Introduction. In this article an analysis of
IAVCEI and its possible futures is outlined. This has been up to now
a discussion document for the Executive Committee, but in this Newsletter
the debate is opened up amongst the members. I encourage members of
IAVCEI to send their ideas to the Executive Officers on how IAVCEI
might grow, what initiatives IAVCEI should be developing and about
how funds to achieve these objectives might be found. I first of all
summarize what IAVCEI is about just to set the scene and then carry
out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Our
aim is to develop a broad strategy and the ideas in this article are
part of the current thinking. However the Officers recognize that
we are unlikely to have thought of everything and that are very open
to inputs from the membership.
What is IAVCEI? The International Association of Volcanology
and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) is the major international
scientific organization for volcanology. IAVCEI represents over 700
scientists from 60 countries world-wide and has national correspondents
from 56 countries. The Association was founded in 1927 and is a member
association of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG)
which is itself part of the family of international
scientific unions (ICSU). IAVCEI has established some independence
as a scientific organization through establishment of personal membership.
The main objectives of IAVCEI are to promote scientific understanding
of volcanism and to apply this knowledge to the mitigation of volcanic
eruptions. The Association perspectives are very much international
and IAVCEI supports
co-operation and collaboration within the scientific community. These
objectives are principally met by holding scientific meetings and
publication of new scientific results. IAVCEI has fifteen scientific
Commissions which are concerned with more specialist aspects of volcanology.
Included amongst the Commissions is the World Organization of Volcano
Observations (WOVO). IAVCEI has also developed strong interests
in education, matters relating to the scientific input to the management
of volcanic crisis, and professional issues for volcanologists, such
as safety and protocols for scientists working on erupting volcanoes.
IAVCEI places a great deal of emphasis on supporting young scientists
and scientists from economically deprived countries.
This article discusses the future of IAVCEI. While in general IAVCEI
seems rather successful in terms of fulfilling its main mandate through
the traditional ways of meetings and publication it is limited in
a number of ways in its abilities to develop new initiatives, particularly
in areas relating to education, public understanding of science, and
in contributing to the mitigation of volcanic eruptions. There is
also a desire to improve its services to members. The most important
limitation is financial resources, so any aspiration to expand IAVCEI
activities and services must first address the issue of how to increase
capital funds and income. One view is that IAVCEI does not need to
expand because it is already fulfilling its main function satisfactorily.
Another view is that expansion is desirable so that IAVCEI can do
better in its traditional areas (for example having the financial
resources to support more young and developing world scientists) and
to take on new roles (for example by making education a more important
aspect of IAVCEI activities). Realistic plans to expand need to balance
aspirations with financial resources.
Resources. The two principal resources of IAVCEI are human
and financial. Like many scientific organizations IAVCEI relies very
much on the goodwill, commitment and dedication of its members. With
the exception of a part-time membership secretary, all Executive Officers,
Commission leaders and IAVCEI members involved in working groups,
conference organization and editorial work are unpaid volunteers.
This human resource is critical to the success of IAVCEI and to a
very large extent the organization thrives exceedingly well.
The funding of IAVCEI comes from two major sources: membership fees
and an annual subvention of funds from the IUGG which depends on the
numbers of IAVCEI members attending the IUGG General Assembly held
every four years. There is also minor income from sales of calendars
and videos. Taken together these sources of income amount to about
$US40K per year. The main expenditure involves the salary of a part-time
membership secretary, production of a newsletter, some travel expenditure
for Executive Officers and Executive Committee members to attend meetings,
seed funds for scientific meetings and working group activities, and
grants for young scientists and scientists from economically deprived
The main scientific publication of IAVCEI is Bulletin of Volcanology,
which is published by Springer Verlag. This publication is self-financing
and members get low cost subscriptions to the Journal as one of their
Organization. IAVCEI is run by two Executive Officers (the
President and Secretary General) and an Executive Committee comprising
the two officers, four members, the editor of Bulletin of Volcanology,
the past President (ex-officio) and two Vice-Presidents. The President,
Secretary-General and two Vice Presidents make up the Bureau of IAVCEI.
The Officers and Committee are elected by the membership every four
years. The President serves one four year term, but the Secretary
General normally serves two terms, providing important continuity.
