Friday, May 28, 2010

follow-up to the modestly bold proposal

Well, I think the suggestion that we harness the spirit of our past hymenopteran newsletters and channel it into a new ISH newsletter has really resonated with some of our members. In the run up to our business meeting in Kőszeg next month I thought I would share some of the comments and suggestions for newsletter names:
  • Great ideas for the newsletter. You are right that we did wait in anticipation for the next of our specialty newsletters. We all knew who Roy Snelling, Jim Carpenter, and Chris Starr were and what their opinions were. Also the hundreds of others who contributed.  For a name we have to think about the audience -- just us, the greater public, both, or some other population or combo.  Should the title be humorous, amusing, catchy (like NewsISH, or something more relating to our beloved creatures (perhaps Sphecos n.s., which ties the past to the future, just as some journals used to do).  If we want an anatomical or hymenoptera-specific title, something like The Propodeum would do well, as it distinguishes our critters from all others.
  • I think this is a great initiative and one that is well overdue.  As a suggestion, what about something clear and simple, such as Hym News.
  • When a name was being chosen for the journal, someone inventive suggested Hamuli. I don't know who came up with it, but I thought it was a wonderful name.
  • Just to float an idea - I know we are also looking for cool articles, but one of the features of older (mostly more specialist) newsletters is that people contributed articles that featured who and what was going on in their lab, requests for info/specimens, etc. I for one would be happy to supply an update of what's going on here...As one who is rapidly becoming one of the old farts in the field, I am always happy to hear about all the new start-ups!
  • I think I prefer a more generalized name for the newsletter.
  • That’s a great idea! Sphecos is a good model, and since it ended along with Arnold Menke’s retirement it has always been a major source of information for me. It was also just fun to read what is going on worldwide. The good thing was the mixture of serious scientific information and personal biogarphies, collecting reports and all sorts of fun. What was really a success in Sphecos was short biographies of hymenopterists, which Arnold has organized for a while. This could be a good idea for a regular section in the new newsletter, perhaps one biography per issue. So I strongly support this idea, and I promise to submit brief contributions regularly.
  • The name: Sphecos was great, because it is just the Greek work for wasp. There are other similarily generalized words from Latin and Greek, but none of them is really convincing. As an example, Bembix, but there is a German journal with that name. There are plenty of possible taxon-names. My favourite in sphecids is Zyzzyx, a South American bembicine genus. The name is quite complicated but has a high recognition value. The etymology was not given in the original description, but it is assumed that it refers to the buzzing sound of a flying wasp. A combination of a taxon name and the information what it really is (as a subheading) would perhaps be a good solution: Zyzzyx – The ISH-Newsletter or better Zyzzyx – The hymenopterists newsletter. Another idea that just came to my mind: WaspNews. Perhaps also in combination with the subheading: WaspNews – The ISH-Newsletter or WaspNews – The hymenopterists newsletter.
  • One of the most valuable contributions to Chalcid Forum was John Huber's yearly listing of publications pertaining to chalcidoids. Some of us had our own bibliographic searches, but John's was always the most complete. Such a list for hyms would be most useful if it did not become too grand. Of course posted on the internet it probably doesn't make much difference how much stuff is in the newsletter. We were constrained by costs.
  • We are delighted by the idea and give it our full support and encouragement. We favour the name Sphecos in memory of Menke’s extremely useful production by that name. We were very sorry that it ceased and have greatly missed it.
  • I'd prefer something generalized like ISH Newsletter, because this properly reflects the content. But I would clearly object Sphecos, Scaphion, Symphytos, etc. because this parallels already existing or formerly existing newsletter titles. In addition, the title should cover all Hymenoptera taxa.  If the pretty unemotional title ISH Newsletter should not be accepted, I'd therefore prefer something like Hyms or purely Hymenoptera.
  • Here is a suggestion for the newsletter name:  The Hamuli.
Please keep the comments coming, either as emails to the secretary (my email is andy_deans at ncsu dot edu), comments to this post, or as direct suggestions at the ICH in Hungary.

