removes a very large risk to our future. It does mean that local organisers now have a tough job, but we make the conditions clear upfront in a set of agreed meeting specifications and this year we got four excellent proposals in response to our call for meeting sites. As David Black has written in his letter, we were able to decide not only on the location for 2014 but also for 2015.

 

I'm in the enviable position of being able to leave behind me the finances of a Society which not only is in much better financial health than it was when I become Treasurer,  but also has a sustainable future and had structures in place to allow it to be run quite easily by its officers. I am sure that Andrew Wood will do a marvellous job and I look forward (I really do) to handing all the secret codes to him and seeing where he guides us in the next three years.

 

Andrew Wood – Treasurer Elect
 
This year has been fairly busy so far, acting as co-convenor for the Brisbane conference and chair of the Technical Program Committee. I have been on the BEMS Board for just over three years and this June I was elected to the position of Treasurer Elect. In essence, this is a year of apprenticeship to the current Treasurer, Phil Chadwick, before taking over from him in 2013. I then (hopefully) have a three year term of office as Treasurer. The role of Treasurer is constantly evolving, moving from that of merely bookkeeping to one of overseeing the financial strategies for the Society, seeking to streamline administration and governance, while at the same time building up reserves and having a prudent investment policy for assets. Of course, building a sense of community and seeking to recruit new members, especially those early in their careers, is a priority for the Board at large. The Treasurer has a significant role in this, particularly in relation to decisions around annual subscriptions and site selection for future meetings. I would aim to continue on the good work Phil has been doing in this regard and look forward to a continued resurgent phase in the Society’s development.

Alexandre Legros – new member of the board

I have been elected to the board of directors (biological and medical sciences) on May 7th 2012 and attended my first Board meeting in Brisbane on June 22nd 2012. During this first meeting, committees have been formed and I am sitting on 2 of them: the award committee and the Website/Newsletter Management committee.  Since then, as all board members, I have been involved in E-mail discussions related to the management of the BEMS society and in my first BEMS board audio teleconference on on August 13 2012. I have made topic suggestions for the 2013 BioEM meeting, which have been retained by the LOC and the TPC. The next electronic board [was planned for late November 2012], but I will unfortunately be unable to join because of other commitments at the Bioelectromagnetics school of Erice in Sicily.

Jianqing Wang – new member of the board

I was elected as a board member of BEMS earlier this year.  Prior to my service on the Board of Directors, I have served The Society as an associate editor of our journal, and I am also continuing to do that job.

As a Board member, I am now serving on the Membership Committee, and am striving for the increase of members from Asian countries.