The Executive Committee meets if possible once a year, but much of
its business is pursued electronically. Office support and activities
such as newsletter production and WEB-site management are usually
based at the institution of the Secretary General, although there
is no requirement for this arrangement, which is based on convenience.
There is a part-time membership secretary whose main responsibilities
are to collect fees, maintain an up-to-date membership list, and to
circulate the newsletter.
SWOT Analysis. Here the position of IAVCEI in the context of
its potential to expand its resources and activities is analyzed in
terms of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).
Strengths. Volcanoes are fascinating to the general public
and in particular the young. Hardly a week goes by without a TV documentary
on volcanoes and eruptions are always newsworthy. IAVCEI is thus associated
with one of the most exciting, dramatic and glamorous topics in the
natural world, providing an immense opportunity for educating the
public about the World we live in and science. There is no doubt
that IAVCEI has a product which in principle is high profile and of
very wide interest.
IAVCEI has fantastic resources and potential in terms of its members.
Most of the World's experts in volcanoes are members of IAVCEI and
many are also professional educators. The success of IAVCEI and a
key strength are the voluntary contributions of its members. IAVCEI
holds many excellent scientific meetings, promotes an international
perspective on the science, and provides key support for young and
developing world scientists. The international character of IAVCEI
is a critical and a key strength.
Weaknesses. Any organization that relies almost entirely on
voluntary work is inevitably weakened by the fact that sometimes promises
of help and work are not fulfilled. Every IAVCEI member is employed
elsewhere and has commitments that sometimes have to take priority
over voluntary activities. For a whole variety of understandable reasons
sometimes individuals cannot meet commitments for IAVCEI and important
tasks are not done. It is thus quite hard for IAVCEI to be entirely
efficient and wholly professional. There is thus a strong argument
for supporting a small secretariat, who are paid to carry out critical
tasks as their main activity. This issue is explored further below.
IAVCEI is severely limited by its current finances. Probably about
a third of the income is spent on essential running costs (Membership
Secretary, Executive Committee meetings, newsletter), one third on
support of scientific meetings, and one third on supporting young
and developing world scientists to attend scientific meetings. There
is little room for supporting new initiatives. There is a huge demand
to help scientists with limited resources to attend meetings and develop
science in their country, which are often countries particularly vulnerable
to volcanic disasters. There is thus also a case for much larger resources
to provide such assistance and to develop new ideas.
Opportunities. There are many opportunities and in many ways
the possibilities are considerable and exciting.
- Membership. The number of scientists interested
in volcanoes are without doubt several times greater than
the current IAVCEI membership. Evidence comes from the internet
information service (Volcano List-Serve) with 2000 members and membership
of volcano-interest groups in national scientific societies. A target
of doubling membership is not unrealistic. IAVCEI will be greatly
strengthened by increased membership because it will be more representative
and due to increased income. However, here is an example of where
an expanded secretariat would help IAVCEI by pursuing campaigns
to recruit more members.
- Support for Scientists. Most volcanoes are in the
developing world, yet most of the scientific work is carried out
in the wealthy developed world. While such an imbalance is inevitable,
a major opportunity and indeed moral obligation of IAVCEI is to
engage and support developing world scientists to participate in
the international scientific effort. There is a huge demand to provide
assistance to scientists from poorer regions for their education,
participation and contribution to volcanology. If IAVCEI income
increased by ten-fold there would be little difficulty in using
this resource effectively just for this purpose.
- Education. The internet and communications revolution
provides a fantastic opportunity for IAVCEI in its educational role,
by providing easily accessible, authoritative information on volcanoes
and volcanology. There are multiple targets: the general public
particularly those in areas threatened by volcanic activity, children
who find volcanoes exciting and learn some science thereby, public
officials who have to deal with volcanic emergencies, and scientists
who need easy access to the latest scientific information, ideas
and techniques. IAVCEI, with all its human resources, could play
a major role in education as a means to promote its main objectives,
in particular by exploiting the potential of multimedia platforms
and the internet. IAVCEI is already involved in some projects and
initiatives, but these are limited by financial resources.
