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Bulletin, December/January 2010

Donald O. CasePresident's Page
The ASIS&T Version of "Stimulus Funding"

Donald O. Case
2009 ASIS&T President

Donald Case has just completed his term as 2009 ASIS&T president and will now serve one year as past president. He is a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information Studies. He can be reached at dcase<at>

As I write this column there are renewed calls for national governments to spend money on public projects that promise to stimulate their economies. Even though some economic indicators have been improving, unemployment is up while most real estate and retail sales remain down – at least in North America and Europe. The thinking among some economic advisors is that more intervention is needed to jumpstart spending and thus stimulate job growth.

Within ASIS&T we have our own version of such “stimulus funding,” however it is not targeted towards economic activity but rather towards the long-term well-being of the Society and its membership. Given the healthy income stream that ASIS&T receives from its publishing contract, coupled with surpluses from previous years, the Board has proposed increased spending on a broad range of member benefits. 

In my previous column I wrote about most of the objectives that the Board had identified in its annual retreat (and in earlier meetings). These include such actions as increasing the rate for funding of regional and student chapters; funding more scholarships for students to attend the Annual Meeting; broadening the “hardship” category so that more low-income members can continue membership benefits when they need them most and at a subsidized rate; and hiring a part-time “interaction manager” devoted to making ASIS&T more participatory by promoting social media (such as blogs, wikis and Second Life) to keep in touch with members, generate content and stimulate professional activity and interaction within the Society. 

Ah, but here is the rub: Doing all that we want to do requires a deficit budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010. Not only will new initiatives require financial outlays starting in 2010, but as I write this column the outlook is uncertain for the attendance at the Annual Meeting in Vancouver. Given the cutbacks in travel funds at many institutions in which our members work, coupled with an unusual location for the Annual Meeting, it is possible that the conference will not create the surplus that it usually does; non-East coast meetings tend to draw fewer members, and travel to this one is more expensive than usual (although well worth the price, in my opinion).

This led some of us into protracted discussion about what we could do to balance the budget even if the 2009 Annual Meeting were to suffer a small loss. We considered delaying certain expenses, such as the interaction manager post, but ultimately decided that all these initiatives were too urgently needed to delay any longer; like nearly all associations these days, our membership base continues to slowly erode; we need to improve our value to our members. Therefore we have proposed a modest deficit for this coming year.

Fortunately the latest word on advance registrations puts the Vancouver Annual Meeting on a track comparable to recent meetings in eastern U.S. cities, and there are early indications that we will get the additional Asian and European attendees that originally led the Board to advocate the British Columbia location. Internationalizing the Society continues to be a priority for us, and eventually that path will lead to an enriched, larger and more participatory Society. Another encouraging sign is a growing number of positions available and candidates seeking positions that were in the online system for the Annual Meeting.

We are not counting on the 2009 Annual Meeting to generate a surplus that would balance the projected deficit. Yet, we are confident that the Vancouver meeting, like the initiatives mentioned above, will create long-term benefits for the Society.