Vol. 65, No. 2 | Fall 2020

ABS 2020 Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

ABS Executive Committee Meeting Minutes
Sunday, July 26

Meeting Called to Order (Dr. Jennifer Fewell)

President’s Report (Dr. Jennifer Fewell)
President Fewell begins the meeting with a discussion of the continued need to refine the Society’s Code-of-Conduct and policies. A Code-of-Conduct is currently in place for meeting but there are not policies for addressing all forms of inappropriate behavior outside of meetings, spanning from allegations of sexual violence and harassment to allegations of scientific misconduct.

With regards to meeting Code-of-Conduct issues, the ABS is supporting two workshops from S*Marts Consulting (taking place Monday, July 27). These workshops will cover intent of Codes of Conduct and enforcement. The Society also needs to work to formalize policies in the Society Handbook and By-Laws. John Swaddle, Eileen Hebets, and Ned Dochtermann volunteered to begin the development of this language. With the creation of a Diversity Officer position (from the Diversity Committee report), whomever holds this position should also be included in the development of policy. This will also necessitate the involvement of Society Fellows, who select new Fellows, decisions that should consider inappropriate behavior.

President Fewell moves the discussion to the issue of allegations of scientific misconduct. Discussion is led by President Fewell with major contributions from Executive Editor Solomon. There has currently been notification issued to the Editors of Animal Behavior threatening legal investigation regarding recent retractions. ABS does not have the ability to put through retractions independently as the journal is actually owned by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB). Thus far, retractions have only been considered if requested by coauthors. The Executive Editor clarifies that for a paper to be retracted, the argument for retraction goes through two board reviews: first by the editorial board and then by Elsevier. In addition to retractions, the journal can also issue Letters of Concern. Such Letters have been put forward, including one last week, and these Letters have been met with response letters by one author’s legal representation. In consultation with Elsevier and in recognition of the continuing and expanding scope of data concerns, the Executive Editors of Animal Behaviour will begin proactively contacting coauthors on other papers put forth by the same researcher.

The Editor also clarified that the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) describes Letters of Concern as notes that can be attached to articles describing issues but where the full scope is not yet clear but should be brough to the attention of readers. Articles with such Letters attached may eventually be retracted. Later discussion during the President’s time also highlighted that the journal only recommends data deposition, making this mandatory will be a discussion item with ASAB who ultimately make such decisions. A need for a symposium for those affected by the spate of retractions was also emphasized.

President Fewell then moved the discussion to diversity, equity, and justice issues. There was a general recognition that the Society has been far too complacent on this issue. The Diversity Committee has brought forward a number of important new initiatives and the President emphasized the need for all EC members to review their report and how those initiatives will help more fully commit the Society to change.

The President yielded the floor to the Treasurer.

Treasurer’s Report (Dr. Scott MacDougall-Shackleton)
Treasurer MacDougall-Shackleton reviewed particular aspects of the Society’s finances that were exceptional this year. First the Society is committed to the Costa Rican meeting via a $50,000 non-refundable deposit to the hosting venue. There will be subsequent deposits required closer to the meeting and, because it is not being held at a university, it will be a more expensive meeting than the Society typically supports.

Treasurer MacDougall-Shackleton next discussed that while the Society experienced considerable volatility in its investments due to the pandemic but the investments have recovered and stabilized. Generally, the society has seen considerable growth in its investments. The Treasurer also discussed that the shift to a virtual meeting did not result in the loss of any monies (UTK did not require a deposit).

Treasurer MacDougall-Shackleton then described the sources of revenue and expenses of the society. The Society is largely reliant on its journal revenue share. The Society’s revenue from the journal is typically between $300,000 and $400,000. Dues bring in ~$100,000 but this revenue is highly variable, presumably due to meeting location. In discussing the Society’s expenses, these are generally stable and largely arise from the Editorial office’s costs, contracted services with SPLTrack, Student Research Grants, and conference support. However, budgeted costs are often misestimated: for 2018-2019, expenses were estimated as $430,000 (on $375,000 income). The actual costs and income were $230,000 and $430,000 respectively (though these costs do not include conference costs). The Treasurer discussed that one of his goals for the coming year is cleaning up the budget to allow more accurate estimation of costs, more accurate budgeting, and more accurate forecasting.

The Treasure then brought up the fact that the Society is currently in a solid financial shape with income generally greater than costs. The Society’s investments are currently around 2 million dollars (~75% in stocks) and the transition to socially responsible funds has not affected earning. The Society also has $845,000 directly available and not currently invested. This is more than should be in such funds and the Society should consider moving some portion of these funds to investment accounts.

