Making a difference

We’ve been thinking hard this past year about our purpose as a Society. We have developed a plan to advance our science and increase our impact at a time when ecology has never been more important.

What is the role of the British Ecological Society? What should our goals be? And how can we achieve more?

We’ve been exploring these questions for the past year, taking input from many of you. The result is, we believe, a clear plan to guide our work over the next four years.

It’s important that we reflect and set out our purpose anew every few years. It enables us to decide how we best invest the Society’s resources – staff, money and members’ time and expertise – in supporting our science, representing ecologists and ensuring our voice is heard. It allows us to measure our progress, adjusting as appropriate to over time to fulfil our mission.

“Ecology has never been more relevant, given the urgent climate and biodiversity crises we are facing”

The one thing that we all agreed on is that ecology has never been more relevant, given the urgent climate and biodiversity crises we are facing. That gives us great motivation and is encapsulated in the new vision that opens our Strategic Plan for 2020-2023: ‘Nature and people thrive in a world inspired by ecology’.

It is a vision that reflects our passion as ecologists for the natural world. It expresses the capacity of ecological science to help us understand life on earth, show us where it is under threat and provide solutions to the environmental challenges we face. And crucially, it recognises that we’re dependent on nature for our own wellbeing and prosperity.

We fully intend to live up to our three, newly-stated values: we will be bold, inclusive and evidence-based. These values spell out how we want to be seen, how we intend to go about our work and what we will use to focus our activities and guide our decision making.

“All our activities run successfully thanks to you, our members and the global community of ecologists”

At the heart of our new strategy will be our members. We are a membership society, here to advance your science, your career and build a strong community of ecologists. It’s hard to know sometimes if we are a small organisation or a large one. We have approaching 30 staff in our London office but over 6,000 members in 120 countries. Our activities span journals, events, research funding, policy work, education, careers support and public engagement. All these run successfully thanks to you, our members and the global community of ecologists.

Our strong hope and belief is that this new vision and these values resonate with you. They motivate the three goals we set out in the strategy for our Society:

  1. Advance and promote ecological science and its applications
  2. Raise the profile of ecology to make a difference
  3. Foster a strong and diverse ecological community

Ecological science will absolutely remain at the core of all the Society does, as made explicit in Goal 1. It includes plans which will keep our world-class journals, grants and conferences right at the forefront of the research endeavour.

But we also want to raise the profile of ecology in the wider world. The last strategy saw a great increase in our activity in policy, public engagement and education. We now want to build on that activity to make a greater difference. Goal 2 is all about demonstrating the relevance of ecology among our many different audiences and increasing its influence in tackling the environmental challenges society faces.

Ecology is not going to make a difference, however, if ecologists aren’t properly supported. Goal 3 affirms our ambitions for a Society that is a welcoming and inclusive home for all in ecology. It also outlines how we will facilitate those seeking a career in ecology.

Chanida Fung amazing young visitors with a Madagascan Hissing Cockroach British Ecological Society

So what will it look like in practice? We have been working on plans under each of these goals, and here are some examples:

  • Next year, we are launching a new type of resource to make information on the management of biodiversity and the environment easier to discover. Applied Ecology Resources will combine a new journal, Ecological Solutions and Evidence, and a repository of grey literature.
  • We want to develop better training and resources on open science, making sure there are appropriate rewards and acknowledgement for data contributors. We will also produce better guidance to encourage data sharing, archiving and reuse.
  • We aim to establish a regular programme of training for ecologists, and introduce new events that facilitate dialogue between researchers, practitioners and the policy community.
  • We will increase the reach of our successful summer school for 16-18 year-olds by making more use of digital platforms, and we want to provide young ecologists at secondary school with the opportunity to build networks with like-minded peers.
  • We will work proactively to assemble the best evidence on topics of clear public interest to enable better policymaking, and showcase the range of people and disciplines that contribute to ecology.

We thank everyone who has been involved in creating the new strategy. We were both part of a working group that was formed to look at data on the Society’s existing activities and progress. The group, including Board members, senior staff members and past presidents, considered the external environment, with changes in publishing and higher education as well as the increased public interest in climate and the environment. We consulted and took input from Board, committees, BES staff, information from our member survey and feedback from other organisations in our sector. All of which allowed us to craft and refine the final strategy document in conjunction with our committees and staff.

Now comes the real work. But with this clarity of purpose, we believe we can achieve a great deal for our science. Please help by getting involved and holding us accountable to our plans.