The tabulation of votes on a new constitution is now complete and the result was definitive: of 72 participants, 68 were in favour. These numbers would have impressed the founders of our organization, who never had more than a couple of dozen people available at a membership-wide meeting to vote on such an important matter. With our now routine ability to circulate such a document electronically to the entire membership, we have been able to ensure that one and all could see it for themselves, a mainstay of any democratic practice. I should also add that along the way I received messages of encouragement and gratitude from members who welcome our moves to create a more broadly based, inclusive organization of science communicators, as well as thoughtful critiques from others who want to ensure that this process did not sacrifice any of our longstanding values, such as a commitment to supporting excellence in science journalism.
This vote also confirms the success of our hard-working committee led by Sylviane Duval, which never flagged in its desire to ensure all the I’s were dotted and all the T’s were crossed. I reflected on this dogged determination one chilly morning last fall, as I attended a teleconference in our lawyer’s office in Kingston with the entire committee on the line from all parts of the country. In addition to Sylviane, who lives in rural eastern Ontario, those members are Shelley McIvor in Nanaimo, Jennifer Gagné in Canmore, Pippa Wysong and Ivan Seminiuk in Toronto, and of course, the indefatigable Janice Benthin — den mother to us all — in Montreal. At the risk of sounding like some kind of manic bureaucrat, I shall always cherish this occasion, because it spoke loudly not just to the dedication of the people who make up our organization, but the reach we have been able to achieve within Canada’s widely scattered population.
And now, with the approval of this new constitution, we can move forward in some exciting ways. The most immediate change will be to the next round of elections for seats on our Board of Directors, which will now be open to nominees from the entire membership. Eventually, that will include the president’s chair, but you will have to wait until next year (when I step down once and for all, promise!).
At the same time, we will be launching a new permanent committee that will break new ground as a national watchdog on the calibre of science journalism and science communication generally. This body represents nothing less than a frontier for us, an unprecedented public forum for hashing out a wide range of important topics that are often much talked-about informally, but until now have had few formal venues. If you are interested in taking part, we will be circulating information about this committee in the weeks to come.
And finally, there is the most difficult job of all: getting used to a new name. I first became involved with the Canadian Science Writers’ Association in 1984, thanks to my mentor Mack Laing, who was among its founders in 1971. I am hesitant to reflect on what respective proportions of our membership were born after these dates, but suffice it to say that over the decades the acronym “CSWA” has become second nature for me. It will take some time to get used to SWCC, but that will only come with practice, and there is no time like the present to begin. So let me be the first to say to all of you: welcome to the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.