4 February 2017

AAS Council Accepts Governance Task Force Report

Christine Jones Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Over the past year, a task force has been examining our Society's governance structures and practices (now over a half century old) and exploring how they might be improved to respond to the transformation in our field's understanding of the universe and the changes in technology, communications, and demographics that have brought about this transformation. The AAS Governance Task Force (GTF) engaged with the Council at its June 2016 meeting and solicited input at the October 2016 meeting of the Executive Committee and Division leaders. The GTF also reached out to chairs of many of our committees and other members of the community who volunteer their time to make our Society run smoothly and effectively.

The task force presented its final report to the Council at our January meeting in Grapevine, Texas, and we voted unanimously to ask the group to proceed with drafting a new set of Bylaws for the Society embodying the governing principles articulated in the report. In order to inform that process with input from the entire membership, we publish the task force report here and strongly encourage you to read it:

We plan to incorporate into the Society's new Bylaws only those provisions necessary to define our purpose, membership, and legally mandated governance processes, rather than all the specific recommendations enumerated in the GTF report. This will give us the flexibility to continue to evolve along with our community; our current Bylaws have turned out to be unnecessarily restrictive. Many of the detailed recommendations listed in the GTF report should be viewed as suggested starting points for this evolution; they are by no means cast in stone.

In the meantime, we are beginning to implement some of the very good ideas in the Governance Task Force report. In particular, starting right away we will have monthly meetings (by telecon) of the full AAS Council. This means we will rely less on the Executive Committee (a subset of the Council) to act between Council meetings, which previously occurred only semiannually, in person, at winter and summer AAS meetings.

Comments that will inform the limited task of drafting new Bylaws should be sent to the task force chair, David Helfand. More general comments can be emailed to me. Please share your thoughts with us by the end of March. We look forward to your input!