Minutes of the meeting of the General Assembly of
International Federation for Cell Biology
The Meeting took place at the 9th International Congress on Cell Biology
Held at CoEx, Seoul, South Korea , 8th October 2008
The meeting was called to order by the chairman, Professor Ken Wu ( Taiwan ) at 12 noon . Twenty one delegates and one observer were present, representing 10 countries (not including the officers of IFCB).
Minutes of the annual general meeting held in Nice ( France ) September 2004 were approved.
Professor Wu indicated that over the last 4 years the continued growth in cell biology as a major discipline worldwide was obvious and would clearly continue in the future. IFCB therefore has an important role and its activities must accordingly be strengthened. To achieve this, IFCB now must formalise its activities and spend not only its income but some of its adequate reserves implementing new programmes, outlined later in these minutes.
Secretary General’s report
Professor Wheatley indicated that the last 4 years has seen some changes of the kind indicated by the chairman, but there was also a need to speed up the reforms. Income was now at a higher level than before and even with the cost of the 9 th ICCB this year, the extra outlay had not eaten into our reserves. We were therefore in excellent shape to expand our operations. He stated that income at present was mainly from CBI revenue, but the issue of membership dues was a problem and a proposal for change was put forward (see below). Membership of national societies was not firm and many countries were still reluctant to ally themselves with IFCB. The issue, he indicated, was that IFCB did not have any “products” other than some incidental travel awards and a little sponsorship of some keynote speakers or general funds for small workshops/symposia held by member nations (such as recently to the Ukraine and India). He emphasised that the European member societies’ relationship with IFCB remained deeply unsatisfactory, and noted that few were represented (Christian Sardet of the French Society being the only one), ELSO having no delegates present. He reiterated that ELSO as a society has every right to be a member, but it is not an umbrella organisation for the European National Societies and has categorically stated on several occasions that it does not represent them. The Secretary General had written several times to the individual societies to come back in their own right, and suggested forming a new regional structure such as a European Society for Cell Biology, like APOCB, might be implemented. He also had put much effort into enrolling new societies, including UAE, Hong Kong , Singapore , and several other countries with emergent cell biology communities.
The Secretary General gave a report on behalf of Dr Hardman, the ex officio treasurer, who was not in attendance. As indicated, the reserves of the IFCB remain buoyant and these seemed at present to be in relatively secure accounts (a global economic melt-down was occurring at the time of this meeting). Membership dues were small (<4% of total revenue) and remain quite impossible to collect from some member societies. Income from the savings was as usual, but the biggest income by far was from the journal Cell Biology International. However, this income was being offset more substantially by the increased cost of running the journal as submissions are rising exponentially. Considering that this year (2008) includes the 9th ICCB, which was sponsored to the tune of 40K US$ (compared with 25K US$ for the last 3 congresses), the balance sheet at the end of August 2008 looks as healthy as at the end of 2007, and some of the secretariat running costs to the end of 2008 have already been accounted for in this figure.
Future Structure of IFCB
This matter was debated at some length, since the need for restructuring of IFCB has been mooted and discussed quite frequently over the last 4 years. It was the main issue of the Executive Committee held on 6 th October 2008 . It was agreed that, as of now, IFCB will have three officers and the advisory capacity of the Past-President (the Vice-President about to demit office) as its core (for further changes, see below on Elections). The Executive will post the exact structure of the committees and their participants on the website in due course. It will provide, via sub-contracts, the assistance of an executive secretary, and a financial assistant as work demands (both ex officio, as before). The Secretary General emphasised that Ms Angela Panther had been acting in the former capacity to date, and will be persuaded to continue at ~1 day per week in future as IFCB business builds. Dr Elaine Hardman had relinquished the role of honorary treasurer, for which IFCB was much indebted. Professor Cameron indicated that the IFCB funds in saving were now maturing, and this was an appropriate time to transfer them to other accounts outside the USA (after financial advice had been taken by Professor Wheatley).
The other element of restructuring was the formation by the incoming President and Secretary General of at least three committees, to include experts outside the secretariat itself. We were in need of (i) an awards/grants committee; (i) a publications committee; (iii) an education and training committee, and possibly (iv) a publicity and website committee. It would be incumbent on the new officers to implement these changes. The plan was warmly welcomed and approved by the assembly.
