Discussion Sessions

Presidentsí forum: federal funding for botanical research

Patricia G. Gensel, Department of Biology, CB # 3280, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280.

The format of this Discussion Session will be a panel of program officers and society representatives who initially give a short presentation (5 minutes) followed by a question session that involves the audience. Program officers present their perspectives on the current funding climate for plant biology as well as predictions for the future of funding for plant biology research, including organismal level research. Society representatives will present a brief summary of what their society represents in terms of type of plant biology, constituency, programs, goals, significant achievements, etc. The panelists will address some questions, such as:

Program officers: What are the possibilities or opportunities for society-wide or integrative or multidisciplinary initiatives? What is your perception of the Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, American Fern Society, American Bryological and Lichenological Society? How much do you really know about what these societies represent and what they are doing? How best can the styles of research represented by members of these societies (strongly integrative and strongly organismal) fit into new funding initiatives? What do you see as the main failings of unsuccessful proposals (e.g., failure to address the "big questions," poor salesmanship/self-promotion)? What advice would you give to unsuccessful PIs as they revise for resubmission? Are there some proposals that just will never be funded, and if so, why? What are program officers and reviewers looking for that some researchers seem not to be getting?

Both: What can these societies do to improve granting agenciesí understanding of the societiesí goals and the type of scientific research represented among their members? How can these societies most effectively develop and promote good science in their respective members, disciplines, and sister societies?

The future of botany at the undergraduate level

Gordon E. Uno, Department of Botany and Microbiology, 770 Van Vleet Oval, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019.

BSA members report, with increasing frequency, attempts across the country to eliminate or reduce the number of botany courses taught at the undergraduate level, to reduce college/university resources directed toward plant science activities, to replace retiring botanists with scientists from other disciplines, as well as attempts to eliminate entire botany departments and programs. These events have had and will continue to have a major impact on graduate programs and the future of the botanical sciences at the undergraduate level. This roundtable discussion will include members of the Education Committee of BSA but is open to all interested members. We hope to hear from BSA members who may have experienced "assaults" on botany at their home institution or from members who have had success in convincing colleagues and administrators of the importance of botany to the life sciences and to their college or university. We will generate a "vision statement" in the defense of botanical sciences that focuses on the importance of keeping botany in the undergraduate curriculum. We also hope to develop a list of useful methods and strategies to include plants in the study of modern biology at the undergraduate level and a list of the best practices to attract and keep undergraduate majors and minors in botany. For those interested individuals who are unable to attend the discussion session, please send comments to Gordon Uno at guno@ou.edu.

Why botany?

Donald R. Kaplan, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall #3102, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-3102.

With the recent name change of the American Society of Plant Physiologists to the Society of Plant Biology, a significant challenge to the identity of the Botanical Society has been posed. Thus the time seems ripe for the BOT SOC to discuss, in an open forum, what the basic differences are between Botany and Plant Biology. In fact there are very basic differences and these will be aired in a brief introductory talk and the open discussion which follows. I consider it of the utmost importance for the Botanical Society at this juncture to reaffirm our common scientific and intellectual bonds as we develop for the future. There has been a long-standing but uncalled for lack of self-esteem on the part of many members of the Botanical Society and this has been exploited by other, more aggressive societies, such as ASPP, to their advantage. This forum can therefore represent the first step in the reassertion of our significance in the broader biological community. Hence this open discussion format is ideal.

A feeling for the organism

Bruce Kirchoff, Department of Biology, P. O. Box 26174, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6174.

Many of us choose our profession because of our connection with and love of nature. We followed our hearts into a profession where we hoped to find a deepened connection with the natural world. As individuals, we may have found this, but as a community of scientists we rarely speak of it. This discussion section will give us a chance to talk about our relationship to nature; to explore, as scientists, what our love of nature means to us and to our science. E. O. Wilson has called for traditional religions to adopt more science, and for environmentalists to appeal more to humankind's spiritual impulses, but should not scientists also renew and reaffirm their love of nature? Do we not also contribute to the environmental crisis by portraying science as "value free?" If science is only about "facts," and has nothing to do with love, what prevents others from using the knowledge we generate to exploit nature? And if we allow this, are we not denying something essential, something that is at the basis of why we became scientist? These, and other issues, will be on the table during the discussion section.

Scientific publishing in an electronic age

Victoria C. Hollowell, Missouri Botanical Garden, MBG Press, P. O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299.

Scientific journals face any number of interesting challenges in this increasingly electronic age. How should journals manage their growth and development in both print and electronic media? How does the electronic availability of journal manuscripts affect continued interest in subscribership from scientific institutions as well as from individual scientists? For botanical and systematic journals, there are particular challenges to improve journal responsiveness to authors through both the peer review process and in manuscript publication times. Issues such as JSTOR, BioOne and copyright concerns will be explored.