VOLUME 32 / NUMBER 3 / 2007

Bob Turner

As Simple as "ABC"?

"and the times they are a changing" Bob Dylan

Better than a dozen years ago an effort was initiated to combine ABCD, BPA (BCA), and HeSCA….. creating a "Federation." The general thinking was that since our professional tasks of management, photography, and motion-media were overlapping to the point we were starting to blend together, we should combine our Associations' resources. As a larger group we would be able to command better purchasing power (such as hotel contracts); members would reap the savings of paying dues to only one association; save on publishing only one journal (vs JBC and JBP); reduce expenses for individual travel to only one annual meeting; eliminate the redundancy of three governing bodies and most important, provide an open exchange of information within the combined memberships.

That initiative, which would have brought about major changes to the individual Associations, was met with mixed reactions from the respective memberships. The merits of the idea were pitted against, in some cases, years of tradition, resistance to change, and the fact that each of the Associations was still large enough to sustain itself. The need was not apparent. So, the idea never came to fruition and over the past decade the three individual Associations have functioned autonomously, with the exception of occasional combined annual meetings (2001: ABCD & BCA & HeSCA).

But now, with so many technical and economic changes that have completely altered our profession, and in turn, our Associations, the need is obvious. Currently, nearly all large biocommunication departments, both funded and cost-recovery, have experienced drastic reductions in staffing, or have been completely eliminated. Individuals have had to learn new technologies that have further erased the lines between previous distinct disciplines. And proportionally, our Associations have all witnessed significant decreases in active members. We have also been forced to make unpopular changes (BPA became BCA; discontinued its Annual Workshop, House of Delegates, RBP Certification, etc.). Plus the Journal of Biological Photography was combined with this journal to benefit from economies of scale. Bottom line….everything has changed since Federation was first suggested.

Today, the three Associations' combined membership totals only 343 people (2006 EOY: ABCD 20, BCA 214, HeSCA 109).  The reality, is that we have less than half as many active members as we did in 1994. And the drastic economic and occupational trends will continue to erode all our memberships. So, what should we do? We know this trend will not reverse itself, and eventually will cause all three Associations to come to an end. But nobody wants that to happen. Perhaps there is a solution…a solution as simple as "ABC."

This summer, all three groups will be conducting their respective annual meetings. I strongly suggest, during official business meetings, each Association consider the concept of "merging" the three. Yes, it will take some time, but it’s doable before a 2008 merged annual meeting. And, yes, there are still opinions contrary to this idea, but let's give it another try. Given the choice of standing by idly, and witnessing each Association's certain demise, I'm rather of the opinion that it's time to take action…..it's time for us all  to take action, together!

And finally, if I may go so far as to suggest a possible new association name, we could borrow one letter from each of the current Associations……..

  • Association of Biomedical Communications Directors (ABCD)

  • BioCommunication Association (BCA)

  • Health and Science Communications Association (HeSCA)

…….and combine them to create, perhaps, something as obvious as the:

Association of BioCommunication (ABC)

After all, we already share a common journal and a common success story, The Journal of Biocommunication. So it’s a natural step that we keep that success in mind, put aside any other differences, and work together to form a new Association. One that will help ensure our profession's future.

Bob Turner is Director, BioMedical Graphics, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. He is a Registered Biological Photographer, holds an MBA (Health Care Administration), is a Fellow and Past President of the Biological Photographic Association (BPA/BCA), and has been an active Member of BPA/ BCA since 1969. 

Email: bturner@scripps.edu

Copyright 2007, The Journal of Biocommunication, All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents for VOLUME 32, NUMBER 3