The EC then discussed the overall level of investments and reserve funds. The large increase in Society investments reflects a decision made by the then EC around 8 years ago to heavily invest. This decision is based around a goal of making the Society financially secure independent of journal revenue. Changes to publication models and revenues, movement towards open access, dissatisfaction with publishers, etc. means that the Society cannot rely on publication revenue in the long-term. The goal is to allow the Society to eventually support all its activities in an endowed manner.
Currently a 4% drawdown from investment accounts (there have been no withdrawals in the last several years) would be $111,000. Combined with membership dues, it is estimated that the investment accounts will need to reach ~4-5 million to allow the society to function in a self-sustained, endowed manner.

One of the major difficulties the Treasurer has faced has also been in regards to reconciling the timing of the EC meeting and when budgetary decisions must be made vis-à-vis the fiscal year and with the finalization of meeting costs. Consequently, a motion was put forward to hold an additional EC meeting in October or November to report and vote on a final budget (a working budget to be presented at the summer EC meeting). The motion passed unanimously.

The Treasurer yielded the floor.

Past-President’s Report (Dr. John Swaddle)
Due to timing difficulties, new EC members were notified much later than usual. This has created some issues with the timing of assembling the nominee slate for the next ballot. The Past-President proposes formalizing policy regarding the process and will assist the incoming Past-President in doing so and with the new nominee slate. There was also discussion of how to make sure the nomination process can be made more open. The Diversity Committee will be proposing a Diversity Officer as a new member of the EC and it was suggested to general support that this Officer be a member of the nominations committee.

The Past-President yields the floor.

Members-at-large Report (Drs. Templeton, Renn, and Manica)
The Members-at-large (MALs) awarded $83,000 to applicants, primarily in the form of Graduate Student Research grants but also via various named grants. Due to the ongoing pandemic, awardees were provided with considerable leeway for changing timing of disbursement/no-cost extensions. The MALs are tasked with supporting ~1/3rd of grants, which resulted in the funding average being ~$1200. The MALs propose the creation of an additional research award to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). They proposed a piloting of this program with an expansion to their budget of $10,000 for awards directed to increasing representation amongst awardees or to support specific research related activities that will increase and improve DEI.

Discussion commenced regarding this suggestion. The possibility of adding and expanding travel awards in association with this initiative was raised. Identifying appropriate applications and from whom grant applications would be considered was discussed. Two suggestions brought forward were to 1) use the language from reduced cost registration to promote inclusion of developing nations applicants, and 2) use existing language from NSF post-doctoral fellowship programs. A suggestion was brought forward that DEI statements should be required in grant applications. This was also stated as something that should be included in all symposia applications.

A motion was made to approve the MALs proposal:

The Members-at-large propose to establish a Diversity Award student research grant, and request initial funding to support five research awards. We propose to pilot this grant scheme with an initial funding of up to $10,000 for 5+ awards.

A friendly amendment was put forward to hold final approval of the MAL budget until after this proposal could be discussed with the Diversity Committee. The motion passed with unanimous support.

There was additional discussion regarding caregiver grants and whether these might be appropriate for virtual meetings. No motion was made but these grants remain in the MAL budget.

The MALs next brought up an ongoing point of concern regarding evaluation of the Graduate Student Research grants. Specifically, many grant applications come from colleagues for whom English is not their first language. This has, at times, affected the competitiveness of applications despite the strength of research presented. The MALs propose that applicants be provided the opportunity to have their applications reviewed by past awardees. While the MALs will initially work to identify volunteers, it was discussed that this is something that could fit in with broader initiatives being pursued by the Latin Affairs committee. The MALs will formulate language for a formal vote on the issue and also discuss the proposal with both the Diversity and Latin Affairs committees.
The MALs yield the floor.

Public Affairs Officer’s Report (Dr. Danielle Whittaker)
The Public Affairs Officer proposed that the prizes for the Three-Minute Thesis Competition be formalized. Specifically, winners have previously been gifted books from vendors at the conference. However, this has occasionally led to winners not receiving their prizes as vendors left the meeting early. Consequently, the Public Affairs Officer put forward the motion: (P)rovide a $150 prize to 3-minute competition winners

 The motion was voted on and passed unanimously.

The Public Affairs Officer also discussed their plans to organize a workshop on Science Communication during the next in-person meeting. This workshop will include professional development aspects applicable across career stages and be run in coordination with the meeting’s Public Day. Because professionally run SciComm workshops can be prohibitively expensive, the workshop will be led by ABS members with extensive SciComm experience (e.g. President-Elect Hebets).

The Public Affairs Officer yields the floor.