UPDATE (1 June 2010): A couple more suggestions/comments appeared in my inbox recently:
  • I vote for Hamuli, which is distinctively hymenopterological, short, easy to remember (and spell) and arguably kinder to the ears than, say, The Propodeum or Hyms. I’m not in favour of titles like Wasp News or Sphecos because they seem to exclude some types of hymenopterans. My second choice would be ISH News.
  • I would vote for the most generalized one. It would be difficult to find a taxon name or a body part that would please everyone and that hasn't been taken yet.
  • I’d prefer a more general title, like ISH News – although the suggestion NewsISH is clever. If memory serves, the name Hamuli was something Scott Shaw came up with when we were considering names for J. Hym. Res. – credit where credit is due. It’s not bad at all.
  • I like Hamuli! The word is an eye catcher and sounds interesting (like the content will be, hopefully), and it is an autapomorphic character for the Hymenoptera. I agree with those comments objecting to using an old name for new newsletter. At least for me Sphecos was of less interest than the Chalcid Forum and Symphytos. Also, I wouldn’t call it newsletter but bulletin, sounds more serious. My suggestion: Hamuli – The Hymenopterist’s Bulletin. For me the most important reasons to read a newsletter is to see what others are currently doing, field and museum notes, an overview of recent publications, and requests for material.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A modestly bold proposal

I think that we (the ISH) need to be more consistent and more ambitious in producing an engaging, content-rich newsletter. Compare, for example, the past issues we have on file with the newsletters produced by some of our sibling organizations:
And reminisce about relevant newsletters that previously circulated in our circles: Sphecos, Ichnews, Chalcid Forum, Notes from Underground, and Melissa (and even more recently, Skaphion and TIGER Newsletter).

Newsletters are a great medium for healthy debates, opinion pieces, taxon requests, classifieds, advertisements (could generate some revenue?), news, anecdotes, natural history notes, photos, stories, and even poetry. While reading through the pages of the old hymenopterist newsletters I got the sense that people eagerly anticipated their next issues and were even willing to pay for its production! Is that true of the current ISH newsletter?

Recent discussions between ISH officers and select members (i.e., those who were able to attend the last two ESA meetings, at least) focused, in part, on 1) our alarming drop in membership during the last two years and 2) how we can recruit more bee and ant researchers into our ranks, as well as more non-taxonomists. A more formalized newsletter—one that is fun, enlightening, and interesting—would, perhaps, inveigle droves of outlying hymenopterists to join the Society. The newsletter could also serve as a broader forum for discussing these alarming trends, as it would reach all members who might have some constructive input. Persistent communication also encourages people to remain as members.

A plan for a newer, bolder newsletter

I propose that we set a goal of publishing TWO newsletters per year, one in the summer and one in the winter (just in time to include a dues reminder! These dates also fall between issues of JHR). The newsletters will be distributed via email as a link to a PDF hidden on the ISH website (i.e., no large attachments to clog your inbox). After 6 months the PDF will be made available to the general public, and the secretary will parse the articles into blog posts (one per article) that are published here and fed to Facebook, Twitter, and other Web resources as necessary. In this way the content reaches more people than any one medium alone. This also gives ISH members 6 full months to digest the content before the public can feed on it.

These newsletters could be organized into sections, for example:
  • reports from the executive
  • latest ISH news
  • taxon-specific pages (i.e., recapture the glory of Sphecos and other newsletters)
  • field and museum notes
  • updates from members' lab
  • updates about Hymenoptera-related workshops (bee, ant, and Hym courses)
  • collector's corner (notes about collecting methods and localities)
  • research notes (no taxonomic descriptions though)
  • opinion pieces
  • fun and challenging questions (name that body part or name that mystery taxon)
  • Hymenoptera in art and literature
  • summary of recent and noteworthy publications in Hymenoptera research
  • book reviews

We'd accept submissions from anyone, and as secretary I am happy to serve as the editor. I'll add this item for discussion at the ISH business meeting in Kőszeg, but you can always send me your feedback before then, either as an email ( andy_deans) or as a comment to this blog post.

If there is broad support for this new effort we'll need to decide on a name for this newsletter. Do we name it after a hymenopteran? Or a body part? Or something more general? We should decide by early July, so that we can publish a summer 2010 issue!

Monday, May 17, 2010

ISH Constitution

The proposed changes to the ISH Constitution and bylaws were accepted by the membership. The new constitution can be viewed as a Google Doc and downloaded in multiple formats.