AMS second-century countdown. Five new starts

No, it’s not Charles Franklin Brooks. It’s Bill Gail. When you see him, thank him.

The American Meteorological Society’s 2020 Annual Meeting– our 100th– is underway. A record number of attendees – more than 5000 – are gathering in Boston for the occasion. But the Centennial itself is the tip of the iceberg. Years of planning and hard work involving hundreds of member-volunteers have reexamined and rebuilt virtually every facet of AMS as we enter the second century. 

Here’s a metaphor for that work, channeling Ed Lorenz’ butterfly:

Imagine a caterpillar contemplating its goals, aspirations, future relevance and role. If AMS limits its perspective to “become a larger-yet-speedier-and-more-agile caterpillar,” history and events in our 21st-century world of rapid technological advance and social change will pass us by. But if we envision and fully embrace the notion of “butterfly,” we can change the course of the world – with respect to resource use and management, resilience to hazards, and environmental protection. Even more fundamentally, we can help reshape the world’s social contract – humanity’s shared sense of and commitment to common purpose, trust, and unity.

This and the next few posts unpack that. 

We start with a few things that remain unchanged. Caterpillar and butterfly share the same DNA. In the same manner, as the AMS enters its second century, it remains committed to:

  • Advancing the atmospheric, water, and climate and related fields in the service of society – fostering breakthrough science, technology innovation, and applications – through meetings, publications, certifications, scholarships, education, chapters, awards, and policy. We’re continuously taking a fresh look at publications and meetings to ensure AMS leads the means by which scientific and professional information is created and established. 
  • We’re sharpening our priority on diversity, equity, and inclusiveness; we’re committed to reflecting the breadth of backgrounds, capabilities, and needs of our members and our society in all we do. 
  • We’re maintaining our aspiration to serve the global public, using new means to impact those we serve with our knowledge and capabilities, from applied uses to education to policy and more.

But in addition, we’ll be extending our reach, in five particular respects. We owe the identification and articulation of these to the multi-year efforts of a Centennial Committee and many collaborators. That said, we owe a particular thanks to Bill Gail, who as AMS President saw the need for such a multi-person, multi-year, encompassing and far-reaching effort. It would have been easy for him to suggest someone else take on such a big multi-year responsibility. Instead he shouldered it himself. A forecast: decades from now, when AMS members of the time look back, they’ll likely see Bill’s role as approaching the impact of Charles Franklin Brooks, one of the AMS founders.

Here are the five (the language essentially verbatim from internal AMS reports):

Career enhancement & advancement. A key benefit of membership in a professional society is access to knowledge and opportunities for learning and networking. Collectively, these are key assets to advance and enhance an individual’s career. As it enters its second century, the AMS must focus on strengthening its value proposition to members. It should recognize that more atmospheric and related jobs are now in the private sector, and sometimes in industries that are not typically active in the AMS. This support should extend through a member’s professional journey from their academic years to their work years to retirement years. To catalyze positive outcomes for its members, the AMS will need to facilitate an entrepreneurial spirit from businesses and governments. The AMS should also renew and extend its partnerships with academic institutions, other professional societies, and the industry, whilst encouraging an agile mindset of lifelong learning from its members.

Local-collaboration networks. To borrow a common phrase, “all impact is local.” Weather impacts, education, and policy issues are often discussed and addressed locally. In its second century, AMS recognizes that one way to greatly grow its impact is by emphasizing local activities. Fortunately, AMS has access to a wide range of local organizations to accomplish this. As shown in the figure below, these assets start with AMS local chapters but encompass universities, NWS offices, broadcasters, companies, high schools, active retirees, and more. We know that these organizations would like better means to share information and collaborate. Effective local networking brings substantial benefit to each organization; in doing so, it expands AMS impact, builds valuefor AMS members, and potentially grows membership.

Member-volunteer portal. The AMS Volunteering Program (AMSVP) is a proposed new, society initiative that would offer opportunities for AMS members to apply their expertise and knowledge to the solution and mitigation of serious problems that confront worldwide communities and populations. The purpose of the AMSVP is to promote opportunities for AMS members to make their expertise and experience available to non-profit and academic organizations worldwide and to facilitate service for the greater good.

Partner-Organization Web. Expanded partnering helps AMS leverage its resources and grow its impact through organizational collaboration. The goal of the Centennial’s Expanded Partnering initiative is to build AMS’s partnering capacity in two ways:

• Greatly amplify the depth of collaboration possible with AMS’ core partnerships;

• Significantly grow the number of partner organizations

AMS can effectively interact with at all levels of collaboration, leveraging technology to accomplish this efficiently. AMS benefits from the collaborations, and from its international leadership in building the underlying platform technology.

Historical Research Network. The AMS Historical Research Network (HRN), coordinated by AMS, is a virtual and scalable network of historical information and resources linking multiple institutions that bridge the historical and meteorological communities. AMS-HRN provides crucial and socially relevant linkages between our first and second centuries and between the past, present and future of the meteorological enterprise. History is an important shared interest among the membership, from new students to retirees. The HRN will coordinate its work with other Centennial Initiatives including Lifetime Career Enhancement, Local Collaboration Networks, the Member Volunteer Portal, the Partner Organization Web, and related initiatives. The HRN supports diverse historical projects of interest to the weather, water, climate, and atmospheric chemistry community. We proactively support projects that document and interpret the contributions of women and minorities. We also aim to identify issues of social relevance, preserve the historical record, and coordinate with educational and public outreach programs to reach new generations.

The good news? AMS members will benefit from these initiatives for years to come. The even better news? By volunteering, engaging, you can shape these initiatives, improve upon them, bring them to life and sustain them.

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