Graduate Student Representative Report (Dr. Patrick Green)
The Graduate Student Representative reviewed several activities of the past year. First, the mentoring program continues to grow. This year there are ~500 mentees and ~125 mentors, a major expansion from last year. There will be a post-meeting survey to assay what aspects of the program are most valuable.

The Graduate Student Representative has also been coordinating the Society’s Twitter team. Twitter followers have increased from a few hundred to ~4600 at the start of the meeting (followers increased to over 5000 by the end of the meeting). Between activities like Twitter takeovers, tweeting of recent articles, etc. the task of coordinating the social media team has grown considerable. Thus it was proposed that these tasks be formalized under a Social Media Team, whose chair would be a non-voting member of the EC. The Graduate Student Representative will provide the EC with language for this team and EC member.

The Graduate Student Representative also raised the issue of EC support for the Twitter Team. At the 2019 meeting the EC approved funding to cover the costs of meeting registration for members of the team. Due to the virtual meeting structure, this funding was not used. The Graduate Student Representative moved that this funding be rolled-over for next year’s meeting:

(R)ollover funding for Twitter team’s registration to next year’s conference – for anyone who has contributed for at least 6 months.

The motion passed unanimously

There was discussion regarding how concerns of colleagues at different stages of their careers can be heard and relayed to the EC. It was proposed that the Graduate Student Representative position be split to two voting positions: a Graduate Student Representative and a Post-Doctoral Researcher Representative. Discussion covered a range of related topics including formal definitions of a Post-Doctoral Researcher. Ultimately it was discussed that the formation of a new standing committee should be created that can bring the concerns of both constituencies to the EC. The Graduate Student Representative will provide the EC with language for a motion to create this committee.

Additional discussion during this period included the importance of investigating whether bias exists in the awarding of Graduate Student Research grants, the need to improve means of communication within the EC due to unwieldy email chains, and regular surveying of members.

The Graduate Student Representative yielded the floor.

Discussion: It was brought up that many new activities are being suggested as areas where input from the Diversity Committee would be necessary. The Society needs to think about how they will support this work. There was the suggestion of a lot of additional unpaid labor and consideration of whether additional funds can be allocated to support the committee.

President-Elect’s Report (Dr. Esteban Fernandez-Juricic)
The President-Elect reiterated the importance and magnitude of effort put in by the Twitter team and stated that work with the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) in organizing a twitter conference is progressing. There has also been contact with additional societies looking to potentially collaborate on the meeting.

The President-Elect brought up lessons from virtual meeting organization. Specifically, a willingness to engage in virtual discussions creates opportunities for additional venues, workshops, and working groups. This may facilitate expanded opportunities to support ABS members.

The President-Elect concluded by initiating a discussion regarding the status of the journal and Elsevier (publisher). Many Society members have expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the journal’s publisher, tied primarily to their costs for library subscription and negotiation failures as well as the publisher’s business ethics. This has had a negative effect vis-à-vis the willingness of society members to submit and review for the journal.

The journal’s contract with Elsevier ends at the end of 2021. However, because the journal is owned 100% by ASAB, the ability of the Society to change publishers is limited. The ASAB and Society Editors work together very well and ASAB respects Society feedback but, ultimately the fate of Animal Behaviour and where it is published is not determined by the Society. ASAB is currently waiting on financial proposals from Elsevier, which can then be brought to other publishers if the journal seeks to move publishers. Changing publishers will almost certainly come at a financial cost to the Society as revenue will decrease.

Several other publication issues also must be considered: 1) Plan S in Europe will potentially make hybrid journals like Animal Behaviour defunct. 2) Changes to ensure that the journal is publishing the best, and reproducible, research should be considered (e.g. mandating data deposition, code review, etc.). 3) Move focus away from impact factor and consider alternatives that prioritizes research quality. For example, indices like the TOP factor (https://topfactor.org/).
President-Elect yields the floor.

Motion to adjourn for the day, seconded, and passed Monday, July 27.

Meeting Called to Order (Dr. Jennifer Fewell)

Discussion of new and continuing business: Historian’s Report has been moved to after Diversity Committee report and votes on Early Career Research Committee and Social Media Team motions. Member-at-Large Templeton reminds EC that the Diversity Research Awards require further discussion with the Diversity Committee.

Executive Editor’s Report (Dr. Nancy Solomon)
The Executive Editor reports on overall submission and other patterns. The number of research paper submissions in the last year (330) was not markedly different from previous years. Some changes in submission of commentaries and reviews but these are often quite variable. Acceptance rate for research papers was 30%, with higher rates for commentaries and reviews. The latter two categories often go through some form of enquiry or solicitation so the difference is to be expected. The journal’s impact factor (2.7) has been stable over the last few years and is essentially the same as the impact factor of Behavioral Ecology, both of which are higher than Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

The Executive Editor also reported on changes to the Editorial Board and demographics of the Board. Four editors have completed their terms and discussions with and about replacements have been started. Currently, albeit not reflected on the website, the representation on the Editorial Board is much closer to gender parity than in the past and continued efforts to improve representation are ongoing in the recruitment of new members. Importantly, the journal splits submissions roughly by Western or Eastern Hemispheres; the Society and Executive Editor Solomon generally oversee Western Hemisphere submissions. The Western Hemisphere side of the journal has 10-12 fewer editors than does the Eastern, despite similar numbers of submissions. This results in editors handling 5-6 manuscripts at a time. There was discussion about whether this was a high or low load and the general sentiment was that expanding the number of editors might be advisable, particularly with attention to making the slate of editors more representative of the membership and the areas served by the journal.

An additional major change to the editorial board was the completion of the Book Review Editor’s term (Dr. Patti Loesche). This position is not being continued.

General discussion ensued covering a range of topics. These included discussions included: The possibility of having a tweet field at submission, this tweet could be sent out upon acceptance. Revisiting the discussion about requiring data deposition and consent from all authors. Also discussed was the possibility of increasing of reporting major editorial changes via Twitter.

The Executive Editor yields the floor.

Program Officers’ Report (Drs. Tibbetts & Wright)
The Program Officers started by reporting on the current virtual meeting. At the time of the EC meeting there were 1745 attendees (this number continued to increase well after the conclusion of the meeting due to the continued availability of talks). Fifty-four countries were represented amongst the attendees. In total, 648 parallel talks (6 minutes) and 235 lightening talks (3 minutes) are being presented. This is an incredible increase in attendance and geographic representation. The primary driver seems likely to be the greatly reduced cost of the meeting. The Program Officers stated that the EC and future Program Officers should think carefully as to how positive aspects of the virtual meeting can be integrated into future meetings. Plenaries for the 2020 meeting are being rescheduled to the 2021 meeting. The symposia and workshops for 2020 were canceled and will have to reapply for the 2021 meeting. This was discussed by the EC and the rationale provided was that the Costa Rica meeting and organizers were seeking to have local and Latin America involvement in both. If the full slate was simply moved over, that would not be possible. A major change intended for the 2020 meeting had also been subsidized on-site childcare. It is hoped that this will be possible for future meetings as well.

The EC next discussed the Costa Rica meeting plan. The society has currently put down a $50,000 USD deposit for the venue. There is currently some ambiguity if that can be put toward a subsequent year given the pandemic. The POs will be assembling timeline on which decisions have to be made per the venue and a subcommittee from the EC will work on Society deadlines for decision making purposes.

Applied Animal Behavior Committee & Board of Professional Certification Report (Dr. Robin Foster)
The AABC raised several issues of concern. First there is a long-standing issue with certification insurance and liability. Specifically, those certified must list ABS as an additional insured on their policies. This was stated as a major factor in declining certification and participation. Co-insurance was stated as being atypical. EC discussion of issues of liability were raised. The Past-President stated that the issue had previously been examined and legal counsel advised that in the absence of co-insurance status, the Society would be liable. Additional discussion continued and the 2nd President Elect’s status as insurance negotiator was raised. Given that certification implies competency, not liability, the issue should perhaps be reraised. The EC requested a formal write-up as to the request and justification for changing the policy. A summary of how other certifying organizations deal with the issue was also requested.

Diversity Committee (DC) Report (Dr. Damian Elias; several members of committee also in attendance)
The general issue of diversity of the Society was raised and the Committee highlighted that there is a general issue in that the demographics of the Society are unknown and there is a need that this information be collected. The Committee also suggested that a Diversity Officer was needed as a permanent and voting member of the EC.A need for integrating Equity and Inclusion across Society activities was also highlighted as well as availing members of the Society with opportunities for training in best practices.

Discussion commenced between the EC and DC.

The EC voted to approve the creation of a Diversity Officer position on the EC as a non-voting member with unanimous consent. Because of the Society’s constitution, full voting status and changes to the voting structure of the EC have to be voted on by the Society members. This constitutional change will be voted on after the meeting.
The charge of this position will be broad but will include sitting on the nominations committee for EC membership and for career awards. This Diversity Officer will also work with POs in assembling slate of plenaries, symposia, and workshops. The Diversity Officer will also work to coordinate efforts by various other committees and groups within the society (e.g. the Latin Affairs Committee, Tuner Award, WFAB, and the Members-at-Large). The DC was asked to provide formal language which could be voted on.

The DC introduced discussion of representation on the journal. It was clarified that the Society’s role with the journal is restricted to the Americas, with ASAB overseeing submissions from Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It was also stated that the current list of editors was not up to date at that time. A need for appropriate representation from Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries was raised. The EC supported this call and a role for the new Diversity Officer to help in identifying appropriate editors was raised. Also discussed was the Journal’s informal policy of only having those at or above the Associate Professor level serve as editors. While this practice is meant to ensure that more junior colleagues are not over-burdened with service responsibilities, it may also reduce participation.
The suggested need for a survey was further discussed by the EC and DC and the DC was asked to assemble the survey which could then be coordinated disseminated through SPLTrack. The need for a DEI component in all funding was discussed, with unanimous consent for the DC and EC, with the caveat that performative efforts should not be awarded. The DC supported the proposal from the MALs to add additional diversity research awards for student research grants (see above for details). The proposal from the MALs to have past recipients provide grant guidance and copy-editing assistance to students for whom English is not their primary language was also brought up again.
A major topic discussed was that the nomination policy for both EC membership and Career awards was not clear. Both the EC and DC agreed that current practices were exclusionary. The need to clarify the procedure to membership was stated. Specifically: while the Nominations Committee assembles the ballot, any member can be nominated and put on the ballot with the support from five other members.

The EC and DC next discussed the proposed budget. It was first clarified that the EC can only approve budgets of one-year so the DC budget was reduced to:

Turner Award   $15,000.00
Undergraduate luncheon              $1,500.00
Diversity Travel Award                  $5,000.00
DEI Plenary        $2,500.00
DEI Workshops                  $6,000.00 (original budget request was for three workshops at 18k over three years)*
Survey costs       $1,200.00
Envisioning Future Working Group        $4,000.00

There was a motion to approve and the EC unanimously voted to approve the budget. There was a motion to continue the budget at the requested amount for three years. The EC unanimously pledged to continue the indicated level of support. *subsequent discussion with the chair of the EC after the meeting indicated they had intended to hold three workshops during the 2021 meeting. The EC maintained the above level of funding but suggested that additional workshops could also be proposed and supported through existing mechanisms

The EC and DC discussed a number of other issues. These included a need for committees to provide letters of service, which could aid in assessment, applications, and evaluation. The EC agreed with this and referred the issue to committee chairs. The DC requested that Society dues be relabeled registration, enabling them to be paid from grants. The Past-President stated that this was not possible because it would violate tax code.

The DC yielded the floor.
Miscellaneous discussion
The committee moved to approve language for the Early Career Researcher Committee to be added to the by-laws:

The motion passed with unanimous consent.

The committee moved to approved language for the Social Media Team charge:

The motion passed with unanimous consent.

Additional discussion regarding the Society’s policy on obituaries ensued. The EC concluded that obituaries should be based on contributions to the field, not contingent on membership/activity.

It was suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed, with discussion with the Latin Affairs committee, that would consider approaches to extend outreach to Latin America. In particular, the committee would work to increase transparency about navigating graduate school and provide mentorship to students from Latin America. This could be run similar to the existing Turner program but with continued mentorship and not requiring meeting attendance (which could be prohibitive). Dr. Tim Wright volunteered to lead the ad hoc committee.

A motion was made to conclude discussion of the budget to a Fall meeting, move additional votes to electronic form, and adjorn the meeting. The motion was seconded and passed with unanimous approval.


ABS Newsletter

Send general correspondence concerning the Society to Danielle J. Whittaker, Public Affairs Officer, at: publicaffairs@
. Deadlines for materials to be included in the Newsletter are the 15th of the month preceding each issue. The next deadline is February 15, 2021. Articles submitted by members of the Society and judged by the Public Affairs Officer to be appropriate are occasionally published in the ABS newsletter. The publication of such material does not imply ABS endorsement of the opinions expressed by contributors.

Animal Behavior Society Website: http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org

Animal Behavior

Animal Behavior, manuscripts and editorial matters: Authors should submit manuscripts online to Elsevier’s Editorial System (http://ees.elsevier.com/anbeh/). For enquiries relating to submissions prior to acceptance, contact the Journal Manager ([email protected]). For enquiries relating to submissions after acceptance, visit Elsevier at http://www.elsevier.com/journals. For other general correspondence, contact Kris Bruner, Managing Editor, Animal Behaviour, Indiana University, 407 N. Park Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47408, USA. E-mail: [email protected]. Phone: 812-935-7188.

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