FUTURES FOR IAVCEI
 

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 countries.

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 benefits.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

POSSIBLE FUNDING SOURCES (PDF)