Outgoing President’s Message from Marek Stastna
– By Marek Stastna –
In any other year, this article would probably start with something along the lines of “looking back at my year as President, I am not sure where the time went”. Given the enforced repetition of working from home, and especially of working from home during stay-at-home orders, the year didn’t exactly scamper by me. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable temporal slippage associated with large organizations, spread over larger geographic areas. So as we head into a very busy Congress, the annual meeting of various committees, and of course the AGM that will formally end my Presidency here is a quick look back.
Let me begin by noting that one year ago we weren’t really sure if electronic conferences were going to work. The 54th CMOS Congress, organized on the fly by extremely dedicated, Ottawa-based volunteers, proved more popular than anyone expected. With a year of online conferencing under our collective belts, the expectation is that the 55th CMOS Congress will prove even more popular. Put simply, online conferences fit more busy schedules, satisfy more budget constraints, and keep the better half of internet-based anonymity (you can watch talks in your PJs) while controlling the more negative aspects (moderators ensure civility). Online conferences cannot replace physical meetings but can provide a carbon footprint reducing alternative that CMOS has agreed to adopt going forward in alternate years.
Of course, CMOS has never been based on physical meetings. Thus, it is perhaps no surprise that the Executive, Council, Center Chairs, and the Schools and Public Education Committee all had a smooth, highly productive year. Indeed, perhaps due to the limited set of distractions, the consultations conducted as part of the Strategic Planning exercise proved quite popular with a broad range of voices providing feedback. The result is CMOS’ first full Strategic Plan-Implementation Plan combination. The first of these provides a partial accounting of the Society’s priorities over the next three years, with more than enough flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that develop and address challenges that arise. The second provides a more detailed set of actions for the upcoming year (a new Implementation Plan will be developed each year going forward), something that is important as the Executive officially moves to Halifax and multiple individuals transition into new roles.
This is also the year that the Society’s efforts to re-engage the civil service have begun to bear fruit. The “bulk” rate for ECCC staff will allow a much larger number of government scientists to participate in the 55th CMOS Congress. Securing a similar arrangement for DFO staff and staff of other federal and provincial departments is high on the priority list for next year. Expanding participation within all these groups as full CMOS members remains a longer-term work in progress. The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development presents further opportunities for CMOS to expand its activities in the marine sciences, and for CMOS members to play strong roles in national and international projects.
Finally, the generous support for non-profits provided by the federal government has allowed CMOS to work on modernizing our business practices. For many members, the inner workings of the CMOS Council and Executive must seem quite removed from their daily experience. I sympathize with this view, and note that the strong, local Center Chairs are an essential part of CMOS going forward precisely because they better represent the diversity of individual member experiences. Nevertheless, governance is the motor oil of any organization’s engine. It was thus a real pleasure to interact with the Institute on Governance, which provided a formal review of CMOS governance, making a number of clear and cogent suggestions that we, as an organization, have begun to implement. Their final report is available online, and its footprint is evident throughout the Strategic and Implementation plan.
CMOS is not an organization without its challenges. Certainly, as Canada comes out of the pandemic the fiscal situation of non-profits like CMOS will need careful monitoring. I do note that this year’s budget is far healthier than I anticipated a year ago. However, our biggest challenge as a Society is to be truly inclusive. Here I certainly mean inclusive of members with different personal backgrounds, but also inclusive in terms of scientific disciplines. I believe disciplinary boundaries mean less to our younger members than they once did, and while CMOS is not the only home for environmental and climate-related science in Canada we should strive to be known as the most welcoming; whether through sessions at our Congresses, joint ventures with related societies, or a generous and welcoming spirit toward new types of members with new types of interests.
I began my time as President by noting that my guiding principle for my Presidential year comes from Mr. Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Over my year as President, I have had multiple occasions to remind me of the difficulty of successfully applying this principle, but overall, I believe our Society has managed to stick to it. Moreover, I believe Jim Abraham, the next CMOS President, and the incoming Halifax cohort will ably guide CMOS forward, through what I hope is a year of reopening and rediscovery. I thus sign off, returning to being a proud resident of CMOS’ techie, mathematics heavy corner and say to the Society and its scientific smorgasbord of members “Live long, and prosper”.
Marek Stastna is presently serving as the President of CMOS. Marek studies internal waves in the coastal ocean using a combination simulations and mathematical modelling. He has a broad set of interests in software development and the applications of modern computational mathematics in oceanography and climate science. He is a professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo.