Setac goes global


  • Jeffery A. Foran

    1. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Citizens for a Better Environment 152 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
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On January 1, 2002, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) formally will become a global organization, governed by the SETAC World Council. SETAC North America, SETAC Europe, SETAC Latin America, and SETAC Asia Pacific will become SETAC geographic units. You may have read about these changes in SETAC Globe and in past Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) editorials. SETAC members worldwide voted to approve these changes earlier this year. These changes are critically important as SETAC members work to advance and improve environmental toxicology and chemistry around the globe. What you are most likely to see as you read our journal and participate in annual meetings and workshops, however, is little change. That is by design. SETAC's administrative affairs will continue to be handled in the same efficient fashion as always. ET&C will continue to be one of the most influential journals in the field. Our annual and regional meetings will continue to provide a world-class forum for information exchange, dissemination, and networking.

SETAC will be a global organization providing a professional home to scientists around the world while meeting the needs of individual scientists at the local and regional levels through our geographic units. SETAC will encourage and strengthen environmental toxicology and chemistry in developing nations and regions. SETAC will improve communication among scientists across national and international borders. SETAC will provide better educational opportunities for environmental toxicologists and chemists. And SETAC will bring science to bear on international regulatory and policy issues as well as issues at the local, regional, and national levels.

Our work does not end with globalization. We face challenges on all fronts, from the mundane to the profound. Technology is advancing unmercifully, and SETAC must keep up, with PowerPoint projectors at annual meetings (we do try to get it right!) and revolutionary approaches to communication such as internet publishing, virtual meetings, and e-seminars. Environmental toxicology and chemistry also continue to change, and SETAC must direct as well as respond to that change. We are exploring a new journal that could become a venue for individuals engaged in applying science to management and decision making. As travel budgets and schedules get tighter, regional chapters may become the meeting venue of choice for many SETAC members, particularly local government employees and students. We must respond by ensuring value to members wherever and however they meet. For example, we should recognize that the issues being addressed at a regional chapter meeting in Calgary may not be that much different from issues being addressed at a chapter meeting in Brussels. As a global organization, SETAC is in a perfect position to bridge communications among chapters and ensure that each of us is aware of what is going on in our backyard as well as on the other side of the planet.

Perhaps our greatest challenge, however, is ensuring that all of SETAC's efforts reflect the very highest quality science and demonstrate a balance among perspectives and philosophies. I am the first SETAC President to work for an environmental advocacy organization (sometimes referred to as an NGO, or nongovernmental organization). At times, SETAC has been unable to achieve adequate sector balance because scientists from the NGO community have not been represented. I am committed to ensuring that we have better NGO representation in all of our activities. At the same time, I consider myself a scientist, as do most SETAC members, whether they work for an NGO, government agency, business/industry, or academia. SETAC has an exemplary record of bringing good, balanced science to its publications, workshops, and meetings and even to the administration of the Society. But simply bringing good science to the table may no longer be enough.

SETAC is broadening how it thinks (yes, our society thinks in the collective sense, through the Board, through its activities such as workshops, and through active members). Witness the recent workshop on Environment–Human Interconnections, with its heavy emphasis on the cultural, social, and economic components of environmental and human health issues. Witness also our consideration of a new journal that would likely emphasize environmental management rather than science. As we pursue issues outside of our scientific base, we must realize that political perspective and philosophy will permeate our discussions, in some cases very heavily. This is not bad per se. But if our discussions and deliberations are not balanced philosophically and if a variety of perspectives are not represented, our work may be tainted and our society harmed. Our goal of sector balance must remain unchanged. But we also must ensure that perspectives and philosophies are balanced as well. This is no small task for a global organization, but I believe that SETAC is up to the task.