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 (@ncsu.edu: 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!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andy (and all Hym. fellows :)

    I could not agree more with your comments on the ISH newsletters. And I am glad that you mentioned Skaphion and TIGER -IMO they truly continue the tradition of those previous (and glorious!) examples of a former era.

    Here in the CNC, Ottawa, sometimes during lunch we discuss about that. I like to call this kind of newsletters "scientific gossip" because they allow a more spontaneous, free exchange of ideas. Admittedly, some of those ideas would never make it to a "formal", peer-reviewed journal, but it does not matter: they often contain the seeds for further papers -and occasionally a brilliant idea! And more importantly: they certainly give an idea of community of shared interests (as we should be!).

    In summary, I would happily second such an idea of making more lively and "scientifically gossiped" newsletters for the hymenopterists community. Thanks for bringing the topic (and see you in Hungary).


    José L. Fernández-Triana, Ph.D.
    Research Associate, Canadian National Collection of Insects
    960 Carling Ave., Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6
    Phone: 613-759-1832 Email: jftriana@uoguelph.ca, Jose.Fernandez@agr.gc.ca