INSAM - The International Society for Agricultural Meteorology
Dear colleagues and INSAM Members.
This is the first blog post by the "Current President" of INSAM, who has accepted to take over the chairmanship of INSAM from our first and Founding President, Prof. Kees Stigter, for a duration of four years. Kees has been the heart, the soul and the driving force of INSAM, and I am very conscious of the challenge ahead! I am, nevertheless, committed to serve INSAM and to ensure its sustainability and growth.
As a renowned scientist and a former President of the WMO Commission of Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) (link: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/agm/cagm/cagm_en.php), Kees is very familiar with all facets of agrometeorology. INSAM roots in his vision that we need to bridge the gap between supply and demand of agrometeorological services. This micro-function is not compatible with the mandate of the large international and national agrometeorological institutions. Fortunately, much can be achieved with a website that ensures the bidirectional flow of agrometeorological information, directly linking suppliers and customers; the website plays a central role for INSAM.
Sharing agrometeorological know-how is the idea behind INSAM, a scientific society that is very different from other scientific societies, such as the ones affiliated to ICSU (link: http://www.icsu.org/). INSAM is more operational, it is closer to real people; it does not assign itself a normative role; it is there to provide operational help and information. It does not collect membership fees either, and everyone is welcome to join. INSAM is very user friendly and informal. In practice, this also means that the society has no money, no budget and no bank account. Nor can it enter official agreements with institutions such as international organizations, ministries or universities. The INSAM website has generously been hosted by the Italian National Research Council (CNR) (link: http://www.cnr.it/sitocnr/Englishversion/Englishversion.html) and maintained on a voluntary basis by two dedicated colleagues who donate part of their time. This is to say that, although INSAM operates without a budget, it does actually cost real money.
The growing membership of INSAM is the best indication that the concept of INSAM works. But is it sustainable? I admit that I don't like asking this question; I feel as if I were criticizing a success story. But I am afraid we must ask ourselves the question if we want INSAM to continue existing beyond people and beyond current ad hoc arrangements. Ad hoc arrangements collapse when their promoters are no longer in a position to maintain their support.
This is a risk we cannot take with INSAM. We need to diversify the factors that ensure the existence of the Society. Just before I took over as the Current President, a Steering Committee of eminent international agrometeorologists was established. The Steering Committee (link: http://www.agrometeorology.org/about-insam/society-information ) is a think tank, but it is also a reserve of people who can take over from the Current President or the colleagues who operate the website, not necessarily directly, but through their contacts in their Institutions. The Steering Committee is thus a factor of sustainability. But we need more.
We need to formalise INSAM. Maybe as a non-profit organization like the Free Software Foundation (FSF) (link: http://www.fsf.org/)? Where can this conveniently be done? Could we be an NGO? NGOs too need to be rooted somewhere. Can we find support in one of the stronger and established National or Regional Agrometeorological Societies?
There is a whole array of measures that can be taken to ensure sustainability. Let me list some, in more or less random order:
Mirroring the INSAM website;
Broadening the membership of the INSAM Steering Committee, and providing it with a reasonably democratic structure and way to operate;
Find some sponsors who will be sympathetic to the objectives of INSAM without imposing unacceptable strings. They could, maybe let us benefit from their legal expertise in matters of "formalisation";
Broaden membership of the Society especially in agricultural circles, and expand it in some countries where we are under-represented.
We can increase the critical mass of INSAM, hopefully set up a forum where all members can air their views. We are happy to have a FARSI translation, but shall we have a "Hispanic" and a francophone branch? Who can take care of it? How can it be managed in a decentralised way?
As you see there are weaknesses but many options. The main strength of INSAM is the Members, who provide ideas and supply information. I therefore welcome your views about the issues that are mentioned above, especially the long-term sustainability issue. Do not hesitate to drop me a line through the email addresses below or the CONTACT (link: http://www.agrometeorology.org/contact-info) link on the INSAM home page?
Dear Members, let me conclude this by thanking again those who have made INSAM possible, starting with Prof. Stigter, for the vision, the untiring dedication and ongoing support; Dr Rossi, Massimiliano Magli and their home institution, the Italian National Research Council (CNR) for hosting our website; Ismabel Dominguez Hurtado for the Spanish page and Sayed Masood Mostafavi Darani for the Farsi translation; the current members of the Steering Committee (link: http://www.agrometeorology.org/about-insam/society-information ) for their willingness to help as well as the numerous contributors of ideas, comments, pages and data on the INSAM website.
Chinese academy of sciences
PS: I do not want to bother you with much information about myself. Let me just mention that I am a seasoned agrometeorologist with good international experience. As you can find out from my CV in English (link: http://gommes.net/wergosum/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/RG_eng_blog_version.pdf) or French (link: http://gommes.net/wergosum/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/RG_fr_blog_short_version.pdf), I am currently a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, where I work in the CropWatch Unit (link: http://www.cropwatch.com.cn/). My area of expertise is mostly quantitative crop forecasting and climate change impacts. I maintain a blog (link: http://gommes.net/wergosum) which also covers some aspects beyond agrometeorology (including some humour!).