Membership and dues
The issues had already been raised in the above reports. The chair put it to the floor that we had three options in dealing with member societies and how they related to IFCB by way of annual dues: (i) maintain the status quo; (ii) make all national societies register with IFCB each year at a flat fee; (iii) abolish fees altogether. The third was rejected on the basis that people getting something for nothing do not appreciate it. The second was considered less attractive than (i), and it was decided to maintain the status quo but be more forthright in making national societies comply. Those that did not would have only affiliated status, not full membership, effectively withdrawing their rights to (a) awards from IFCB, and (b) votes at the general assembly.
Decision on the next (10 th) International Congress
The Secretary General intimated that verbal offers had come from Capetown, Santiago and Melbourne (as convention centres), but only one formal valid application in full detail was submitted by a society willing to host it, namely the Sociedade Brasileira de Biologia Celular. This offer was generously accepted and Professor Carvalho congratulated on being awarded the honour of running the next Congress in Rio de Janeiro , probably June/July 2012.
The Secretary General stated that he had already mentioned how CBI was continuing to flourish, and that submissions now ran close to 600 per annum, requiring near full-time assistance of Ms Angela Panther, BSc. She was to be especially thanked for her hard work, and also giving up half a day a week to keep the IFCB secretariat operative. [CCI was running quite autonomously now, but generated little income (about 1200 GBP per annum). It is published by BioMed Central in London , but just as this congress started news broke that it has been sold to Springer. Little change is expected in the foreseeable future on this front.] However, the good news is that Portland Press, a non-profit publishing house in London (originally set up by the powerful Biochemical Society of Great Britain), has sought out CBI and it has been agreed with PP that they will take over in January 1 2010 when the contract with Elsevier ends. The reasons were the non-profit making status of PP, a larger page budget, and a willingness to start dividing the journal into A - General Cell Biology, and B – Cancer Cell Biology. Income from CBI might be lower by 10-20% in the first 2 years with PP, but projections were higher than Elsevier’s thereafter. The editor, Professor Wheatley, said that 37% of papers submitted were devoted to cancer cell research. He also intimated that a “short reports” sub-journal might be resurrected (CBIReports). He also intimated that revitalisation of the editorial board was continuing.
At this congress, twenty-two travelling fellowships to young reseachers from 10 different countries were awarded by the organising committee of ICCB and IFCB (~$26K).
Training and Education
It was agreed that this was to be one of IFCB’s main activities, and needed much further implementation. To this end, Professor Wu tabled a proposal for an ambitious annual programme of high-level training both in teaching and hands-on research that would be based initially and annually in Taiwan . He had secured a excellent sponsorship from the University, Government and other sources in Taiwan . The programme is to include eminent scientists to encourage the young people, especially from developing nations, some being Nobel Laureates. The proposal was warmly accepted, and IFCB would provide travel fellowships for attendees where appropriate (with a similar budget to that given for ICCB awards).
Drs Jensen (NZ) and Christian Sardet (France) wanted IFCB to make much greater use in future of “bioclips”, “bioseminars” and similar material on its website, and that links to those already run by other societies be made (e.g. the ASCB visual teaching material). This would be implemented as soon as possible, leading to the Secretary General remarks that follow.
Professor Wheatley reported that the first company asked to revitalise our website had let us down, but in the last 2 months a new company had done a great job allowing us to launch the new website as intended at the opening of the 9 th ICCB. Apart from the downloading of some large files, the new website became fully operational on Monday evening, 6 th October 2008 . Already the 10 th congress has been announced on it within 6 hours. All the bioclips and other material will be put up as soon as possible, and links to many other organisations will be established.
Election of Officers for 2008-2012
Nominations were made by Cynthia Jensen and Ken Wu for Denys Wheatley to be President. The nomination was accepted unanimously by the floor, there being no other candidates.
Nominations were unnecessary here since the President demitting office automatically becomes the Vice President. However, the unusual practice of IFCB regarding this arrangement has been criticised, and it was moved that the constitution be changed at the next General Assembly to make this post the Past-President, with elections for an incoming Vice-president position being held in future.
Nominations were made by Ivan Cameron and Denys Wheatley that Professor Hernandes Carvalho (Brasil) be Secretary General. There being no other candidates, Professor Carvalho was unanimously elected by the floor.
In view of the fact that the constitutional changes requiring notice before the next GA, it was moved that Vice-Presidents demitting office would in future retain the title of Honorary Past-Presidents, if they so wished, with an advisory role to th IFCB Executive. This motion was carried and Professor Ivan Cameron accepted the new role. It was also moved that Professor Arthur Zimmerman (a previous Vice-President) be made one, and Professor Cameron would inform him of this to get his agreement.
There being no further business, the meeting was closed by the chair at 13.40.
15 October 2008