The dictionary defines Society as being "The sum of human conditions and activity regarded as a whole functioning interdependently.". In the context of a Society, the definition is "an association of persons united by a common aim or interest or principle.".
There are a number of important concepts in these definitions that we should think about from time to time. The first is that any Society is interdependent. In other words what you or I might do, affects everybody else in some way, big or small. Something you or I might NOT do also affects everybody else. We are all familiar with the experience that consistent high quality testing goes unnoticed, but one PFT report with an error in it, is remembered and quoted. A slip up by one of us, reflects on all.
Interdependence also means that we have a responsibility to promote visions that are consistent with the greater good of the members of any Society. There is no room for pushing of personal agendas or ideas that suit me or my lab at the expense of others. This is toxic to any Society.
The second important concept in the definition of (a) Society is being united in a common aim. This is where having a clear vision for our Society is so important. We all have a responsibility to follow that vision, to be united in following that vision. Again, cohesion and professionalism often go unnoticed and unreported but any diversion from that vision and professionalism will haunt us for a long time. Credibility is hard won but so easily lost.
It behoves us to examine our rationale for belonging to ANZSRS from time to time. I have been, or at least have tried to be, an active member of ANZSRS for more years than I care to think about. Why did I join all those years ago. In essence I joined because I had a vision that we were professionals but were not valued or respected as such by those we worked with. This was indeed a mountain that had to be climbed, and I like to think I have played a small part in conquering that mountain. I do not think that the adventure is finished as there are even higher mountains behind the front range. We, as a Society, have to work hard to continue the ascent, to gain credibility outside our institutions and outside our own borders. A great deal has been achieved in these areas through the work done with Federal and State Governments, the NAC and through APSR and the roadshows.
We also need to consider what it means to belong to a profession. In my mind a key aspect of professionalism is competence. Competence in turn requires us to develop the skillsets needed to do our job, to maintain that skillset and to maintain up to date knowledge of the field. These things require continuous professional development. As a Society we need to be encouraging professional development and providing tools to facilitate participation. Things like developing a framework of activities that are valid and appropriate so as to ensure consistency across the profession; tools to simplify the recording of CPD activities. I believe this will be forced upon us in the foreseeable future, so it behoves us to get on with it now.
When prospective members complete their application forms there are two questions that they answer. One is to ask whether they would like to be mentored or would be prepared to act as a mentor. The majority indicate they would like mentoring, an excellent way of developing people. This has been discussed on numerous occasions over the years but nothing formal has ever been established. What is done with this information?
The other question relates to having an interest in collaborative research. Again the majority answer yes to this question but I am unaware of the Society attempting to harness this expression of interest in research activity. There is no doubt in my mind that research activity is central to being a scientist and the skills gained enhance the service part of our jobs. What happens to this information?
As we approach the ASM, we need to consider our own roles in the Society, what does the Society have to offer each of us? The Mission statement is
Leading Respiratory Science in Australasia through the 21st Century
«promoting education and training in respiratory science and excellence in respiratory measurement»
«fostering the exchange of scientific and technical information between members»
«facilitating dialogue with other professional societies»
We may well be doing this but is it really enough? My challenge to all members is to consider whether it is indeed enough to be led passively or whether we need to be blazing a trail where we continue to climb those mountains. Leadership has its root in each and every one of us, not the Board. We have the responsibility to define the future of our Society, our Profession. We do that by asking the questions of the Board whose role it is to develop and implement policies that will ensure the needs and desires of the membership are followed.
You have oft heard the plea "Get involved" and this is generally interpreted to mean put your hand up for an office in the Society. I do not believe this is getting involved. Rather, getting involved is expressing your views, your vision, asking the questions, hard ones sometimes, and demanding answers. This is involvement. This is the lifeblood of Society. Failure to honour this responsibility will affect not only yourself but your peers.
Determine to come to Perth with questions, with ideas and a preparedness to share them. You owe it to yourself and to the person working next to you in the lab.
'til next month,