February 2008

Benchmarking for science, engineering

Societies, no matter who they are, face some of the same challenges-attracting and retaining members under age 40 and in under-represented groups; becoming a global organization; achieving a fully integrated business; cultivating leaders from within volunteer ranks; the future of individual membership organizations; and future demand for engineers and scientists from industry and the government. That was the outcome of a December association relevancy summit at ISA Headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C. 

The inter-society benchmarking opportunity for the engineering and scientific community included senior leaders from more than a dozen organizations, representing more than 750,000 members, who discussed common challenges, best practices, and future collaborations. 

The Society of Women Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Project Management Institute, the American Industrial Hygiene Institute, and the Society of American Military Engineers were among presenters at the summit. Following presentations that touched on some of the issues, the group formed smaller working groups to elaborate on proposed solutions, or beta programs, for identified challenges. Eventually, the group will identify one or more owners for each of the beta programs and solidify collaborations to help each organization succeed with their beta program. 

ISA Executive Director Patrick Gouhin will present a report of the summit at a mid-winter meeting of over 100 scientific and engineering organizations. ISA will summarize topical themes and relevant discussion on best practices and proposed solutions, which will be available to other associations. 

Gouhin characterized the success of the summit in the group's ability to develop "a deeper understanding of the common challenges we face, the solutions we can each bring to the table," he said. From all this, "we'll be able to develop a usable tool for all associations for considering what they can do to better serve their members and keep their organizations relevant in the future."