President's Message November/December 2012

Ann Bostrom

Incorporated in 1980 to support our flagship journal, Risk Analysis, the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) grew steadily for many years, comprising over 2,000 members at the turn of the century. International participation and activities characterized the Society from its outset, but became the focus of growth at around the same time, with the first World Congress on Risk, which took place in Brussels in 2003.1 Early regional partnering organizations (from 1988) include the Society for Risk Analysis-Europe and the Society for Risk Analysis-Japan; both are thriving, independently recognized entities with their own journals—the Journal of Risk Research and the Japanese Journal of Risk Analysis—and their own annual meetings. The Society for Risk Analysis now recognizes two dozen regional organizations throughout the world and has formally abandoned distinctions between sections and chapters.

Arguably, the global growth of SRA activities and organizations has served risk sciences well by fostering professional ties across borders and disciplines equally and promoting risk analysis. However, this international growth has not corresponded in recent years to demonstrable corresponding growth in SRA membership with representation in our members directory and subscription to Risk Analysis. The reasons for this are undoubtedly numerous. Among those mentioned during the regional summit at the World Congress in Sydney were the expense of traveling to meetings in the United States and other economic pressures on individual pocketbooks, language issues, and changes in social and professional networking and communications practices and expectations, partly attributable to information and communications technologies. To address some of these, SRA routinely offers travel subsidies and is broadening its use of information and communications technologies. Another contributory factor may be the relatively weak ties between some regional organizations and SRA international. To address this, the Council is developing new policies to clarify joint membership status for those who participate in regional organizations, improve membership benefits for those who do not attend meetings in the United States, and improve representation of regional organizations in SRA governance, as well as communications between all SRA organizations.

Currently, participants in SRA regional meetings who do not pay SRA membership fees are not readily identifiable as SRA members; on paper, SRA membership has declined steadily over the last decade. This suggests that U.S. membership has stagnated or declined—despite recent growth in student membership—and international membership in SRA (with subscription to Risk Analysis) has not grown. The Society’s good financial health makes this an opportune time to reduce barriers to membership in multiple SRA organizations and to recruit new members with improved benefits and reduced costs. Successful as the World Congress in Sydney was, fewer people attended that meeting than usually attend annual SRA meetings in the United States. Further, SRA is indebted to and dependent on the services of its Secretariat, which is headquartered in the United States, and financially dependent on our flagship journal, Risk Analysis, which operates under the auspices of SRA international. For these reasons, moving to a less U.S.-centric operations model poses both logistical and financial challenges. Despite this, the Society has made some moves in this direction; the Council has evolved to include formal representation from SRA-Europe, and the annual SRA conference now includes a formal meeting of regional organization leaders. Making SRA a truly global organization will further strengthen our professional networks and help us share risk knowledge to meet the challenges of climate change and other global risks. A membership survey and a new online meeting evaluation form are in the works. It’s also not too late to vote in the SRA elections. Please make your voice heard! Your input will help us measure how well SRA is doing and what we could do better. See you down by the Bay!

 

Footnote

Kimberly M. Thompson, Paul F. Deisler, Jr., and Richard C. Schwing, Interdisciplinary Vision: The First 25 Years of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), 1980–2005 Risk Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 6, 1333-1386, 2005.