Threats. IAVCEI is part of the International Union of Geodesy
and Geophysics, part of the ICSU family. These organizations have
very limited financial resources and, with some justification, are
widely perceived as debilitated by bureaucracy and conservative influences.
Some see these organizations as hopeless and incapable of serious
reform. The skepticism and disillusion with international scientific
organizations is quite widespread, and so some scientists, mostly
from the developed world, are antagonistic to involvement with organizations
like IAVCEI, preferring to pursue their professional interests through
strong and well-resourced national organizations like the American
Geophysical Union or European Union of Geosciences. While personal
membership gives IAVCEI some independence from these tides of opinion,
the Association would benefit from being seen by all volcanologists
as the most important scientific organization for this community.
The limited resources of IAVCEI prevent it being as effective as it
might, and therefore counteracting the view that it has limited relevance.
Complacency, conservation and aversion to change are all traits that
can threaten any Organization. The number of highly active members
of IAVCEI are quite limited in fact. One opinion is that IAVCEI is
a clique of the same old faces with little interest in widening involvement
and developing. If a negative view of IAVCEI were to become widespread
then the organization would be threatened. Fortunately this is not
the case as most of the prominent figures in international volcanology
are members and supportive. IAVCEI, however, needs to make sure it
is dynamic, inclusive and open to new ideas.
A Possible Future. From the above discussion and analysis this
is a strong case to expand and develop IAVCEI and to find ways of
increasing the funding base to allow this expansion to take place.
The case for expansion can be summarized as the need to provide improved
services and products for our members, the need to support scientists
and volcanology in the developing world to a much greater extent than
can be achieved at present, and the opportunities for education to
several different audiences exploiting the information technology
revolution in particular. An attainable goal would be to: expand the
professional secretariat and to raise money to expand our activities
for supporting scientists and educational initiatives.
IAVCEI could explore ways of increasing funds to support two full-time
staff as a secretariat. Position 1 would be a Membership Secretary
whose expanded role would be to actively recruit members and give
IAVCEI a much wider profile. The current part-time appointment would
be involved in marketing IAVCEI at meetings, and developing improved
communications with members. The position would thus turn from a relatively
passive role (collecting fees,
distributing members cards and the newsletter) to an active role in
which IAVCEI was promoted to encourage expanded membership. The second
position would be a Communications Officer. The main role of the Communications
Officer would be proactive, commissioning articles, extracting information
from, for example, commission leaders, encouraging and helping commissions
to keep their own WEB-site dynamic. Another role of the Communications
Officer would be to develop educational initiatives based on the WEB.
A long-term goal would be to make the IAVCEI web site an exciting
place to visit to learn about volcanoes and as a hub for information
on volcanoes with links to other WEB sites world-wide.
Ways to Find the Money. The expansion is not feasible unless
income increases. Two full-time posts require an annual income of
about $70K, an increase of $30K and a substantial expansion of support
for scientists from the developing world requires a major increase.
By its nature as largely an organization of scientists IAVCEI does
not have the skills and expertise at fund-raising. Further fund-raising
is a time-consuming occupation and, given the voluntary character
of IAVCEI, it is doubtful that IAVCEI would have the time to commit
to a vigorous fund-raising campaign. Increase in membership would
help, but is limited and is unlikely to provide additional resource
of the amount required. The main source of funds is likely to be Corporate
or Philanthropic Foundations. IAVCEI is considering seeking the advice
of a professional fund-raiser.
Key Ideas for Attracting Funds. Volcanoes are very exciting,
a symbol of raw nature, and are often beautiful. Thus these attributes
must have potential value to sponsors. Volcanoes cause great distress,
loss of life and destruction. They particularly affect poor countries.
Philanthropic organizations should be attracted to the humanitarian
dimension of volcanology.
How IAVCEI members can help. First of all IAVCEI members are
asked to think about this discussion article and let the Executive
Officers know their views and ideas. Any thoughts on the analysis
and the possible way forward would be very welcome. Another way might
be to suggest specific projects that might be developed into a portfolio
of ideas for potential sponsors. Short proposals from members that
could ultimately be developed into projects and initiatives would
be very welcome.
FUNDING SOURCES (PDF)