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Discussion of AG terminology
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4/27/2016 at 1:22:35 PM GMT
Posts: 4
Discussion of AG terminology

Dear ERA AG members,

During the SETAC EU meeting in Nantes, advisory group chairs will start a discussion on changing the AG terminology. The reason for this being that 1) the designation AG (advisory group) may give a false impression of what the advisory groups actually do and 2) the word advisory has in some cases been reason for conflict of interest for AG members.

Prior to the Nantes meeting we should have a discussion internally in ERA AG on this issue with focus on both the appropriateness of changing the designation and potential alternative names. The following names have been proposed, but suggestions on other alternatives are also welcome:

SETAC Expert Group, SETAC Interest Group, SETAC Discussion Group, SETAC … Network (in our case SETAC ERA Network), SETAC Dialog Group

Please let me know what you think, and I will do my best to present the consensus (if any) of our discussions at the AG chair meeting in Nantes.

Best regards,


4/27/2016 at 2:30:15 PM GMT
Posts: 12
Thanks for asking about this Annemette,

I'm also a member of The Wildlife Society, and they use the term 'Working Group'... so SETAC Ecological Risk Assessment Working Group could cover lots of different types of work we may do, like...

- updating or developing additional SETAC Technical Issue Papers (TIPs) (see this site: http://www.setac.org/?page=SETACTechPapers ... Note that there is only one TIP on ecological risk assessment, and it is dated 1997)
- developing articles for SETAC Globe
- coordinating sessions at annual conferences
- developing training courses for annual conferences
- providing training courses for regional chapters
- working with others to develop workshops, Special Science Symposia, Focused Topic Meetings, etc
- providing peer reviews for other ERA group members
- serving as a sounding board / source of expertise for each other when needing help on a particular issue

We do some of these things already which is the the 'work' of the group... so maybe "Working Group" is a name worth considering. Thanks again for asking, Tom Augspurger

4/27/2016 at 2:39:41 PM GMT
Thanks Anemette. I agree that advisory group is misleading and should therefore be changed.
These are my quick comments about the proposed alternatives in your message:

SETAC Expert Group: I don't like it because it seems to exclude anyone who is not an expert (but for instance just interested) in coming to the group meetings at SETAC conferences. this will especially frighten students and young professional to come to these group meetings (perhaps even more so than is currently the case)

SETAC Interest Group: sound like this is just a group of people with "interest" in a particular topic. And I am sure these groups are more than just that. So not at all my favorite this one.

SETAC Discussion Group: not so bad, but most groups are doing much more than just discussing about things...so probably not the best option either...

SETAC Dialog Group: for some reason as previous one; these groups are doing more than this

SETAC … Network (in our case SETAC ERA Network): This one I really like most! It is exactly what it is: networking around a given topic (which includes discussions, setting up dialogs, with experts and also non-experts, etc...); so this is my favorite.

I had two other options in mind (in order of preference - after the SETAC...NETWORK):
1) focused topic group: analogous to the focused topic meetings that SETAC organises; could make sense as many of these kind of topical meetings (including pellstons) originate from within advisory groups
2) specialty group or specialty section (the International Water Association is using this terminology for grouping certain activities and people)

I hope this aids the discussion.

Best regards,
Karel De Schamphelaere

4/27/2016 at 2:46:16 PM GMT
Posts: 4
Hi Tom,
Thanks for your input. The term 'working group' could certainly cover what we do,and so is worth considering. The only potential problem is that we already have 'working groups' identified to address specific tasks under the overall AG, which mean we would have to find another designation for these (which of course is possible to solve).
Thanks for focusing my attention to the SETAC TIPs - I suppose the ERA TIP may need some updating..., and I will have a look at this ASAP.
- Annemette

4/27/2016 at 2:54:25 PM GMT
Posts: 4
Hi Karel,
Thanks for your input as well. I also agree that the term advisory group may lead to unfortunate misinterpretations/misunderstandings of what we do, and that it is time to find a new name. Thanks for your view on the different name suggestions and for suggesting two new alternatives, of which I personally prefer the 'focused topic group'.
- Annemette

4/27/2016 at 4:43:03 PM GMT
Posts: 90
A clarification or two


There is a general misconception that the term "Advisory Group" is inappropriate or that there is no precedent for AGs to provide advice.  In fact, since the inception of the AG concept in SETAC NA more than 25 years ago, it has been relatively common for AGs to provide professional and expert advice both within SETAC and externally.  And this external advice has taken a number of forms across a variety of regional and global groups such as the US EPA, OECD, and ISO. 

 It is also the case that any such advice which purports to be on behalf of or using the umbrella of SETAC needs to conform with the SOP on Public Outreach.  We have even created procedural sections in AG operating guidelines that speak to this process and make explicit connections to the necessary committee and governance touch-points in order to enable certain authority claim to be made.

In addition, whatever we choose to call them, the name and what they are able to do are not the same thing. I could envision a SETAC expert network, if that's the new name, in a given field still deciding to provide professional science-based advice or conversely if the name stays as Advisory Group to preclude such an activity in their operating guidelines.  In any case the name change needs to supported by a majority of members (not just the steering committee or the Board/Council liaison) and approved by the overseeing governance body.  For most groups this will be SETAC World Council.

Bruce Vigon, SETAC Science Manager

Last edited Wednesday, April 27, 2016
4/27/2016 at 6:29:38 PM GMT
Posts: 1
AG Terminology

I agree that the terminology needs to be changed because the AG term is misleading.  So however, are some of the proposed replacements (e.g., expert group is not what most of the AGs are composed of).  I would think something that captures the broad levels of expertise in each group would be more appropriate.  So I like the two naming proposals of Network and Working Group, with my preference of the two for Network.

My two cents,

Sue Robinson

5/8/2016 at 4:08:07 PM GMT
Posts: 1
How about Ecological Risk Assessment Group - no modifier seems needed. The currently named AG already has Work Groups as special topic collaboration subareas.

5/13/2016 at 3:36:12 PM GMT
Posts: 7
Good input in all the above. For years now, I have lobbied for a name change as it seemed to me at least that AG, no matter how hard we attempted to convey that it was open to anyone interested in the area, early and mid-career colleagues expressed that they did not feel sufficiently experienced to be offering advice. And with a few rare exceptions the groups were not trying to advise anyone or any entity.

Although "Network" appears to have some support, I don't feel that it captures the intent of having a collective or collaborative group. Rather, it seems to be focused more on individuals benefiting by having connections to like-minded persons. Yes, networks do form and will continue to form regardless of the titles, but I think we (SETAC broadly) wants these groups to be accomplishing something for the collective good, not just serving the individual's interests.

One choice that has not been offered in this chain is "Forum." At least for me, the "Forum" conveys a sense of deliberation, a place to have debates, to work toward some type of common understanding by airing alternative perspectives. Fora also provide a structure to foster collective actions, to pursue initiatives. In this sense, I believe this aligns well with the activities the ERA Group has engaged in over the three decades it has existed -- encouraging Commentaries and Learned Discourses, Debates, Special Sessions, Focussed Topic Meetings, Pellston Workshops and collaborative publications (books, special series).

If consensus cannot be achieved, then I think Ryti's suggestion to not have a modifier is perhaps the safest.

5/22/2016 at 10:54:51 AM GMT
Posts: 4
Thank you all for your great input, which I will try to convey on behalf of the ERA AG membership at the AG summit on Tuesday.