How much sunlight does this plant need? When do various plants bloom? And what colors, textures, and heights work best in tandem?
Just as myriad considerations come into play when designing a garden, similarly numerous factors arise in orienting ICA toward a future of change. How do we best deal with expanding intellectual boundaries, a growing membership, and shifting publication practices, to name but a few changes?
In its mid-January meeting, the ICA Executive Committee convened in Washington, DC to address the present and future of the organization. With Executive Director Laura Sawyer, we discussed some of the more predictable (but never boring!) issues of finances, the activities undertaken by ICA standing committees and task forces, and regional and annual conferences. We also spent considerable time discussing ongoing areas of change that involve both challenges and opportunities.
Take, for instance, open access. This term is bandied about in markedly different ways. For many casual bystanders, it means being able to read and/or download an article from the web without having to pay for it. For some academics, open access is a hurdle that prevents their article from being freely available upon publication. For those who pursue grants, open access might be something they consider as they include article processing charges into their proposal. And now, for European grant-seekers, open access has become inextricably linked to Plan S, an initiative that requires, by 2020, research from public grants to be published in open-access journals. To what extent should ICA rethink its publishing and funding model – and how? A task force will be charged this month to anticipate the impact of these open-access changes on ICA members (including the 25.3% from Europe) and consider the viability of different models.
Take, as another instance, the issue of growth within ICA. Membership figures (currently more than 5,000) notwithstanding, the organization has grown significantly over the last dozen years. In 2006, ICA comprised two dozen divisions and interest groups. Today, after the creation of the Activism, Communication, and Social Justice interest group, ICA is home to 32 divisions and interest groups – a 33% increase! This growth is exciting, but it also can lead to intellectual siloing, the siphoning of membership from (and submissions to) extant divisions and interest groups, and the shifting of ICA’s traditional one-hotel conference venue to one involving multiple hotels or even a convention center.
Such implications aside, how can ICA best operationally support its numerous divisions and interest groups, each of which differs in size, budget, and activities? Thanks to Amy Jordan (Rutgers U), who as president charged a task force to look at mentorship and coordination of these groups, we now have a standing committee whose activities will help all groups employ best practices around common activities (e.g., reviewing conference submissions or serving as discussant) and engage in short- and long-term planning. The recently formed Division and Interest Group Coordination and Mentoring Committee, chaired by Matt Carlson (U of Minnesota), will be implementing a planning and development procedure designed to help ICA support its constituent sections.
While open access and growth appear to be relatively disparate issues, both have great implications for what ICA and its members do. And the challenges of open access and growth (and most other issues that institutions confront) continue to evolve, so ICA needs to remain nimble. Toward that end, a Strategic Planning Task Force, co-chaired by Cynthia Stohl (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Karin Gwinn Wilkins (University of Texas at Austin), will review what ICA currently does, what it should do, what it shouldn’t do, and what it should stop doing. The task force’s work will be informed by prior data-collection efforts and reports in multiple domains, including: conference attendance; the proliferation of divisions and interest groups; regional conferences; alternative formats for ICA journals; and political engagement. But related questions have begun to percolate, such as how ICA can most effectively communicate the impact of the discipline to broader publics. It doesn’t behoove any organization to spread itself too thin, and the work of this task force will allow ICA to strategize on multiple fronts, prioritize, and hold itself accountable.
The Executive Board meeting was, by all measures, extremely productive – and a review of ICA activities, spread out over a host of committees and task forces, was a clarion call for engagement. After all, the health of any professional association relies on the robustness of its volunteers. Later this month, ICA will be launching a page that allows members to express their interest in serving on specific committees. Because committee members serve staggered terms (so as to maximize institutional memory and stability), a handful of positions will become available each year. If you are interested in getting involved with ICA outside of your specific division or interest group, completing this form will be an excellent way to start!